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Can NSW’s vaccine ramp up increase Covid-19 infections?

Today, NSW has hit yet another record high of Covid-19 cases, despite being under lockdown for several weeks already. It seems that the only way for NSW to get out of this crisis is to vaccinate its way out of trouble. But can this ramp-up of vaccination have the opposite effect of driving Covid-19 cases even higher?

There is one fatal flaw to this strategy: all the Covid-19 vaccines in the world are non-sterilising.

A lot of people do not understand the implications of a non-sterilising vaccine. For example, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH)’s editorial wrote yesterday,

After a slow start Australia’s vaccine program is gathering pace but the country faces a dilemma about whether it will need to use the carrot or the stick to convince people to get the jab – or do we just hope common sense will prevail?

Ideally, people would choose to have the vaccine voluntarily both to protect themselves and the community.

Take a look at the last sentence of the above quote and the words that I have highlighted in bold. It shows that even the mainstream media does not understand the implications of the non-sterilising nature of the current generation of Covid-19 vaccines.

So, what is a non-sterilising vaccine?

To put it simply, a non-sterilising vaccine can prevent or reduce disease but it cannot prevent infection. That means that even vaccinated people can still catch and spread the virus.

What are the implications of non-sterilising vaccines then?

The implication is that herd immunity is not possible. Herd immunity, according to Mayo Clinic, means that

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.

But Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, dropped a bombshell a few days ago. He told British lawmakers a few days ago that herd immunity is “not a possibility”. As reported in this CNBC article,

Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told British lawmakers Tuesday that as Covid vaccines did not stop the spread of the virus entirely — with vaccinated people still able to be infected and transmit the virus — the idea of achieving herd immunity was “mythical.”

“I think we are in a situation here with this current variant where herd immunity is not a possibility because it still infects vaccinated individuals,” said Pollard, one of the lead researchers in the creation of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine.

“And that does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus. That might not be this month or next month, it might be next year, but at some point they will meet the virus and we don’t have anything that will stop that transmission.”

To put it simply, a non-sterilising vaccine still allows vaccinated people to pass on the virus to unvaccinated people.

Vaccinated people just as contagious as unvaccinated people

According to this recent Newsweek article, the CDC has found out that vaccinated people are just as contagious as unvaccinated people when it comes to the Delta variant of Covid-19. Although I must add that over time, vaccinated people get less contagious much quicker than unvaccinated people.

Why cases in NSW may explode?

Today, already 25% of the adult population are fully vaccinated. This percentage is going to increase.

But unfortunately, the vast majority of the population still do not understand that we have non-sterilising vaccines. If the editors of Sydney Morning Herald do not understand this, how can we expect the rest of the population to understand it?

So, what is going to happen is that vaccinated people are going to let their guard down. They will mistakenly believe that by getting vaccinated, they are protecting the community. As a result, they may neglect to wear masks, take precautions and get tested. Even if they get infected with Covid-19, a number of vaccinated people may not even show symptoms. Or they may show mild symptoms but neglect to get tested. As more and more people get vaccinated, there will be a larger and larger pool of people who become complacent.

Then guess what? Vaccinated people are going to inadvertently spread the virus to unvaccinated people.

That is sure to drive up the case numbers even further.

There will be more sick children

If herd immunity is not possible because vaccinated people can still pass on the virus to unvaccinated people, then what about children? As we know, Covid-19 vaccines are not approved for children under 12 in most countries. Even if we vaccinate 100% of the adult population, they can still pass on the virus to children.

As more and more adults get vaccinated, they are going to pass on the virus to children. Then we are going to see rising cases among children. As more and more children get infected, the number of children going to the hospital will increase, along with it, fatalities.

This is what the UK is experimenting on right now. As this Guardian article reported,

The current approach in England seems to be to let teenagers get on with it and see what happens once they’re infected. The result will be an uncontrolled epidemic among younger age groups. Some British scientists aren’t alarmed by this, pointing to other diseases such as seasonal flu, which cause more hospitalisations among children than Covid-19. By contrast, paediatricians in the US argue that exposing children to a new virus with potentially long-term complications is a major risk that should be avoided. Covid-19 was among the top causes of child death in the US in 2020. Though I’m not a paediatrician, I struggle to understand how a disease considered risky to adolescents in the US can be considered innocuous in Britain.

As the vaccination ramps up in NSW, there is an urgent need for the government to impress upon the vaccinated population not to let their guard down. If the NSW government botch this messaging, we may possibly see Covid-19 cases ‘explode’ among the unvaccinated population (which include children).

About Terence Kam

Terence’s profile picture is made up of the two archaic Chinese characters for the word 'inspiration' (灵感 or 靈感). The literal Chinese translation of these two characters means 'spirit perception', which is very apt for the meaning of 'inspirit'.

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