QED

Waiting for the Godot Vaccine

I am heartedly sick of, not from, the Wuhan virus, aka Covid-19 aka SARS-CoV-2 aka MDV. MDV? Well, that is my own invention (mental debilitating virus) to describe the effect the virus is having on politicians and public health officials.

I am not a virologist, obviously. Yet I know that viruses need a host to survive and that there are lots of viruses inside and on human beings and other vertebrates. This is Eric Delwart writing in The Scientist magazine, October 31, 2016:

…leaps in genomic sciences have allowed researchers to detect viruses living in and on the human body…the most well-studied viruses are those that cause disease. But many viruses chronically infect humans without inducing disease, except perhaps in the very young, the very old, or the immunosuppressed.

I also know that some viruses are bloody nuisances, but not life-threatening in most circumstances. Like those causing the common cold and, in my own most unfortunate experience some years back, shingles. For both of which, ominously, a vaccine is either not available or, I can attest, ineffective. This gives me pause when expectations are raised that an effective and safe vaccine against Covid-19 might be available by the end of year or shortly thereafter. And then there is this from The History of Vaccines site on 10 January 2018:

From 1990 to 2014 the number of people living with HIV rose from 8 million to 36.9 million; since the beginning of the HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic, AIDS has claimed more than 34 million lives.

You might think that the efforts of medical scientists would have found a vaccine for HIV by now, wouldn’t you? Clearly, it can be hard. I make this point only to suggest that waiting for a vaccine might be like waiting for Godot. It might never arrive. Therefore, policies should not be geared to the imminent arrival of a vaccine. The development of a vaccine should be put in the category of serendipity. Great news it would be, but it shouldn’t figure in planning.

As to vaccines, as to therapeutics. I say this because of the incidence of serious illness of those contracting the virus being concentrated among the aged and infirm. The median age of those who die is over eighty years. It is perhaps likely that therapeutics will have little benefit among those whose life expectancy is short in any event. Of course, therapeutics should be pursued but, again, it is questionable whether their development should form part of planning.

Once we remove vaccines and therapeutics from the equation things become clearer. As this virus seemingly kills only about 0.1 per cent or so of those it infects (as with a serious flu) and, apparently, can be caught again after a period, it might well not die off. Hosts aplenty for it to live in. Nor might its virulence decline over time.

This means that the virus might well become a permanent feature of human existence. Certainly, that should be the assumption, all else is optimistic speculation. Off that assumption just three all-encompassing conclusions flow, which should inform policies and planning.

First, lockdowns of any part of the economy for even very short periods have no enduring value. The virus won’t be tamed for long and will spring back up leaving continual economic dislocation, and the deleterious health effects of such dislocation, in its wake.

Second, those liable to become seriously ill if they were to contract the virus should be given a choice. Remain isolated with as much help as society and the government can extend or take a chance. Why does this policy make sense? Clearly, if we can’t be rid of the virus, people can’t be isolated from human contact indefinitely against their will. Not in a civilised society anyway.

Third, those found to have the virus (in its usual mild or asymptomatic form) should be advised to try to have as little contact with other people as can be managed; as with any non-deadly infectious disease, including the common cold. But there should be no compulsion. If this virus remains among us, we can’t keep compulsorily locking people up. If you doubt that, extend the logic to any number of non-deadly infectious diseases which, nevertheless, might have serious consequences if caught by specifically vulnerable adults and children – e.g., the common cold, the flu, the aforementioned shingles (infectious in the form of chicken pox).

The conclusion is that we should end all lockdowns and the threat of lockdowns post haste. And this should include opening up all intranational and international travel. The only condition is that there be an ample provision of hospital facilities and contingency plans to bring more online if required. As that is quite clearly the case in Australia and, I would think, in most modern countries, there is no reason to delay getting back to normal – the old normal, not some silly “new normal”.

As a final point, the old normal did sometimes include airlines and immigration authorities checking as best they could whether international travellers were sick. There are other infectious diseases besides COVID-19. COVID-19 and its likely successors simply add to the rationale of continuing, and upgrading, such checking.

23 comments
  • Tony Tea

    I was under the impression that the original lockdown was meant to firstly “flatten the curve” and secondly buy the medical system time to gear up to deal with the inevitable second wave so we didn’t have to keep resorting to subsequent lockdowns.

  • pgang

    Agreed, although it’s pretty hard to feel any empathy with Green voting, virtue-signalling Melbournians locked in their high-rise buildings by their own Marxist leader.
    I went to visit the local council office today but the public aren’t even allowed on the premises. Couldn’t get them on the phone either – simply cut off after being on hold for an eternity. What a monstrous vanity.

  • pgang

    Actually why aren’t I naming and shaming. Lake Macquarie council.

  • March

    Since governments got sucked in by hysterical public health bureaucrats its been about covering up for incompetence. How long will it take before the public wake up to the con?

  • lloveday

    pgang wrote: “Actually why aren’t I naming and shaming”
    .
    Because “The Unjust Know No Shame”?

  • ianl

    The Nanny State genie (righteous, titghteous medicos) is well and truly out of the bottle. I can see no way of stuffing it back in. As a Federal Health Minister (himself a GP) said quite a while ago: “Everytime a possible solution is suggested for some public health issue, a person in a white coat stands up before the TV cameras and intones – Giant Frogs Will Eat Your Children”
    The MSM continually screeching the daily new numbers of positives while downplaying the number of actual deaths deliberately keeps fear of Giant Frogs percolating. Pandemics are most accurately measured in deaths/million (or 10 million, or some appropriate ratio) but this is thought of as twenty bridges too far for publicising.
    And locking up the healthy 70+ population indefinitely under the slimy euphemism of “protecting the elderly” is still not on, despite much constant yearning for it.

  • lloveday

    Andrew Bolt seems to have the right idea when he wrote:
    .
    “Let people decide for themselves what risk they are prepared to run”
    .
    EXCEPT he says the government should “isolate the vulnerable — the frail and people over 65”.
    .
    So, at 60 he should be able to decide, but not those over the arbitrarily chosen, “magical” age of 65 whom Bolt says should be locked down (forever?). Why not 60, AB’s age, or 66?
    .
    I am well over 65, have not had a sickie for 50 years when I had Glanduar Fever, never had the flu, have worked long and hard full-time since I finished University, only been to a doctor in the past 7 years for a cortisone injection and an xray to confirm a stress fracture in my foot, but Bolt says people such as I should be locked down and denied the right to support my family and myself or live a normal life like him because he has determined I’m “vulnerable”.

  • T B LYNCH

    *Viruses, like girls, are all the same, but are all different. Being alive [though dead forms may be shed for months after an illness] they each have a unique personality. [HIV is diploid; Influenza has eight chromosomes; Wuflu has proofreading; Smallpox has stolen a bunch of human firestorm genes].
    *Though there is no vaccine for HIV, natural immunity is present in the 1% of Europeans born with homozygous mutated chemokine receptors. [Timothy Brown was cured of AIDS in Berlin a decade ago by a bone marrow transplant from such a donor – the only certain cure to date].
    *To praise this essay would be like adding stars to the sky, waves to the ocean, and blossoms to the springtime [Voltaire]. I will add one small contribution.
    *The blisters of shingles are indeed infectious, and are the way chicken pox skips into the next generation of humans.

  • pgang

    Imagine how terrified people would be if they realised that viruses are literally everywhere. The ocean and waterways are full of them, as is the air and the dirt, and our own digestive system. There are more viruses than bacteria, in everything.
    Viruses are alive T B LYNCH? That’s a big call for something that relies entirely on donor life. They can’t move by themselves, they have no power source and can’t duplicate themselves. I would have thought they could best be described as just a ‘thing’.
    Still, perhaps we should let the Greens know that the Wuhan virus should be protected.

  • T B LYNCH

    Dear pgang:- Life is Information with the sole defining attribute that – It can organize its own copying. All life forms except God require a substrate [being alive God first copied himself as the Son]. Shakespeares plays are alive as long as they are being played – by intelligent people who speak English = the substrate. An intact virus is alive and proves it by reproducing in humans = the substrate. Humans are alive but require an enormously complex substrate = Earth to supply water, plants, air and terra firma + the Solar system to supply energy and balance + the Galaxy to supply the chemical elements from which they are made + and finally the whole Universe to offset the ultra low probability of their spontaneous existence. Intact viruses are indeed alive. Dead = incomplete viruses, are likewise dead, but can yield a positive result in a DNA/RNA test [never in a culture].

  • DG

    I’m busy writing a play: “Godot turns up” its a sort of tragi-comedy. Godot turns out to be a salesman from a different play.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    If you could observe the decade of intense pain from facial nerve damage, after shingles, that my dear wife has suffered, you would be wise to try every available protection. It is a severe problem. Geoff S

    • Roger Franklin

      She has my sympathy, Geoff. I’ve had shingles twice in the last twelve years. The post-attack pain from the first episode was intense because, thinking I’d been bitten by a spider while doing some garden work, I didn’t bother going to the doctor until the pharmacist diagnosed it. Electric fish hooks in the skin, that’s what it was like. The second time it erupted I was at the doctor ASAP — and over it in about ten days thanks to a prescribed suppressant, with no worse aftermath than a fading tingle over the following week. Mind you, the ease with which it was dispatched doesn’t reduce the fear of a third eruption

  • T B LYNCH

    re Shingles:- [1] Vaccination of children for chicken pox should greatly reduce shingles in future adults [2] Administer the specific antiviral acyclovir in the first 2-4 hours of a new pain anywhere in the body:- if the cause is shingles the pain will disappear in 2-4 hours, confirming a diagnosis of shingles: if the pain persists the cause is something else like a red back spider in the autumn. If you wait until the next day you have pretty well missed the boat; if the blisters have erupted it is way too late for acyclovir to do anything [3] Keeping a supply of acyclovir handy is far more effective than the adult vaccine.

  • Stephen Due

    It seems to me that expert opinion includes the following possibilities
    (1) A vaccine will be discovered provided enough money is spent on research (all websites of vaccine companies assert this)
    (2) A vaccine may very well not eventuate due to multiple technical technical difficulties (all other websites)
    (3) The virus will be with us forever with catastrophic potential – the ‘new normal’
    (4) The virus will be with us forever but will become less virulent over time
    (5) The virus will die out of its own accord like SARS
    (6) The virus will change into something worse (or better)
    (7) The virus is multiple times more deadly than influenza
    (8) The virus is not that much worse than influenza
    (9) ‘We’ can defeat the virus (politicians, bureaucrats and medical personnel)
    (10) Trying to defeat the virus is pure hubris and a waste of time (epidemiologists and members of the public who are sick of hearing about the virus)
    The only certainty is that the ‘authorities’ are going to have to worm their way out of the situation somehow, and the rest of us are going to have to put up with whatever they decide to do to save face in the process. Whatever they do will be absurd, unpleasant, costly, and depressing.
    When (if) it’s all over, or becomes so boring that even football news is more interesting, people will be told and will believe that the government saved them (though sacrifices were unfortunately necessary).

  • T B LYNCH

    Dear pgang: Viruses may indeed be everywhere. But unless a particular virus carries the necessary receptor[s] to chemically say the password to the receptor[s] on your cellls – it will be treated as food and digested like the rest of your chow.
    There is no better example than Norwalk Virus [from Norwalk Ohio] – the one day diarrhoea of adults – the ordinary plague of Cruise Ships. Half the human race, along with chimpanzees, can catch this virus, even though they are the ones with ineffective antibodies. The remaining humans simply digest Norwalk Virus, lack antibodies, and never suffer from it. That is part of the personality of Norwalk Virus.
    If the commies were pleased with their discovery/biological warfare bungle, they would have been proud to call it the Wuhan Virus.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Sounds more like Beckett’s Endgame to me than simply Waiting for Godot. With Covid-19 at its present status we are simply going round and round in endless circles. Lockdown – open up -lockdown – etc. This cannot go on, as Beckett didn’t say. The updated version of Endgame is Hotel California; ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’. That tiger grip is on the neck of us all really in today’s secular world where the only place heaven exists is on earth and is for each of us of our own making, but we don’t have to turn Endgame into a public health mantra.
    When we decided to fly to the US and try for our cruise on 10th March this year we simply took the risk of being older and afflicted with ‘co-morbidities’. Hideous word. Life is for living. So far, we’ve survived.

    Maintaining a good health and general immunity is key to avoiding a lot of infective strife. And vaccines when they are available – flu vax is good. Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin can cut the death rate in half: that should count for something; also a better understanding of Covid-19 as a vascular as well as a respiratory disease means more tailored treatments. All to the good there, and improvements which should be drummed into policy-makers’ mind-sets.
    I’d like to see anyone try to lock me up for my own protection just because of age. Good luck with that. Time to stand up for fundamental civic freedoms and be counted as vs the Nanny State.
    Shingles?
    Shingles is a fierce nerve-pain, an eruption of skin blisters caused by the chicken-pox virus that has lain dormant in the sheathing of your nerves from a childhood infection. I’ve had it. Not too badly, I was only 32 at the time, but very stressed from a difficult childbirth, and a marriage break-up. It can cause blindness if it gets serious around the eyes, mostly in older people. Worth avoiding. Like many other things, Covid-19 included. We have to face it though; viruses can be weird, hanging around then breaking out as Shingles does. A fear re Sars-Cov-2 is that we don’t really know yet long-term what it can do.
    A good point to recall though is that humans have fought viruses forever, so epidemics always operate on a curve. Good times are still coming if we take that positive approach and personally hope for the best.

    It is my birthday in twelve days. Fingers crossed. 🙂

  • Peter Wales

    It isn’t a 0.1 mortality rate, though, Peter. After six months, worldwide there have been a total of 12,170,000 cases. Of those, 7,600,000 have had an outcome, either death or cure. Of that 7,600,000, 550,000 people have died. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ That is a mortality rate of 7% – seventy times higher than you suggest. It may well settle over time to between 3% and 5%. But that is still at least thirty times more deadly than our most serious seasonal influenzas. It won’t go away, but we cannot settle for herd immunity, which may not be possible anyway, when the death rate is so high. Careful, reasonable, protection of the most vulnerable, and expedited vaccine research, despite the difficulties therein, are the only way to avoid continuing lockdowns and further economic disaster.

  • Peter Smith

    Peter, There are various estmates of the IFR. The latest I saw put it at 0.1%. Though to be fair most estimates put it anywhere between 0.1% and 0.9%. This takes account of the estimated number of mild and asymptomatic cases which are never discovered. And the fact is, with each passing month the IFR seems to come down. I seem to recall a widly exaggerated WHO estimate of 3.4% in the early days of the pandemic. Even lefties interested in exciting panic don’t cite 7%.

  • Stephen Due

    There is an excellent recent video of Michael Levitt by LeeTV on YouTube dated 30 June 2020 slamming the modeling behind the lock-downs, specifically mentioning the error of the approach taken in Australia. Earlier interviews by Levitt laid down his scientific perspective, this one castigates the science community for gross incompetence and costly errors which he describes as “disgraceful”.

    See also an interesting earlier interview on LeeTV by Indian MP Ruhal Ghandi with Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke dated 1 June 2020, in which he correctly describes COVID-19 as a “mild disease” and argues against hard lock-downs.

  • T B LYNCH

    The crude death rate for Wuflu is 1% of noticeably sick patients. But, as I learned as a pathology undergraduate, from Lord Florey [the father of penicillin], the crude death rate depends on the age distribution and pre-existing disease rate in the patients.
    The death rate for normal children approaches zero. The death rate for normal adults is 1/10,000 [but the fatal cases in this cohort may actually have subtle defects in their immune system eg they may be blind to the Wuhan Virus, just as 1% of Europeans are indeed blind to HIV – one of my own discoveries]. The death rate for elderly/diseased patients is 10%.
    Half a century ago, I ran the Quarantine in Central Queensland for a number of years. Our ancestors found out the hard way that it is only economical/practical to do real quarantine for diseases with a 30% death rate. What I looked for in the passenger/crew line-up, was smallpox on faces and yellow fever in eyes, while the Inspector scoured the bilge for rats, which I autopsied for plague.
    When the Spanish Flu struck, there were all sorts of on/off quarantine, just like now; this reminds me of the ants running in all directions when you pour a jug of boiling water on their nest.
    Finally, my own observations/experiments convince me that the vicious H3N2 influenza of 2017 for sure, can be caught from stagnant enclosed air. My grandmother knew this when she talked the virtues of fresh air and sunshine. The Romans were likewise aware of bad air [literally malaria] and drained the marshes [the breeding ground of mosquitoes].

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    It is not clear that going down the ‘herd immunity’path is to be the road most traveled.
    An animal model for coronavirus, is the cat. In the UK, catteries pride themselves on being ‘coronavirus free’.
    This is not achieved by vaccination, but by ruthless selection of coronavirus free cats for breeding and careful quarantine.
    If there were a perfect vaccine then they would use it.
    A little off topic. My late father had shingles of the scalp and his Famciclovir was given too late.
    He was treated topically with Xylocaine ointment, which, despite Google disagreeing, gave him immense relief.
    https://www.nps.org.au/medicine-finder/xylocaine-5-ointment

  • T B LYNCH

    One of my patients, a female of 94 years, developed generalized shingles, and died in 3 days.

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