Thursday, August 12, 2021

Alberta COVID19 Doomers Last Offensive

I've been meaning to write something about COVID19 and I wasn't sure what to write about. Through much of this I simply ignored the media and just did my own thing because I can't deal with the high degree of sensationalism and stupidity. I find myself with anxiety as of late because there is literally a force of intellectuals, media and general people that are fighting for the return of strict measures/lockdowns - in a highly vaccinated society. The notion that we could end up right back where we were pre-vaccine is just depressing to me and I hate it. 


On July 28th, the Alberta government announced changes to policy toward COVID19. The next steps were going into place to treat this problem just like every other respiratory virus that we deal with. Immediate stop to asymptomatic testing. No more going out searching for close contacts that may have experienced a runny nose. And by the end of August, only testing if it relates to medical intervention. No more legally required isolation on a positive test. This brought me hope because it eliminated the main item the doomers hung onto: case numbers.


This gave me some hope because this was an action for normalizing lives, but also it defangs the doomers. Now, the doomers are going nuts and it's down to political will. The war is on and will the Alberta government hold tight. 


The doomers are wedging the issue the way they like, on the isolation requirements - as if a fully vaccinated person that gets a runny nose needs to be isolated for 10 days (that means sending your in house family to a hotel for 10 days). But really the main concern is over all the measures that produce the highest amount of cases being removed. They want to go out and find every single case - even though a case today is not the same as a case in March 2020 or January 2021.


Ironically doomers are the most likely to tell people to get vaccinated and outside the other side of the mouth say vaccines are useless - at least when it comes to getting back to a normal life. If there are one group of people to blame for vaccine hesitancy, it would be these people.


Anyway, I've compiled some thoughts on COVID19. It's not so much the disease, but how people have thought about things and just how the culture has a poison epistemology. Much of this is just to express it, and get it out of my head because it does truly annoy me.


Cases, Cases, Cases


The saddest part about all of this is how the goal posts have moved through the pandemic, but worse yet is how the media, intellectuals and just the general population don't understand how the approach to it has changed in a highly vaccinated population. Premier Jason Kenney has explained it quite simply and correctly.


Vaccines aren't perfect at stopping infections. They're very good, but not perfect. But the reality is that vaccines are more than just an efficacy against infection. The main reason vaccines are produced is how it prepares the immune system to fight the virus. The value of vaccines is that it makes serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID19 very rare. The goal of 'flattening the curve' was to prevent the ICUs from overflowing - in a world where enough people can't get vaccines. Vaccines accomplish this same goal without crippling the economy, nor without taking away the social aspects of being human.


Vaccines separate severe illness, hospitalization and death from cases. The significance and meaning of COVID cases has changed. 


  • March 2020 was a scary time. 

    • High death rates for the vulnerable

    • No known treatment methods

    • No available vaccines

    • No guidance. 

  • The third wave in Alberta was different. 

    • Much of the most vulnerable population was vaccinated

    • Doctors had some treatment methods that saved lives

    • The ICU filled up because people just didn't flat out die

    • Much of the population was unable to get a vaccine

  • Today

    • Highly vaccinated population

    • Easy access to anyone that wants a vaccine (12+)

    • Treatment options, with even better options awaiting approval

    • 85-90% vaccination rate of people 65+ years old.

    • Pfizer is expecting to be ready for 5-11 year old vaccinations in September


Cases are not equal in this sense. A case today doesn't mean the same thing as it did in April and a case in April doesn't mean as much as a case in March 2020. It's also important to recognize case counts today aren't all equal either. An unvaccinated person that gets COVID19 that is sick for two weeks and has severe headaches for months counts as 1 case - just as a fully vaccinated person that is asymptomatic that tests positive is also 1 case.


For those unaware, in Alberta we had our big run of vaccines start in May. We still had restrictions up until July 1st. During that time a lot of people were vaccinated, but still couldn't hang out with people. Numbers trended down to nice daily lows. Now that we're open again, things are trending up again and the focus is on cases. Not that there really is a lot, but it's this trend of up. 


As it has been said by Dr. Hinshaw, vaccines will turn this from a pandemic into an endemic. SARS-COV-2 isn't going anywhere, but instead of some out of control spread that takes over - it's manageable and resembles more of what regular respiratory viruses we have always had.


It's important to understand the goal here and not lose sight of it. There's no goal to get to zero cases. COVID19 is respiratory and too easy to spread. The goal has always been to tame it, so we can all go back to living our lives without fear of serious illness, hospitalization and death. Just listen to Kenney here. It's straight to the point, science based and easy to understand.


https://twitter.com/jkenney/status/1420411178287648772?s=20


Vaccines are Amazing, but Misunderstood

I want to give thanks to Big Pharma for the vaccines because they are one of the few things that came out of this pandemic that are amazing. In particular the mRNA ones which have demonstrated something so amazing that I look forward to the future of what they can do. BioNTech has recently made a malaria vaccine. Awesome.


Vaccines are great and I encourage everyone to go get one as soon as they can.


Pfizer 95% efficacy, Moderna 94% efficacy, Janssen 72% efficacy, AstraZeneca 76% efficacy.


These numbers, for the most part, really don't mean all that much. Efficacy, at least presented in this context, is just the efficacy of infection during clinical trials. Pfizer and Moderna had much during lockdowns, so they're probably not as strong as they show. The reality is that they're all very good and whichever one is first available to you should be the one you get.


But, as I mentioned earlier, a vaccine is more than an efficacy against infection. How effective is it against serious illness? How long does it take to get protection? Do I need one shot or two? A better question, if you were infected what are the chances you'd even have symptoms?


I'm double dosed on Pfizer. Not that I had a choice in the manner. My only choice in the whole thing was whether I wanted to do an mRNA cocktail on my second shot by getting Moderna. Just because Pfizer has 95% efficacy doesn't mean damn all the other vaccines because they have a lower number. They're all great at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death. They're also excellent at preventing symptoms even if you do catch it.


Recently Israel announced that Pfizer efficacy degraded and that things seem to be about 64%. There's some reality to the fact that trials occurred during lockdowns and such - whereas Israel is fully open.The likelihood is that it was never truly 95% in a post-lockdown world. But the main point lost in the media was that that vaccine resulted in 64% asymptomatic infection - in the same Israeli press release. 


Vaccines are doing their job and they're doing an amazing job. And despite the downer news, they're doing exactly what they need to do. Even among the pro-vaccers there seems to be an increasing number of them that believe in the efficacy of masks more than the vaccine.

Isolated Facts and Stats aren't Science

At this point I haven't really jumped into epistemology, but more the situation on the ground. Why? Because that's what science is. It's the world/nature/reality that we live in and facts come from it. It's not that facts can be isolated from it, but this is what people do.


The unfortunate part is that we have people who are pro-vaccine, want people to get vaccines, but once we start talking about ending restrictions, vaccines aren't that great anymore. We should get them, but they essentially aren't good enough to go back to our normal lives. This is probably one of the bigger aspects of what creates vaccine hesitancy.

So what do I mean about isolated facts and stats? Well take Israel's report that Pfizer is really only 64% effective. Or that the delta variant is 40% more infectious than regular. To isolate it is to strip the real world away from it. The stat and the stat alone is all you conclude from. 64% efficacy came from the real world. It exists in that world and as I said vaccines are more than just an efficacy to infection.


Putting it simply, to conclude simply from an isolated stat/fact and not the complete package of facts is against science. Why? Because it removes the reality from it. The notion that after 6 months, Pfizer is only 64% effective, so shut it down.It negates all the other facts that matter to a complete understanding of the situation on the ground.


I see this in a variety of scenarios, though the vaccine one is probably the biggest assault on the best thing human ingenuity has created during the pandemic. I'm sure you've heard that it is possible to be asymptomatic and transmit. As the assault on vaccine efficacy continues, this point will be brought up more. Wear a mask/lockdown if you're fully vaccinated because you can transmit asymptomatically. It's true that it can occur, the other important fact that is inseparable from that isolated fact is that it's very rare to occur. 



The Future with the Base Rate Fallacy



This is the future of information where manipulation is the goal. You'd almost think that being unvaccinated is the smarter approach. Even in the comments of this Instagram you see a few pro-vaccine comments that just make the claim partially vaccinated is the same as unvaccinated. The first shot is the vaccine and is excellent. The second shot is the booster, but it also comes with the secondary value of an even stronger immune response. Unfortunately idiots on both sides of this issue. 


The base rate fallacy is really simple to understand. As the population becomes more vaccinated (the corollary is that the unvaccinated population shrinks - also as more unvaccinated people catch COVID19 and have immunity) you'll experience more and more cases coming from those that are vaccinated. There is going to be a point where we find that a big chunk (if not the majority) of cases will be from the vaccinated.


This outcome is to be expected. We'll experience anti-vaxxers and pro-vaccine forever doomers claiming the same thing: vaccines don't work. If you can easily identify that this is a base rate fallacy and the data presented, which is true, is more reflective of reality when done per 100k of a population (vaxed vs unvaxed).


For fun, I thought I'd look at the numbers in Ontario relating to this Instagram post. I'll take 12+ just because kids are a low risk population. By my calculation an unvaccinated person is 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized versus a vaccinated person (unvaccinated: 1.302/100k, vaccinated: 0.407/100k). There is also an important piece of information to provide even more context: the most vulnerable population is vaccinated highly. Over 90% of the population over 65 years of age are vaccinated. These are the people most at risk, the most likely to be suffering from health related issues and will have less of an immune response from a vaccine.


The reality is that it shouldn't be crazy to see higher rates among the vaccinated. It should be expected. And as the unvaccinated population continues to shrink and gain natural immunity from infection, the numbers will continue showing more infection for the vaccinated population. This is to be expected and speaks nothing of the vaccine efficacy.


Here is more data that shows how good vaccines are. Cases are currently booming in the US right now with the delta variant and the media is rolling with break through infections. These graphs are from KFF Policy Watch.


Cases:


Hospitalizations:


Despite how negative the vaccines are being perceived coming out of Israel, you'd think they were next to garbage - at least that's what the anti-vaxxers are celebrating. When you stop looking at raw numbers and look at data broken down per 100k of a group - the picture is much more positive. This is from COVID19 Data Science.




Idiot Justin Trudeau and Janssen


Janssen is the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. This is an approved vaccine in Canada. Not one shot was administered in this country. When most people in Alberta in March & April 2021 were wondering when the hell they can get a shot, our idiotic federal government thought they'd continue only importing tiny portions of vaccines and refuse Janssen.


Most of the hesitancy with Janssen is the media harping on a very rare blood clotting side effect - similar to AstraZeneca.Also one place making it in the United States that there were thoughts that the manufacturing process wasn't up to par. This claim proved to be false overtime. Not to mention Janssen is made in different countries.


The notion that a vaccine has rare risks and instead no one can have it - and we must all live in lockdown with no vaccines available is criminal. The refusal by the federal government to import the Johnson and Johnson vaccine annoys me to no end. It's an excellent vaccine precisely because it's one shot and done. I think of all the vaccine hesitant people that we have to convince to show up not once, but twice. One shot and done is amazing. The other big benefit is that Janssen doesn't have the rigorous cooling temperatures that the mRNA vaccines have. This means it works a lot better for rural areas and aren't going to have the equipment to handle mRNA. As well, the roll out of them could be put into the hands of pharmacies because they don't require the low temperature for storage.


That's what is so annoying to me. There were days back in March and April where I'd literally curse "where the hell is my vaccine". If the idiot government is going to control all aspects of this where I can't privately pursue a faccine, why the hell is this taking so long? If I was presented with Janssen as an option, with a chance of a rare blood clot, back in March or April I wouldn't have hesitated for a second.


Authority, Tribalism and the Efficacy of your Mind


This is a rather big topic. The one I've taken away from this whole pandemic is that the anti-vaxxers and the pro-vaccine doomers are one and the same. They have identical epistemology, they look at the world the same and they're equally as stupid. I suppose the pro-vaccine doomers at least think vaccines are worth getting - though they do think one should live in a prison of vaccinated people with no freedoms.


A common theme is that your mind is of no use. You don't have the efficacy to understand. Talking with a doomer, and you present back a more optimistic point of view (hey we have lots of vaccinated people we can get back to normal) they'll say something along the lines of oh, you don't know anything. You're not an expert. You can't even understand. You have to listen to them. This is the way of deferring your mind and your thoughts.


I'm not saying that you, an non-expert, can fully understand things like an expert. The notion that you can't comprehend anything at all that is offensive.  You have the idea of understanding on some level. Maybe not fully in depth, but to a degree. Secondly, one has to use their mind to determine  what experts to listen to. There are a lot of people talking. Plenty of people with agendas. Plenty of people that don't know anything. Experts on infectious diseases with opposite views.


It's important to distinguish between the science "is" and policy "ought". Rarely is anyone talking science in and of itself. Science is the real world. Ought is what one ought to do. It's how you use science to make actionable decisions. So when people say "listen to the science", they're not really talking science, but the ought part.


Looking at Australia, they're locking it down over nothing. Treating people like prisoners. It's not like science is different in Australia. It's not like they discovered something brand new about COVID19 and are not sharing it.They have the exact same science, but they have different moral ideology and goals though. Science is qualified that way. Risk, to them, is not allowed and treating people as nothing more than cattle to be herded is acceptable.


I think the most telling sign of this has been the treatment of Dr. Hinshaw by the progressives in Alberta. Early on they loved her. Things were locked down, businesses weren't allowed to be open. They were cheering. They were wearing t-shirts that said "What would Hinshaw do?" You disagree with a policy of hers: shut your mouth, she's an expert, you will do as she says. Now that she wants to go back to normal. This is unheard of.



Here's idiot box Mayor Nenshi. He has the shirt. About opening up: "height of insanity".


The big takeaway from many people who claim to be for science don't actually care about it. All they care about is whether the policy (politically) is being implemented that they like. And once an expert ally changes their view - they're ready to throw them under the bus. I can empathize with those that are shedding the value of experts when the proponents act like this. Though I don't condone it because information and truth matter.


I think at the very least understanding the difference between science and what one ought to do is qualified by ideology and goals that a person is trying to achieve.


Due to this tribalism we see people turn off their minds, find someone to follow that they like and just roll with that - whether it is the "establishment" or counter culture.


Tying us all together

The reason that there is such a divide politically among the views of COVID19 is the notion before that we should be tied together. Masks are a great example of this. I'm fully vaccinated, and I don't want to wear a mask ever again. But it's not enough for these people that they choose to wear a mask - I have to do it for them. I'm tied to them and I have to do it for them and they have to do it for me.


It's not enough that I'm fully vaccinated, they need to see that security blanket on my face. This is what I mean when I say that people believe more in masks than in vaccines.


Never before has anyone been tied together like this where going to work, wanting to go to your friends house is regulated by everyone else. It's scary.


The Culture of Fear

There are three types of people in this pandemic: normal people that want to get back to normal, doomers that want fear and the anti-vaxxer/conspiracy types that also live a life of fear.

I spent a lot of my time ragging on the doomers - who happen to be pro-vaccine. The reason is that they unfortunately are the dominant cultural force. I have noticed this parallel between doomers and the anti-vaxxers, which is fear. They're both groups deathly terrified. One is terrified of COVID19. The other is terrified of vaccines and the litany of conspiracy theories.

For example, there is talk of boosters. The doomers are getting way ahead of themselves because vaccines are still working great at preventing serious disease, hospitalization and death. None the less, they're so scared that they want everyone to be vaccinated - but it's never good enough anyway. Then you have the antivaxxer conspiracy type hearing the doomers and they're terrified of boosters and it's just groups that feed each other fear.

It's depressingly stupid.

Edit August 13 2021: Alberta changes have been delayed until September 27th. Doomers will continue to get their fuel.

Edit August 30 2021: City of Edmonton reinstates mask mandate. I assume Calgary will be along shortly.

Edit September 3 2021: Alberta institutes mandatory masks in public again. City of Calgary also reinstated state of emergency and masks as well on the same day.

Edit September 4 2021: An Open Letter to Jason Kenney

Edit September 14 2021: Well there hasn't been any news as of late. The ICU in Alberta has surpassed capacity and surpassed the quantity set back during the third wave - when vaccines were not really in the population. Normally I would say that no news is good news. No lockdowns have been done or anything like that. But what is happening is that there is an air of uncertainty. There has been Kenney, who seems to be missing in action, and there is Health Minister Shandro can't/won't answer the question about what is on the table and off the table.

Basically I'm looking for Kenney to come out and say that lockdowns are off the table. I think most people would like to know with certainty that this won't happen. I get the impression that one day, like on a Friday, they're just going to lock it down or something. Kenney will never live it down - so I'd like to think that was never going to happen, but a lot of 'not going to happen' has happened. 

Edit September 15 2021: A whole new area of restrictions and lockdown measures have been put in place. So depressing. Locked down with 70% fully vaccinated population. Unreal.
https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-public-health-actions.aspx

Somewhat of a vaccine passport incoming, but details aren't really understood. Some businesses can opt in and no health measures apply (except masks... grrrr). But it seems like retail/grocery can't opt in.

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