Covid and authoritarianism: were we wrong-footed over Covid passports?

I’m hearing genuine concern about the increasing authoritarianism of the Johnson government and more complicated concerns about civil liberties and Covid regulations — particularly around the idea of Covid passports. But these are profoundly different. Joining them together is a bad idea, and plays into the government’s hands.

Creeping authoritarianism

The Tories thought nothing of illegally proroguing parliament. They responded to losing in the Supreme Court with a threat to stop “leftie lawyers” challenging the government. Proposals for compulsory voter identification and redrawing constituency boundaries are likely to help them at the next election, and they are alarmingly-happy to use “Henry VIII powers” to sideline parliament in facing the legislative consequences of Brexit. And it’s probably best not to mention the recent Conservative Party conference.

These are problems, and we should be concerned. But they are not about Covid.

A friend who travels frequently between the UK and Belgium makes a sharp contrast. In Belgium the messaging around Covid has been “this is what the doctors advise…” In the UK it’s been “obey the government and you will be fine” (even when the government ignores the advice of SAGE). Praise of obedience sounds horribly authoritarian.

But obeying the government isn’t about Covid.

People accept authoritarianism if it makes them feel safer. A government that stirs up people’s anxieties, ducks responsibility and presents itself as the answer has a way to hang on to power.

The medical piece

No vaccine is 100% effective. There is a problem with newer and more infectious variants. The more people who ill, the faster it mutates and the greater the risk of it becoming more serious.

Vaccination is about controlling the spread of a disease. It’s not just about individual risk: I get vaccinated to protect others as well as myself.

We have laws against drink driving which stop people being a danger to others and to themselves. We don’t honour the “opinions” of those who think they are safe to drink and drive. Is it so different to ask people also to be responsible and get vaccinated?

Anxiety over Covid

The problem is that Covid stirs up a huge range of anxieties. Vaccination offers protection against the illness, but not those anxieties.

A wise government would recognise this, encourage vaccination, and address what’s worrying people.

Instead, we have the Johnson government. Their authoritarian tendency has exploited the anxieties revealed in support for Brexit, and it is being compounded by the added anxieties over Covid.

Excluded groups

Vaccine uptake hasn’t been even. I am particularly concerned about groups who were already marginalised — notably some of the minority ethnic groups — who’ve been receptive to ill-founded worries over the vaccine and now face being disproportionately affected by Covid.

Vaccine passports

It’s easy to dismiss these as “identity cards by another name”, forgetting that the same could be said about driving licenses. Requiring proof of vaccination is a way to avoid places like nightclubs and aeroplanes being super-spreaders, and to encourage people to get vaccinated.

If we wait too long, people will get used to the idea of certain minorities being badly affected by Covid (as AIDS was once seen as the “gay plague”) and read vaccine passports as proof that someone isn’t in one of those groups. Right now, there’s still time for vaccine passports to be introduced and understood as meaning just that someone has been vaccinated.

Unwise resistance

Resisting authoritarianism by resisting what makes medical sense over Covid is counter-productive. It increases the suffering and from Covid and the anxiety that stirs up — fuelling the authoritarianism.

What we need is science-based pragmatism over Covid, and a well-articulated opposition to the direction in which the government is moving.

 

* Mark Argent was the Liberal Democrat candidate in Huntingdon Constituency in 2019 and blogs at markargent.com/blog.

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54 Comments

  • The argument against a Covid passport is simple – it doesn’t do what it implies it does, namely assure that the person with the passport hasn’t got Covid and/or can’t transmit it. It says that the person with the passport (as long as it hasn’t been cloned – as an aside, one of the strongest arguments against ID cards) has a reduced risk of both of those things. Not the same at all.
    To my mind, we have two choices: test everyone prior to entry to any event or accept that the disease is endemic, encourage people to take booster shots as appropriate, and otherwise take our chances (as we do with pretty much everything else).

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '21 - 10:03am

    Give me a vaccine passport any time. Better still, can I have a biometric ID card with my photo on it as well, or even instead? No worries as far as I’m concerned. My life has been an open book.

  • This is a very good article – totally agree with it. Defending people’s freedom and opposing unnecessary/authoritarian restrictions on people’s lives is great – but it has to be balanced with the good of the community and the need to prevent people doing things that might unreasonably endanger others. I think on vaccine passports, the LibDem leadership has got it wrong by forgetting to make that distinction.

  • Mark Argents’ article is full of “common sense” !!

  • I just find the comparison between drink driving and passing on a respiratory virus to be ridiculous. We accept a level of illness from Flu and other diseases as part of our social contract and going forwards it will have to be the same with COVID.

    Furthermore, being vaccinated does not stop you passing it on – can’t repeat that often enough – but it does give the individual excellent protection against severe disease.

    The LD’s are right on COVID – ID cards and retain the support of people like me with their stance.

  • Lib Dem MPS please take note

  • No vaccine is 100% effective.

    Indeed, current Covid vaccines have an efficacy against infection of around 70% three weeks after the second dose which declines over the following months to less than 50%. Data from Israel suggests that a natural infection confers an order of magnitude more protection against infection…

    ‘Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections’ [25th. August 2021]:
    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1

    Results SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccinees had a 13.06-fold (95% CI, 8.08 to 21.11) increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant compared to those previously infected, when the first event (infection or vaccination) occurred during January and February of 2021. […]

    Conclusions This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity.

    There is a problem with newer and more infectious variants.

    All other variants have been comprehensively outcompeted by Delta which is now dominant worldwide. Absent the emergence of a more infectious variant Delta is likely to become fixated. For details of variant progression in the US scroll over this barchart…

    COVID Data Tracker: Variant Proportions:
    https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions

    The more people who ill, the faster it mutates and the greater the risk of it becoming more serious.

    The more people who are vaccinated, the greater the risk of a variant emerging that is better at escaping the vaccine. Vaccination rates in the UK aren’t likely to make any meaningful difference to the potential emergence of new variants – most of the world have yet to be vaccinated. It’s also possible that the Delta variant is the most the virus can do.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Oct '21 - 1:17pm

    What is best about this article, is in stark contrast to what is worst about our politics.

    It is reflective here, in ways rarely seen. It has a point but expresses it lightly, thoughtfully.

    What is wrong with our party is, on some things it says nothing, and is almost hesitant, on others it says much and is seemingly exaggerated.

    I am not in the middle on covid, with the only exception being vaccine passports. On every aspect other than that, I am on the covid action side, social democrat more than social liberal, and definitely more than classical liberal, but not on this.

    The reason is I can, in more classically liberal ways at least on vaccine passports, see both sides.

    First, they do not eliminate risk at all, with Delta they reduce it slightly.

    Secondly, they do not do as much as what I favour, stopping the risky activity all together! I would not reopen clubs, theatres, concert halls, sport, to the public yet at all.

    On the other hand, if these venues are open, those who do not want to get a vaccine passport, can just not attend them. They are non essential. Where I disagree totally with the non liberal, and highly over blown, Macron, is in having vaccine passports for access to shops or hospitals. Here nobody wants this, so our party is as often, with it, and Labour, really overdoing the criticism.

    I favour the approach of the article. On some policies, express a view, but do so sensibly, which is, subtly!

    Ed Davey does not do subtle very well at all!

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '21 - 7:00pm

    @Jeff
    You appear to be vying with Messrs Bourke and Martin on the ‘expert’ stakes. Your latest piece reminds me of the old saying, that some people use statistics like a drunkard uses a lamp post, namely for support rather than illumination.

    I would put it more simply. Covid is here to stay in one form or another. We had better get used to it. Life is set never to be the same again. We need to adapt our behaviour accordingly.

  • Marco 14th Oct ’21 – 11:31am…Furthermore, being vaccinated does not stop you passing it on – can’t repeat that often enough – but it does give the individual excellent protection against severe disease……………

    When those in a nightclub environment (Close, energetic, physical contact) have all been vaccinated (Covid Passport) do pass on the infection then those who are infected are individuals who in your words, ‘ excellent protection against severe disease’.

    A ‘mishmash’ of vaccinated/unvaccinated means many of those in the nightclub will be severely infected, hospitalised and even fatally infected..

    To me, at least, the advantage of such protection given by Covid passports is without challenge..

  • My position is very simple.

    I support vaccine mandates, and have no problem with people being fired by their employer if they refuse to get vaccinated, with the only permitted excuse being a medical reason why you cannot be vaccinated corroborated by written evidence. You do not have the freedom to put others at risk by mingling with them at work while unvaccinated.

    Equally I support the rights of venues to demand proof of vaccination before admitting someone. Such proof should be in the form of something issued by the Government, since vaccination is controlled via the NHS, and the Government is best placed to manage vaccine passports, as it manages international travel passports.

    What I understand to be our Party’s policy in this issue is simply wrong and needs to change.

  • James Fowler 14th Oct '21 - 8:03pm

    This article condemns authoritarianism, yet makes some pretty authoritarian demands of its own. I’m a strong supporter of vaccinations, but to compare them to banning drink driving is a false analogy. Drink driving laws stop people from doing something. Compulsory vaccination demands that they must do something. Morally, it’s poles apart. Elsewhere, any moves towards legitimizing an ID system based on medical status are just incredibly sinister in my view. This is a slippery slope to the victimisation of all sorts of minorities.

  • @ Expats

    I’m not sure I understand, are you saying that the purpose of vaccine passports is to protect the unvaccinated? It is their choice not to get the vaccine and if they do get ill that is the consequence of their choice. However, most unvaccinated people can rely on their immune systems to protect them and will only get mild symptoms. Many will have already had COVID anyway.

  • Andrew Melmoth 14th Oct '21 - 8:13pm

    – Jeff

    The more people who are vaccinated, the greater the risk of a variant emerging that is better at escaping the vaccine.

    This isn’t correct. The ideal conditions for a vaccine resistant variant to emerge is within a population with large numbers of people vaccinated (in order to apply selective pressure) and large numbers unvaccinated (to generate high case/transmission rates). Once you have a high enough percentage of the population vaccinated and case rates suppressed to a low level the risk of vaccine escape diminishes.
    The point at which the Government removed remaining restrictions was probably around the ideal threshold for vaccine escape. We were lucky that isn’t what happened but other countries which follow our foolish trajectory might not be so lucky.

  • Vaccination is about controlling the spread of a disease.

    The principle benefit of the Covid vaccination programme is to reduce hospitalisations and deaths. Current vaccines do not confer enough protection against infection to be able to control the spread.

    It’s not just about individual risk: I get vaccinated to protect others as well as myself.

    This suggests a false sense of security. By now, the risk of catching the virus from a vaccinated or unvaccinated person is likely to be similar as the unvaccinated are more likely to have had a previous natural infection which confers better protection than the vaccine alone. Back in mid-summer the ONS antibody survey showed that 68% of unvaccinated 16 to 24 year olds had already been infected.

    A wise government would recognise this, encourage vaccination, and address what’s worrying people.

    That is what the government has been doing…

    ‘Coronavirus vaccine: councils to get £23m to encourage high-risk groups to have jab’ [January 2021]:
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/25/councils-to-get-23m-to-encourage-high-risk-groups-to-have-jab

    The government will provide £23m in funding to dozens of councils in England to help fight misinformation around coronavirus vaccines and to encourage uptake of the jab among more high-risk communities.

  • I am particularly concerned about groups who were already marginalised — notably some of the minority ethnic groups — who’ve been receptive to ill-founded worries over the vaccine and now face being disproportionately affected by Covid.

    Ethnic minorities were already disproportionately affected, not least because having melanin-rich skin means they are naturally more deficient in vitamin D.

    Requiring proof of vaccination is a way to avoid places like nightclubs and aeroplanes being super-spreaders, and to encourage people to get vaccinated.

    Current vaccines won’t prevent the spread of the Delta variant amongst the vaccinated in poorly ventilated indoor spaces such as nightclubs, pubs, churches, mosques, or busy vaccination centres.

    Recent research suggests that for some groups vaccine passports may be counter-productive…

    ‘The potential impact of vaccine passports on inclination to accept COVID-19 vaccinations in the United Kingdom: evidence from a large cross-sectional survey and modelling study’ [June 2021]:
    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.31.21258122v1

    Overall, we find that the introduction of passports for either domestic or international use has a net negative impact on vaccination inclination, once we control for baseline vaccination intent.

    If we wait too long, people will get used to the idea of certain minorities being badly affected by Covid […] and read vaccine passports as proof that someone isn’t in one of those groups.

    Surely that’s more likely to happen when vaccine passports are required to enter nightclubs and pubs, but not for other high risk venues such as mosques?

    Resisting authoritarianism by resisting what makes medical sense over Covid is counter-productive.

    Vaccination makes medical sense, vaccine passports do not.

  • Marco 14th Oct ’21 – 8:10pm
    @ Expats…………I’m not sure I understand, are you saying that the purpose of vaccine passports is to protect the unvaccinated? It is their choice not to get the vaccine and if they do get ill that is the consequence of their choice……

    That;s part of it; the infected unvaccinated are far more of a strain on the NHS and society in general (work, etc.) thgan those who have been ‘jabbed’.. The other part is to make having the vaccine ‘more attractive’; if you want to attend nightclubs, festivals, etc., then the message is “Get Vaccinated!”.. As for being the ‘consequence of their choice’? You might not like the analogy of ‘drink driving’ but, like the drunk driver, the unvaccinated, the is not just a danger to themselves but an unwanted strain on the medical services who have to patch them up..Unless we should just leave them to die?

    As for your “However, most unvaccinated people can rely on their immune systems to protect them and will only get mild symptoms”……..Tell that to the families of those who lost their lives in the pre-vaccine months of Covid..It sounds as if you believe, like Johnson, in herd immunity..Because MOST of the infected had mild symptoms didn’t help those who died or spent months in intensive care,,’Burnt out’ doctors, nurses and carers are a rebuttal of your stance..

  • @ Expats

    Surely the only justification for state intervention is to protect harm to others?

    We should remember that whilst the media like to
    scour the globe for anecdotal examples of vaccine “refuseniks” who got really ill and regretted not getting the jab, the reality is that such cases are few and far between.

    “It sounds as if you believe, like Johnson, in herd immunity.”

    Of course I do in the same way I believe in gravity as both of these are fundamental scientific concepts. Herd immunity has helped keep Covid in check. Alas Johnson does not seem able to stick to his convictions.

  • @James Fowler “Compulsory vaccination demands that they must do something.” – Isn’t that a straw man? No-one is talking about compulsory vaccination. What we’re talking about is, if you want to do certain non-essential things, then you need to be vaccinated first (unless you’re medically exempt). If you don’t want to be vaccinated, then that’s still your choice, it just means you can’t do certain non-essential things. A bit like how, if you want to drive, you have to pass a driving test first, or (perhaps a closer analogy), how I believe some countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate before travel to those places is allowed.

    This is a slippery slope to the victimisation of all sorts of minorities.

    Just about every policy imaginable could be a slippery slope to something bad, if you imagine some hypothetical extension to the policy that no-one has actually suggested.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '21 - 3:00am

    @ Marco,

    “Surely the only justification for state intervention is to protect harm to others?”

    I think you might mean ‘prevent’ !

    Do you also mean you’d favour selling off the BBC? Or at least scaling it back a lot? I can’t see that making programs, with ‘taxpayers money’, such as Dr Who, Strictly and Eastenders is actually preventing anyone from harm.

    Why not just let the people decide via the democratic process what is and isn’t justified?

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '21 - 3:29am

    @ Jeff,

    ” ….the risk of catching the virus from a vaccinated or unvaccinated person is likely to be similar as the unvaccinated are more likely to have had a previous natural infection which confers better protection than the vaccine alone. ” ???

    You’ve just told us that the vaccine won’t prevent an infection. You’re right. It won’t. But it will greatly reduce the risk of the infection being serious. So the vaccinated have both possible natural and vaccine protection. The unvaccinated only possibly have natural protection.

    Therefore the risk won’t be at all “similar”.

  • Ianto Stevens 15th Oct '21 - 9:22am

    Perhaps compulsory seatbelt wearing by adult drivers might be another analogy. A driver only increases the risk to themselves, not to passengers or other road users. Requiring people to be vaccinated protects them (to a substantial extent but NOT completely) from dying, falling very seriously ill, and becoming a huge cost to all the rest of us.
    If people are undergoing chemotherapy and are highly likely to die within a short time, they should be as able to go to cinema, pub, club, church, mosque, aircraft etc with their fear of infection minimized. Does not their freedom trump that of the unvaccinated in such public spaces?
    The analogy of a driving licence to a certificate of vaccination is a good one. Both limit freedom, neither offer perfect protection.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Oct '21 - 9:52am

    @Ianto Stevens
    “Perhaps compulsory seatbelt wearing by adult drivers might be another analogy. A driver only increases the risk to themselves, not to passengers or other road users.”

    If a driver (or passenger) isn’t wearing a seatbelt, is killed in a crash where failure to wear a belt is a significant factor in their death then that is going to affect seriouly their loved ones etc.

    e.g. the late and greatly missed David Penhaligon MP

  • You can be a liberal and still support restrictions that keep people safe. Or to put it another way people can only be free in their actions if these don’t harm others. Looks how Covid has declined in France since they introduced vaccine passports. Vaccines drastically reduce transmission but don’t entirely prevent it.https://twitter.com/mrjamesob/status/1448919483561791527/photo/1

  • Antony Watts 15th Oct '21 - 11:03am

    For years there has been this idea that your secure/encrypted bank card could do more. It is ideal for use as Covid vaccination proof and for personal ID. Technically it is easy to implement as cards have microprocessors and memories which can store different apps.

    The problem lies in the implementation, the need to get a variety of parties together to do it. Notwithstanding the incompetence of our current government in IT matters

  • Marco 14th Oct ’21 – 11:04pm…..“It sounds as if you believe, like Johnson, in herd immunity.”…..
    Of course I do in the same way I believe in gravity as both of these are fundamental scientific concepts. Herd immunity has helped keep Covid in check. Alas Johnson does not seem able to stick to his convictions.

    Apart from the fact that we still don’t know how long this ‘immunity’ lasts; to achieve Johnson’s herd immunity would require around 75% 0f the UK population to catch, and recover, from Covid..
    With the UK population around 68 million that’s 50 million people..Around 80% of those infected suffer mild/moderate symptoms with 15% suffering severe and long term symptoms (most needing hospitalisation) and 5% dying even with treatment..
    In real terms that’s 10,000,000 needing treatment, with over 3 million of these dying…….Goodbye NHS and welcome mass burials..

    BTW.. I believe in gravity but I’m not about to throw 10 million people off a cliff to prove it!

  • I agree with Meg Thomas. I’m afraid the Liberal Democrat Party is out of step with public opinion on the question of Vaccine I.D.. A recent You Gov poll found, “60% of Britons support a COVID-19 vaccine passport system being implemented during the vaccine rollout”.

    I’m one of the 60% and have no objection to the vaccine certificate that nestles snuggly in my wallet…… alongside my driving licence, rail card, library card and hip replacement card (useful on the rare occasions I check in at airports, though embarrassing at Lidl when said metal hip sets alarms off).

    Of course public opinion is not always correct, or ‘Liberal’, and there are times when issues of conscience must take precedence. But it would be interesting to know what consultation and discussion took place amongst the UK Party Leadership before they advocated a policy which so many people now clearly regard as irresponsible. Mountains and molehills , and Jim Hacker’s ‘a brave decision, Minister’ come to mind when the party is clearly struggling to be taken seriously.

    Amersham might be sweet, but Airdie & Shotts (1%), Hartlepool (1.2%) and Batley & Spen (3%) were not.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '21 - 12:00pm

    “A driver only increases the risk (by not wearing a seatbelt to themselves, not to passengers or other road users”

    Not always.

    The first impact in a collision isn’t often the last. It is important that the driver stays in control of the vehicle as much as possible to minimise the effects of what might follow.

    Drivers have a responsibility to the passengers in their vehicle, especially if they are the adult and the passengers are children. They need to protect themselves as much as possible so as to be able to offer assistance to others afterwards.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '21 - 12:32pm

    The official LibDem line was succinctly expressed by Jeff when he wrote:

    “Vaccination makes medical sense, vaccine passports do not.”

    Vaccine passports aren’t the total solution but they are part of a general package. The figures speak for themselves.

    France has vaccine passports, a less “liberal” attitude generally, and an infection rate of around 4000 per day. England doesn’t and has 8 times as many.

    French Covid deaths are around a quarter of English deaths.

    We could easily have halved our death rate by taking sensible precautions such as continued mask wearing and having vaccine passports. That’s meant around 50-100 extra deaths per day recently or 2,000 or so extra and avoidable deaths every month. For the next six winter months that will likely increase.

    But that’s OK for the Lib Dems. 10,000+ lives is a cheap price to pay to maintain “liberal” principles.

  • Andrew Melmoth 14th Oct ’21 – 8:13pm:
    The ideal conditions for a vaccine resistant variant to emerge is within a population with large numbers of people vaccinated (in order to apply selective pressure) and large numbers unvaccinated (to generate high case/transmission rates).

    Current vaccines are typically only 50% protective against infection so the scenario you describe already pertains within the fully vaccinated population.

    Currently nearly 30% of symptomatic cases are in the double vaccinated population. The percentage of asymptomatic, but still highly infectious, cases in the vaccinated population is likely much higher.

    ‘Third wave reaches new peak’ [14th. October 2021]:
    https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/third-wave-reaches-new-peak

    According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 69,993 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago. A decrease of 2% from 71,111 new daily cases last week.

    In the double vaccinated population, it’s estimated there are currently 18,817 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. Cases have been slowly increasing for a few weeks, with 16,957 cases last week.

    Once you have a high enough percentage of the population vaccinated and case rates suppressed to a low level the risk of vaccine escape diminishes.

    That’s not realistic with current vaccines…

    ‘Delta variant renders herd immunity from Covid ‘mythical’’: [August 2021]:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/10/delta-variant-renders-herd-immunity-from-covid-mythical

    Reaching herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current Delta variant, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said.

    Giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday, Prof Sir Andrew Pollard said the fact that vaccines did not stop the spread of Covid meant reaching the threshold for overall immunity in the population was “mythical”. […]

    Data from a recent React study conducted by Imperial College London suggests that fully vaccinated people aged 18 to 64 have about a 49% lower risk of being infected compared with unvaccinated people. The findings also indicated that fully vaccinated people were about half as likely to test positive after coming into contact with someone who had Covid (3.84%, down from 7.23%).

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '21 - 2:12pm

    @ Andrew,

    “The ideal conditions for a vaccine resistant variant to emerge is within a population with large numbers of people vaccinated (in order to apply selective pressure) …”

    No it doesn’t work like this.

    Vaccines aren’t the same as antibiotics which do act directly on an infection. The vaccines instead stimulate the body to produce antibodies in exactly the same way as a natural infection except without the same adverse consequences.

    The vaccines aren’t doing anything different from what would be happening anyway with natural infections. It’s not the vaccines that the Coronavirus does eventually become resistant to, but the antibodies created by either a natural infection or a vaccine. There is always going to be a potential evolutionary change in the virus which we also see with influenza.

    Different strains emerge which may need new vaccines but they’re not caused by the old vaccines. Different strains have always emerged and long before any flu vaccines became available.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct ’21 – 2:12pm:
    The vaccines instead stimulate the body to produce antibodies in exactly the same way as a natural infection…

    That depends on the type and design of the vaccine. Current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines target only the spike protein (and from the original variant, not the current Delta variant). The virus has 29 proteins so a natural infection means the immune system can make antibodies for more of those proteins and retain more immune memory. This is why natural infection confers better immunity than vaccination.

    Better vaccines are under development such as ImmunityBio’s hAd5…

    COVID-19: ‘Pandemic to an Epidemic’:
    https://immunitybio.com/covid-19/

    To deal with the long-term, endemic presence of the virus, ImmunityBio is developing a universal booster vaccine candidate that targets both the spike protein and the nucleocapsid protein that coats the virus – and which has little variation. This approach has the potential to provide enhanced protection against current and future SARS-CoV-2 variants. Several peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that patients who have recovered from SARS-CoV in the 2003 outbreak possess long lasting memory T cells reactive to the nucleocapsid protein of SARS-CoV 17 years after infection. While antibodies block infection when present, T cells are vital for long-term immune memory.

    There is always going to be a potential evolutionary change in the virus which we also see with influenza.

    The orthomyxoviruses which cause flu are different to betacoronaviruses. They have eight segments of RNA with around 14,000 nucleotide bases in total. When two strains of flu viruses infect the same cell the RNA segments can exchange and recombine to form an entirely new strain. By contrast, SARS-CoV-2 is a single stranded RNA virus which mutates relatively slowly to produce new variants.

  • Andrew Melmoth 15th Oct '21 - 7:50pm

    – Peter
    Vaccine- and infection-elicited antibody responses are not the same.

    – Jeff
    Just because you can’t eliminate a risk doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to minimize it.

  • Peter Martin- oops yes should have said prevent.
    No way would I let the public decide an issue like vaccine passports! Democracy is the right to choose your government and parliament, single issue voting is a very bad idea.

    Expats – Your figures are completely made up. No way would there be a 5% fatality rate. A pandemic is a pandemic due to lack of immunity, so we needed to focus protection on the most vulnerable whilst healthy people caught the virus.

    Ianto Stevens – Don’t think that seatbelt wearing has side effects such as rare blood clots.

  • Peter Martin 16th Oct '21 - 6:49am

    @ Jeff @ Andrew,

    “In exactly the same way” doesn’t mean that the outcomes are exactly the same. You’re right that the vaccines were designed for the original variant, so the body’s response to a vaccine designed for a later variant wouldn’t be quite the same. The question though is whether the difference is large enough to be significant.

    You’re probably right that nothing can be superior to naturally induced immunities but they do have have their downsides! Given a choice between a smallpox vaccine or an injection of live smallpox, I would expect most would have at least a slight preference for the former.

    We need to consider the question of why Delta has replaced the other strains. There’s no evidence at all that it is because of the effect of vaccines on the evolution of the virus. If there were it would of course be of concern.

    @ Marco,

    We are probably in agreement that an elected government should formulate public health policy. But I’m sure we would both also agree that everyone else should have the right to criticise it as and when they see the need.

    @ Expats,

    I agree that a 5% fatality rate or 3 million deaths is far too high. It doesn’t do any good to overstate the case.

  • Paul Murray 16th Oct '21 - 8:32am

    As a regular opera-goer I was shocked at the lack of observance of the “masks must be worn” signs at The Royal Opera House last week including a failure to wear them by the majority of the executive staff sitting together – as usual – in the wedge of seats at the left rear of the stalls. These are not people who I would expect to ignore “expert” advice because of some rubbish they found on the internet. Nor are they people who I would expect to be unaware of the risks that their actions pose to the health of others.

    So why are they failing to take simple actions that would help drive down the currently high levels of covid infection being seen in the UK? I think it comes down to one simple fact – the government is failing to give the necessary leadership on the matter and people are taking their cues from that.

  • John Marriott 16th Oct '21 - 11:44am

    @Peter Martin @Jeff etc.
    Forget all the facts and figures and the ‘what ifs’, what I want someone to tell me is why, as far as our near neighbours are concerned, are cases, hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid over here so much higher? Are we really that much unhealthier, or perhaps are we more blasé about fighting infections? I have my own theory; but I would be interested in knowing what our so called Covid experts think. If you do have an answer, please make your reply succinct. I sometimes lose the will to live trying to wade through your prognostications and assertions.

  • Peter Martin 16th Oct '21 - 1:01pm

    @ John,

    Neither you nor I are experts but we can both read a graph and study the data. I’m sure you can work it out for yourself. The UK and the USA have done relatively badly because of an overly liberal attitude and approach to the problem.

    Lib Dems are normally reasonably intelligent but they sometimes manage to convince themselves of several impssoble things before breakfast! One of which is if something is illiberal, it therefore won’t work. So, we read that because a vaccine passport can’t be a guarantee against infection that it must be useless. They can’t be useless, if for no other reason that they encourage those who won’t get vaccinated to change their minds so they can go to the pub or a football match or whatever.

    The EU, which is so curiously beloved of UK Lib Dems, isn’t anywhere near so liberal itself. The EU countries don’t have the same hang ups about identity cards and proving who you are before being able to vote, work, claim whatever benefits or even stay at a hotel.

    So, no surprise they have done much better. The countries which are less liberal still have done even better still. I’m not saying we should be like China but we do need to be a bit more like the French and Germans. Just on some things ! Not using the euro or rejoining the EU though!

  • John Marriott 16th Oct '21 - 4:38pm

    @Peter Martin
    I’ve seen a few graphs myself. The one that sticks in my mind is the one of cases showing a massive dip between April and June, coinciding with the lockdown. Since relaxing the regulations things have taken off again. So, lockdown works to suppress infections but it clearly doesn’t do much for the economy or many people’s mental health.

    The least we ought to have done was to have kept the face mask wearing in place. If infections start to soar and hospital admissions increase, what are the odds on another lockdown of some sorts during the winter months?

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct ’21 – 12:32pm:
    The official LibDem line was succinctly expressed by Jeff when he wrote:
    “Vaccination makes medical sense, vaccine passports do not.”

    My understanding is that the Party’s position is based on concerns about civil liberties. My contention is that vaccine passports don’t make sense on scientific grounds (with current vaccine efficacy.

    France has vaccine passports, a less “liberal” attitude generally, and an infection rate of around 4000 per day. England doesn’t and has 8 times as many.

    French Covid deaths are around a quarter of English deaths.

    Correlation doesn’t prove causation. Romania has vaccine passports and more stringent restrictions than France (children under 12 have to be tested before entering public, indoor spaces). This has not prevented their Delta wave from spreading rapidly. Daily reported cases per 100,000 are higher than the UK with 350 deaths today, 363 yesterday, and 303 the day before out of a population less than a quarter that of the UK (their official population total includes several million people not currently resident). Vaccine take-up is low particularly amongst the young and hospitals are overwhelmed, not least due to a shortage of doctors and nurses as many have been poached by the UK and others.

    ‘Covid Scotland: How vaccine passports have ‘become normal’ around the world’ [September 2021]:
    https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/covid-scotland-how-vaccine-passports-have-become-normal-around-the-world-3389897

    Is this the most stringent passport scheme in Europe?
    […]
    Unlike in Scotland, where only nightclubs or large events such as football matches or gigs require proof of vaccination, in Romania, almost every indoor setting, including restaurants, cinemas, gyms, museums and swimming pools is covered by the new rules, which also require businesses to operate at reduced capacity to allow social distancing.

    A pass for large events has already been required in Romania for months.

    ‘Covid-19: Romania’s daily case count, death toll hit another record high’ [12th. October 2021]:
    https://www.romania-insider.com/covid-cases-ro-oct-12-2021

    Romania recorded 16,743 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic and the first time the daily number exceeds 16,000.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct ’21 – 3:29am:
    So the vaccinated have both possible natural and vaccine protection.

    Yes. And a few months after vaccination they have around 50% less chance of contracting that natural infection than an unvaccinated person when neither has previously had the virus. Yes?

    The unvaccinated only possibly have natural protection.

    Yes. And all other variables being equal, they have around twice the chance of contracting that natural infection than the vaccinated. Yes? But after they do, the Israeli study shows that they become 13 times better protected against reinfection than the vaccinated are against a breakthrough infection. Yes? For those who’ve never had the virus, the unvaccinated will catch it at twice the rate of the vaccinated. Yes? So the unvaccinated will become 13 times better protected at twice the rate of the vaccinated. Yes? So over time, a higher and faster growing percentage of the unvaccinated will have that better protection than the vaccinated will. Yes? At some point the average protection for the unvaccinated group will have risen to a level where it is similar to the average protection for the vaccinated group. Yes? Based on the ONS antibody survey results from the summer, that point has almost certainly been reached and likely exceeded in 16-24 year olds where cases are now falling.

    In short: it’s now likely that, at least for those who attend nightclubs and music festivals, the average unvaccinated person is at no more risk of contracting and spreading the virus than a vaccinated person, due to the differential percentage of acquired immunity from previous natural infections.

    Hence: Vaccine passports are unlikely to be effective in reducing the spread of the virus in the venues for which they are proposed. They may also be counter-productive if they lead to a false sense of safety or distract attention from other measures for which there is good scientific evidence of efficacy.

  • James Fowler 16th Oct '21 - 9:41pm

    Simon R. ‘No-one is talking about compulsory vaccinations… But if you want to do certain things, you have to have one.’ That sounds compulsory to me. Of course, those activities can be portrayed as non essential, but we’re back with legitimizing the principle and then widening the scope at leisure. In the same vein, medically determined ID remains a frightening prospect because its scope is so colossal.

  • Peter Martin 17th Oct '21 - 3:01am

    @ Jeff,

    As I think we both agree, the vaccination doesn’t prevent anyone being infected. So the chances of vaccinated persons picking up an infection are no less than for the vaccinated person. It will though have a milder effect. If we included behavioural factors then they will be even more likely because they will be less fearful of it.

    You’re right that the effect of the vaccine will wane over time and in which case boosters may well be needed.

  • Peter Martin 17th Oct '21 - 3:07am

    should be:

    “the chances of vaccinated persons picking up an infection are no less than for the unvaccinated person”

  • Andrew Tampion 17th Oct '21 - 7:39am

    Another concern wth vaccine passport or other from of concealed compulsion is that they make it easier for politicians to evade responsibility.
    For example. Suppose one of the vaccines has a terrible adverse side effect. If vaccination is compulsory then the Government can’t avoid responsibility. But if it is merely to needed to gain admission to night clubs then the Government can say “youchoose to take it, nothing to do with us.”

  • Peter Martin 16th Oct ’21 – 6:49am
    @ Expats, I agree that a 5% fatality rate or 3 million deaths is far too high. It doesn’t do any good to overstate the case…………………………

    You say that, but even with the exceptional roll-out of the vaccine, the current death rate is just under 2%..(8 million infections 150K deaths.. look it up)..
    Johnson’s (and Marco’s) initial plan for herd immunity didn’t factor in a vaccine so I don’t think I’m being too over pessimistic for the possible result of a ‘letting the virus rip’ strategy..

    Natural herd immunity needs around a 75% national infection rate i.e. 50 million..Even at a conservative 2% that is one million dead.. The idea that the vulnerable go into a fews year’s ‘hibernation’, apart from the logistics, sounds a bit rich coming from a party that believes even a vaccine passport leads to a ‘two tier society’..

  • Paul Murray 17th Oct '21 - 6:10pm

    @expats – I am not a professional epidemiologist and so feel reluctant to comment, but your numbers are not in agreement with either the ONS (which estimated an IFR of 0.49% for the 8 weeks to August 4th 2021) or the Medical Research Council (which estimated an IFR of 0.30% at about the same time). You can find detailed analysis on the website of The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine – https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/estimating-the-infection-fatality-ratio-in-england/

  • expats 17th Oct ’21 – 1:59pm:
    …even with the exceptional roll-out of the vaccine, the current death rate is just under 2%..(8 million infections 150K deaths.. look it up)..

    8,449,165 Total Cases (confirmed by test) and 138,584 Total Deaths for a running Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 1.64%. The number of infections is estimated to be 3 to 4 times higher than the number of cases, consistent with an Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.3% – 0.4%.

    Natural herd immunity needs around a 75% national infection rate…

    Now estimated by Professor Tim Spector as 85% for the Delta variant. That’s not possible to obtain with current vaccines without a large percentage of natural infections (which confers better immunity).

    Currently, over 93.6% of people in the UK have antibodies from either natural infection or vaccination, but the latter only confers partial protection against infection (typically 50% after six months or so).

  • Peter Martin 16th Oct ’21 – 1:01pm:
    [Vaccine passports] can’t be useless, if for no other reason that they encourage those who won’t get vaccinated to change their minds so they can go to the pub or a football match…

    As the UK Government Covid dashboard shows vaccine take-up is lowest in Postcode areas with large ethnic minorities. It’s hard to see how a vaccine passport that enables entry to nightclubs and pubs would encourage many muslims to get vaccinated.

    The EU countries […] have done much better.

    Some have and some haven’t. Most EU countries vaccinated later than the UK so were better protected over the summer. As vaccine efficacy against infection wanes and average vitamin D levels drop as we move into autumn they are likely to become vulnerable to a wave of Delta infections. This is currently happening in several east European and Baltic countries…

    ‘Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people’:
    https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&time=2020-03-01..latest&facet=none&pickerSort=desc&pickerMetric=new_cases_smoothed_per_million&Metric=Confirmed+cases&Interval=7-day+rolling+average&Relative+to+Population=true&Align+outbreaks=false&country=GBR~LVA~LTU~EST~ROU

    John Marriott 16th Oct ’21 – 4:38pm:
    The [graph] that sticks in my mind is the one of cases showing a massive dip between April and June, coinciding with the lockdown. Since relaxing the regulations things have taken off again.

    That’s more to do with the arrival of the Delta wave which was seeded first in the UK from India. Bringing forward Covid infections from the winter may turnout to be advantageous in the months ahead particularly if there is a flu pandemic. UK cases are likely to start falling soon as they have done already in the 18-35 years demographic and in the US as community immunity takes effect. Another wave may occur next year as vitamin D levels drop over winter and vaccine efficacy wanes.

  • The Our World in Data link above was broken by WordPress. Just copy and paste the whole thing into your browser. I don’t use link shorteners as they hide the destination making it impossible to recover broken links and they are often used in phishing scams.

  • William Francis 20th Oct '21 - 4:01pm

    Vaccine passports will just add fuel to the fire for the increasingly militant anti-vaxxer activists (who recently harassed Michael Gove). There is also a matter of justice as young people (including myself), have had their educations and employment prospects dashed due to this virus, will be effectively put into another lockdown due to these passports simply because they weren’t allowed to get vaccinated until recently.

    Positive incentives should be used to get people to be vaccinated.

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