45 Comments
Sep 21, 2022Liked by Arnold Kling

Your suggestion of using challenge doses for vaccine testing was spot on. That would shorten the vaccine development time-line to about 30 days for approvals and allow mRNA vaccine technology to follow new strains of the virus as quickly as it could mutate.

You hit on the fact that we didn't know that surfaces were irrelevant for transmission and many other factors about this virus, but probably don't know why we didn't find out these facts for a long time: this virus was (and remains) classified as a BSL-3 organism, a classification intended for a very dangerous virus with pandemic potential. This was a correct classification initially, before the virus became endemic and everywhere. However, maintaining this restriction limits all research with viable virus to BSL-3 rated labs. These are fully bunny suit labs just a little bit short of the BSL-4 classification used for Ebola and the super nasty pathogens. The world wide supply of BSL-3 approved facilities is highly restricted, and doing experiments to show that virus on surfaces are inactive or active requires growing the virus and BSL-3 facilities. We could use DNA testing of the surfaces, which was done and showed the existence of viral RNA, but that doesn't tell us whether it is active virus or inactive virus (a big difference -- exposure to enough inactive virus works like a vaccine, as opposed to an active virus which can kill you) .

When the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread everywhere in the wild, it stopped making scientific sense to limit research to BSL-3 labs, when BSL-2 labs are everywhere, including minor universities and biological businesses. Once the organism went international, the risk of a lab release became irrelevant, and there was no rational reason to prevent researchers being able to determine viability under various conditions. Questions, such as "does viable virus go through a surgical type mask on a sneeze", like it does with flu virus, or will a "salt solution sprayed on a mask inactivate the virus", as it apparently does with a flu virus, could be answered in labs all around the world.

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There’s nothing miraculous about the speed of development of the “vaccines”. It’s a red flag that it happened so fast and then the testing was brief and possibly involved fraud. Why was the control group vaccinated after the testing? Why were only healthy under 50 used as test subjects? Why was VAERS reporting ignored when the number of reports for the vaccines were higher than all other vaccines combined over the previous ten years?

Many papers were written about how to handle a pandemic prior to 2020. Masks and quarantining the healthy were NOT recommended or even dismissed.

Papers are coming out showing a higher rate of infection in the vaccinated. Cancer deaths are now above average.

Someone made a monkey’s paw wish.

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I’ve posted this before, but I’ll say it again here. I’m not a virologist, but I took some graduate level virology classes as an engineer in grad school and my research included work with viruses. That was enough for me to know that surface spread from an enveloped virus was unlikely. We knew from existing literature that immunity to coronaviruses is not permanent but lasts about 6 months. We knew from the last pandemic and just about every emerging disease ever that the death rate always looks higher at first but then declines by at least an order of magnitude, often more, as better surveillance is possible. A lot of the stupid policies and fear is on the virologists for not speaking up with what we knew, at least with high probability. I could guide my own family to avoid the fear and nonsense, though outside of my home things were crazy.

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I've essentially decided that I can't trust anyone that got COVID wrong. About anything going forward.

I don't mean that they freaked out in March 2020. I did too. I mean that they kept getting it wrong, for the wrong and often deplorable reasons, over and over again for two years, and forced their wrongness on others. You can't make up things as absurd as doctors attending George Floyd rallies at the same time they are telling people they need to be locked in their homes.

I doubt we will ever see school closures or masking in schools again. But having watched the public schools do what they did (and COVID wasn't their only abhorrent failure lately) I just can't trust them. There will be some other crisis sometime in the next ten years (it seems we get about one a decade) where I expect them to be just as deplorable. And I doubt their day to day decision making will be any better.

If you want to get that trust back, you would need people to admit blame, be removed from authority, be severely punished, and have changes put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again. Until those things happen, I see no reason to trust the same authorities to do right in the future.

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"I would say that Zvi Mowshowitz and Robin Hanson contributed positively to COVID discussions"

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution was also outstanding throughout the pandemic. Also, unfortunately, far from positions of influence.

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Lockdowns were never going to work outside of closing down very large marginally necessary gatherings like concerts, sporting events, etc. Mass closing of businesses and schools was sheer folly. Just stay home when you're sick.

As Birx admits in her book 'just two weeks to slow the spread' was an out and out lie so the idea that everybody sitting on their asses for a short period would have any appreciable effect on the course of the pandemic was nuts. National Guard delivering food? Seriously? How is that food getting to the distribution points? Who's fueling and maintaining the fleets of trucks? Who is taking the orders and packing the trucks? Who's delivering the fuel the trucks need? Who's staffing the electric plants you need for the electricity to light and heat the distribution points, packing stations, repair stations, and to run the internet to take orders? How is the fuel getting to the electric plants? Now do water service and spare parts for everything I just mentioned, and I haven't even gotten into processing raw product into a deliverable form.

Even worse was the fact that the lie of 'just two weeks' then fed the perception, fanned by many politicians, that the continuance of the pandemic was not a function of biological processes of humans interacting with the bug but the failure of people to obey NPI like social distancing and masking.

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I have written it before, and will probably do so again before the end of the year- eventually you won't be able to find anyone who admits to have been for lockdowns, masking, and mandated vaccinations. You also won't find anyone who claims that the virus had a 100% natural origin. All the people who got this wrong will silently slither back into their holes with no apologies and no mea culpas.

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"Overall, I think that the public and the press have been much more forgiving of public officials than I would be."

Me too, but the press is lying about nearly everything (as usual) and naturally not accurately reporting public sentiment, which is turning literally bloodthirsty.

This is going to resolve hilariously (you have to laugh at horror, or it overwhelms you).

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‘The vaccines were developed within days. That is terrific. I see Operation Warp Speed as ramping up production before they had been tested, which was a smart move. But I see not doing human challenge trials as a major mistake, which delayed the deployment of the vaccines by months.’

That is a curious analysis.

Development of a so-called vaccine allegedly safe and effective against a coronavirus within days, whereas no safe effective vaccines against the four coronavirus in circulation had been developed in over 50 years, isn’t terrific it is a miracle... therefore not credible.

Ramping up production prior to testing and therefore before it could be known. they could be placed on the market is a huge gamble, unknown, and normally would get those responsible fired. It was smart only if it were known approval was guaranteed come what may, whether safe & effective or not (and it is clear it’s ‘or not’) and that there was a guarantee Governments would purchase hundreds of millions of doses.

How did ‘not doing’ Human challenge tests delay deployment? Doing the tests would delay deployment, the tests were not done precisely to ensure early deployment or deployment at all, as they would have shown safety issues.

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"I am appalled by the lack of scientific curiosity among those responsible for public health, at the CDC and elsewhere."

Appalling and understandable because:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

― Upton Sinclair

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Yes we need a reckoning.

Human challenge trials alone would not have saved huge numbers of lives, but they certainly would have passed a cost benefit analysis. But more important they would have set up the CDC to sell the BENEFITS of vaccines (to the vaccinated and unvaccinated) harder instead of harping on their safety. "Of course they are "safe" you ninnies; we're trying to save people's lives and make other, economically costly spread prevention measures less necessary!"

Yes, too many teachers pushed for school closures in situations when they were not cost effective, but it's politicians that ultimately made the decisions. The mitigating factor in politicians' and the teachers' favor was that CDC did not provide local decision makers with the information and tools with which they could make cost benefit analyses of school closures, as with other spread-mitigation measures.

The COVID relief measures (not "stimulus") were probably larger than necessary (although they they were inadequate in not creating a proper UI regime that just replaces a porting of lost income instead of the PPP monstrosity and the industry specific bailouts) but they did not create inflation. The Fed did that.

And the press. Why did it not ask questions about these political and technical failures?

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I mostly agree with this, but the praise for Scott Atlas is pretty weird. The dude thought that asymptomatic transmission was impossible. That's about as far off base as wiping down surfaces turned out to be. Of course the praise for Mowshowitz is well deserved.

I worry about the downstream consequences of taking away power to implement these measures, although I agree it would've improved things in this case. Someday there will almost certainly be a human-transmissible avian flu pandemic that kills 10% or more. When that day comes, we will need to use many of the measures that turned out to be overkill with SARS-CoV-2.

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Any commission should study Sweden's experience compared to the rest of Scandanavia.

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founding

I agree we need that commission. It’s possibly the most important thing. The calculus must be that it would criticize the current administration too much

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Rationally, human challenge trials for vaccines make a lot of sense, but I’m torn. The history of Western biomedical experimentation on humans - even into the 20th century - will forever be a black stain on Science and on our civilization. I am very queasy about re-opening that door, so I can understand and even appreciate the hesitation to go there.

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And Noah Smith is full of it. He is someone who got almost all of it wrong, and is trying to slither away.

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