"Reduced risk" is a meaningless goalpost
10% reduction in infections in new preprint show Covid vaccine is useless for 9 of 10 recipients. Also, RE current work in progress.
The following post contains some low-effort commentary on an American preprint examining infection rates among household contacts in the Omicron era.
First a note on current work:
I have recently encountered a trove of extremely interesting research that directly relates to my kooky theory on the cause of the 20th Century polio paralysis epidemics. Around 1950, it was suddenly observed that paralyzed children were often recently vaccinated or injected with penicillin. Studies were conducted in multiple countries of the Anglosphere; previous obscure reports as far back as 1883 were dug up; experiments were conducted on mice. The advent of the polio vaccine in 1954/5 would have rendered the mystery less relevant.
The related story of the expansion of Hepatitis B throughout the West due to injections, blood transfusions, etc., is also taking up my time — and this dovetails with the the emergence of HIV.
So at present I am researching all three topics heavily, and hopefully before long will be able to deliver the reader old and new knowledge regarding the overall exacerbation of viral diseases among humanity caused by 20th Century medicine. This knowledge is all not exactly a secret (at least for Hepatitis B and HIV) — but given how frequently the lay public is told to fear the introduction of random new viruses from causing bats to move caves1, it is interesting that this other, massive disruption to the balance of humans and viruses is not loudly acknowledged.
Naked distortions of vaccine value
Rolfes, et al., a new preprint, adds to previous studies observing how many infections occur among other people who live with PCR-positive individuals, with observations spanning from September 2021 to April 2023 involving 905 households.2
It is notable for taking place in the US, which generates at least a somewhat sizable number of unvaccinated household contacts compared to European studies; for screening contacts for prior immunity (anti-nucleocapsid antibodies); and for testing the same contacts daily via PCR, resulting in a whopping 60.1% (920 of 1,532) of contacts being found to experience an infection during surveillance (presumably caught from the index case).
Our interest, however, is in how the results are framed nonsensically as a pro-vaccine advertisement. The authors claim of their own findings:
In conclusion, this study, which included serological testing to confirm prior infection and daily PCR testing of all contacts regardless of symptoms, suggests the risk of mild SARS-CoV-2 infection is not eliminated but is significantly lower in household contacts who had prior infection and vaccination, compared with immunity from prior infection alone, vaccination alone, and no immunity. These findings underscore the importance of staying updated with COVID-19 vaccinations, even for individuals with prior infections.
A mystery, it would seem. Is this bad writing? Are the authors are speaking in some sort of code? How can a “lower” risk of infection thanks to so-called hybrid immunity (prior infection and vaccination) add any support whatsoever to a conclusion about “staying updated” with Covid vaccines?
Experienced readers can already predict that the conclusion is the product of a sequence of logically sloppy non-parallel comparisons designed to walk back the goal post to wherever “staying updated” happens to fall; and indeed this is the case.
What is in fact observed in Rolfes, et al. may now be examined. The results are repackaged as follows in this spreadsheet, which is 10% less unreadable than the version in the preprint:3
Before drilling into details, we may note that the unvaccinated groups feature a lot more children (and thus bigger households), which makes broad comparisons less useful. Bigger households could theoretically make secondary infections more likely (even per capita); and obviously children will have fewer severe outcomes. The authors do provide adjusted risk calculations of various types; Unglossed does not report on statistical fictions.
Unvaccinated vs vaccinated (no previous infection)
The most natural way to ask whether a vaccine works is to see how it performs in people not previously infected; does having the vaccine improve outcomes for this group? Even at this late date, when there is little to learn about the Covid vaccines, this is the first question.
While the unvaccinated, not-previously-infected group are infected at a rate of 73.1%, the vaccinated-only group are infected at a rate of 63.4%. Therefore (ignoring skews in age for now), in terms of staving off an infection, only 1 out of 10 people who received a Covid vaccine were spared a PCR positive. Almost 3 of the other 9 would have been fine anyway, and a bit more than 6 went and got infected anyway — the vaccine did nothing for these people.
As a group, it may be true that the vaccine has “reduced” infections by 10% (ignoring the differences in household sizes), but the “risk” to every given individual might as well be the same. Again, only 1 in 10 will benefit (and they will never know who they are).
This is to say nothing of severe efficacy, since it is not the topic of the study. Again, the extreme skews in age render the better performance of the unvaccinated group in this regard unremarkable. Previous general remarks on severe efficacy and the Covid vaccines have been offered here.
Unvaccinated vs vaccinated (previous infection)
Though not reported as such, prior infections will include a good deal of Omicron infections during later periods of surveillance - e.g. if the primary infection takes place in September, 2022, the chances are not bad that previously infected household contacts have already had Omicron as opposed to a vintage edition of the virus. For this reason we cannot make any qualitative claims about the infection rate in the previously infected, unvaccinated. It is the same as the vaccinated-only — is this “bad” or “good,” given that some previous infections were Omicron? There is no way to say.
So-called hybrid immunity outperforms again, now appearing to further “reduce” infections by 15%. Another 1 individual out of 20 is now benefiting from vaccination, adding to the previous 2 out of 20, according to this massively improved metric.
Caveats on severe efficacy are the same as above.
On staying “up to date”
With that in mind we may consider the question of any purported benefit to staying up to date strategically. The what-would-have-to-be-true, in order for such measures to generate value, depends on what “we” are trying to achieve. What is the plan?
If the plan is to postpone infection indefinitely, then it would need to be true that staying up to date virtually eliminates infections. If the plan is to postpone infection temporarily for some individuals, any reduction in infections vs. a comparator out-of-date group could technically be deemed a success, exactly as “reducing” a group outcome can be considered a success regardless of irrelevance for almost every individual recipient of the vaccine.
But why would the latter thing be desirable? What would be the point of it — everyone would still get infected eventually anyways? How can continually injecting everyone with Covid vaccines forever be good, or “important,” simply because it postpones a minority of group infections today? In fact it seems trivial and pointless.
But that is what this study “finds,” and offers as wise advice for the reader: Continually injecting everyone with Covid vaccines forever is important because it postpones a minority of group infections.
Even worse, Rolfes, et al. seem to only arrive at this finding by misleadingly analyzing prior vaccinations and infections together. Table 3 presents infection risks organized by time since most recent “immunizing event,” meaning vaccination or infection. It separates only those who are either from both — and uses the different rates for the both group to support the conclusion’s claims about hybrid immunity and staying up to date. Specifically, hybrid immunity-havers with “last event ≤6 months ago” wind up 41.2% infected, while hybrid immunity-havers more than 6 months from their last event are 55.7% infected — not much better than the naturally immune (63.2%).
From this perspective, staying up-to-date with Covid vaccines is “important” because otherwise so-called hybrid immunity looks worthless. But staying up-to-date is also worthless, strategically. It makes no sense and advances no goal besides propping up the last illusion of infection efficacy.
However, again, this itself is seemingly a mathematical fabrication, as Supplemental Table 3 reveals that recent vaccination alone barely improves performance at all:
And so the authors, slaves to this failed product that happens to be called a magic word, have massaged a pitiful false victory out of this obviously horrible showing. It is pitiful because even they confess that no true benefit has been suggested, writing:
Among household contacts with hybrid immunity who had their last [“]immunizing event[”] in the 6 months prior to their household being affected by SARS-CoV-2, 42% were infected with SARS-CoV-2 during follow-up. […] Additional prevention measures that can be used in these closed, high-interaction settings include wearing a high-quality mask and isolating promptly from others [ :( ]
And it is false because, well, recent infection seems to be the only thing driving the slight observed benefit. This is likely due to the fact that infection efficacy from boosters now fades far too quickly for 6 months to be used as a standard for “up to date.” Another preprint from this month suggests as much, finding estimated efficacy to begin dropping after 2 months (whereas protection from prior infection is found to be high when the first 6 months are grouped together):
Presumably this is close to what the data looks like for Rolfes, et al. — they have just chosen to hide the ugly truth in service of a fiction that boosters have any real benefit.
If you derived value from this post, please drop a few coins in your fact-barista’s tip jar.
This is the only time bats leave their caves.
Only a handful of infections would have involved Delta; nearly all would have been Omicron. See table 2 below.
From table 2: