Antivaxxers will be begging for the new COVID vaccines!

BE38C1AE-5EC6-4734-8FE7-7EBA1885A991

As the new COVID vaccines begin to come to market, there is concern among public health officials that a substantial proportion of the population will refuse the vaccine. I doubt it. In fact, I suspect that it’s just a matter of time before antivaxxers will be begging to get it.

Why? Because they’ll witness it working in a way they are currently unable to see other vaccines work.

It’s just a matter of time.

Nearly all vaccines work in two different ways.

1. Vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that recognize specific bacteria or viruses and bind to them, thereby signaling to immune cells that they are targets for swift destruction. Each antibody binds to a specific site on a specific bacteria or virus.

That’s how vaccines lead to antibodies, but that’s NOT how they protect the whole population. Even the best vaccines are not 100% effective, and we can’t vaccinate 100% of the population. For example, babies can’t be vaccinated for specific diseases until they can mount the appropriate antibody response. Immuno-compromised people may not be able to mount an immune response at all.

In a vaccine-naive population, this is the primary way that vaccines provide protection.

2. Widespread vaccination leads to herd immunity, dramatically reducing the chance that an infected person will encounter an unprotected person who is susceptible to the disease.

Consider diphtheria vaccine:

Imagine that little Ainsley comes in close contact with 10 children per day. Now imagine that Ainsley develops diphtheria. Who is likely to catch diphtheria from Ainsley? If 99% of children are vaccinated and the vaccine is 95% effective, the odds are low that any of the 10 children she comes in contract with could get diphtheria. Thus, the outbreak of diphtheria ends with Ainsley (though it may end poor Ainsley’s life).

Now imagine that only 50% of children are vaccinated against diphtheria. That means that half the children are likely to be susceptible, and therefore diphtheria is almost certain to be transmitted. And since the children who catch diphtheria from Ainsley are going to expose additional children who aren’t vaccinated, the disease begins to spread like wild fire.

In other words, in 2020 if Ainsley’s mother doesn’t vaccinate her against diphtheria and she never gets diphtheria, it’s NOT because she was breastfed, eats organic food and has a strong immune system. It’s because herd immunity ensures that she’s never exposed to diphtheria.

This is the primary way that vaccines work in a population that is largely vaccinated.

Why does that matter?

It’s impossible to “see” herd immunity at work. In a population that is largely vaccinated against diphtheria (or any other childhood illness), the incidence of the disease is so low that most people will never see a case in their lifetime. It’s easy for parents to pretend that diphtheria poses no threat to their children and that vaccines are unnecessary. How could their children get diphtheria if it appears that no one has diphtheria?

In contrast, it’s easy to “see” the impact of antibody production in vaccine-naive populations.

Consider polio in the 1950’s. Summer outbreaks led to tens of thousands of cases (most in children) leaving hundreds paralyzed or dead. By some accounts, second only to the atomic bomb it was what most Americans feared most.

Frantic parents were eager to enroll their children in the vaccine trial.

The first large-scale clinical trial of Salk’s vaccine began in 1954 and enrolled more than 1 million participants. It was the first vaccine trial to implement a double-blind, placebo-controlled design …

The scientist leading the vaccine trial, Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr. from the University of Michigan, announced the positive results at a press conference on April 12, 1955. Later that same day, the U.S. government declared Salk’s vaccine safe and effective for use …

The rate of polio among vaccinated children was reduced by nearly 90% compared to those children who had received the placebo. Parents rushed to get their children vaccinated because the benefits of the vaccine were glaringly obvious. It’s very easy to see the impact of an effective vaccine in a vaccine naive-population.

If the new COVID vaccines are similarly effective (and early results suggest that they are), their impact will be even more obvious. In contrast to polio, which at its height sickened tens of thousands of Americans each year, COVID has sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands in less than a year. The incidence of COVID and COVID deaths will immediately begin to drop dramatically as soon as vaccination starts and it will be obvious that those who received the vaccine are protected and can return to a normal existence.

In other words, it will be clear to even the most obstinate antivaxxer that the COVID vaccines really work. Will there be unanticipated risks to the vaccine? That’s always a possibility, but in a vaccine-naive population like ours the benefits will outweigh all but the most serious risks.

That’s the one silver lining to the vaccine shortage that is going to persist for many months. There isn’t enough to give to everyone so only those who really want it will be able to get it. The benefits of the vaccines will become apparent and antivaxxers will want those benefits, too. It’s just a matter of time.

  • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

    If the Covid debacle has taught me anything, it’s that our power for self-delusion is more powerful than observed reality. I live in Iowa, currently one of the sickest states, and I know people, throngs of them, who don’t believe the virus is real.

    • Heidi

      Yes, my hometown, not the one I currently reside in, has had to bring in mobile morgues, ICUs are out of space, and this arrogant idiot I went to school with has decided it’s not covid that’s actually killing people, it’s the stress from thinking the pandemic is a a real threat. He was completely denying that people were even dying until I guess he could no longer deny that. If stress could just kill us off that easily, I’m sure I would have died inauguration day in 2017.

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        Haha, all of these “election fraud” suits may kill me from stress, so who knows?

  • mabelcruet

    OT, but FFS. Sheena Byrom does it again. The interim Ockenden report into the >1200 infant and maternal deaths in Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital has just been released. In it, Ockenden has highlighted the refusal of staff to offer C-section and instead push for ‘normal’ birth, and specifically talked about mothers being belittled and shouted at, called ‘lazy’, and worst of all, midwives blaming the mother for the stillbirth. Ockenden talked about the unkindness that mothers were subjected to-this was experienced by many women and families. They got no condolences, no investigations were carried out in many of the cases, families never got the chance to get answers because the midwives and hospital trust refused point blank to discuss it all. And Byrom’s response to this is to tweet about the importance of having a culture where staff are supported and have the psychological safety to be open and to share.

    Utterly tone-deaf. Typical of her to turn this tragedy into making the midwives victims, not the parents of those dead babies, not the partners of women who lost their lives. Having an open culture is going to do sweet FA when the problem is a midwife who lies and tells a mother that she can’t have a section because that would mean she was lazy. Being psychologically supported is not going to have any impact when the problem is a midwife who is dismissive, insulting and off hand with a frightened mother.

    • Amazed

      To be open and to share?! I thought these midwives were more than open and sharing already. How much more? Should they be encouraged to grab the mother by the hair and bump her head against the wall until she stops being lazy and starts working, dammit?

      Really! For first time in months, I come here, fully expecting to have this page be all about COVID. Instead, I find Sheena Byrom here. She has managed to outdo her previous awfulness once again. I’m disgusted.

      • mabelcruet

        She has retweeted an inspirational quote of her own, saying that what goes on and what gets said in the ‘sacred space’ of childbirth will stay with the parents forever, so be mindful of your words. Not a single comment addressing the plain fact that midwives in the hospital concerned were routinely unkind, bullying, overbearing, name calling, blaming and shaming mothers and not listening. This was widespread among midwives in that trust. Ockenden has over 1000 dead or damaged babies to investigate, along with scary numbers of dead mothers to look at.

        There is not a single word of comfort from any senior midwife on social media, its all excuses. The narrative seems to be that if hospitals staffed the wards properly and gave them more resources, this wouldn’t have happened so they can’t be blamed for being so awful to women, its the governments fault. I cannot fathom how her mind works, if it works at all-is she is excusing horrendous abuse and bullying by saying the staff were under pressure and that made them make sneering, scathing comments about their patients, so they can’t be held responsible?

        And there’s a deafening silence about the push for natural birth-Ockenden specifically criticised that practice and recognised it as being a major factor in many deaths. Remember all the hoo-ha when the RCM shuttered their natural birth drive, and how they claimed it was stopping because it had come to an end, not because it had been shown to be associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Byrom was one of the most vocal proponents of that, and she never once publically acknowledged that it had bad outcomes.

  • I wish I could share your optimism. I think you’re right that those who are hesitant to get the vaccine will eventually be eager to do so, but dyed-in-the-wool antivaxxers will be unable to observe beneficial effects because such observations contradict their established narrative. Instead, this is what I think will happen: Some people will get sick or suffer after taking the vaccine, and antivaxxers will point to these people and say “See! See! Look what terrible things this vaccine does! COVID’s just a cold, anyway, if you have a robust immune system, so I’m gonna be fine.”

    • demodocus

      this. The diehards will rationalize their way out of anything. And then some die hard. “Fortunately” with this one, it’s more likely the adults will have the bad case than the kids who have no choice in the matter.

      • lurker

        But unfortunately, in this case it will be two unvaccinated generations – parents and kids. I suspect that at least most anti-vax parents were themselves vaccinated in childhood, and while they may not be keeping up their boosters, they’re no worse off than most others in that sense. But if they don’t vaccinate their children OR themselves against COVID, twice as many people will be unvaccinated against COVID as are unvaccinated against, say, measles.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      I agree with you. I think they will maximize any little side effect one might have and get the free ride they have been getting for decades on herd immunity. Religious beliefs are hard to change.