July 2, 2020

2077 words 10 mins read

Mask Me In St. Louis: How to Minimize Human Suffering

Mask Me In St. Louis: How to Minimize Human Suffering

Do you consider yourself a “compassionate” person?

You have probably heard that St. Louis City and County issued a new mask mandate on July 1. What do you think about that?

Will the number of new cases decline or continue to rise?

Will this mask mandate shorten the duration of the pandemic or prolong the suffering?

What do logic and science tell us?

Totals Are Meaningless Because The Number of New Cases Can Only Go Up

When was the last time you heard of someone dying in a chariot crash? It’s probably been a very long time. Does that mean the total number of deaths by chariot crash has declined?

No. Of course not. The total number of incidents of any kind can stay the same or go up, but can never go down. Erroneous counts can be corrected, but the absolute number of actual cases can stay the same or rise. If there were a deadly chariot crash tomorrow, the total number of people killed in chariot crashes would increase.

When you hear things like, “The total number of Coronavirus cases hits 10 million,” keep in mind that this is cumulative count and can only go up. So, when you hear experts say, “we need to get the numbers down,” know that they’re not talking about the total cases but the rate of increase in the number of total cases. Or, they’re talking about the number of active cases at any moment in time. Don’t you wish they’d say it that way?

Minimum Spread Means Maximum Suffering

Coronavirus will stop spreading when a sufficient fraction of the population is immune, a state that’s also known as ‘herd immunity.’

There are two ways we can reach this level of immunity: artificially through vaccinations and naturally through infection and recovery.

To reach herd immunity naturally requires that about 43 percent of the population recover from the disease.

To achieve it, artificially, through vaccination, requires about 60 percent of the people to be successfully vaccinated. That’s 200 million people, more or less.

(Read why herd immunity might be our only hope.)

Until we reach herd immunity, the amount of suffering from Coronavirus will remain high. But what do we mean by “suffering?”

The public health experts consider suffering only in the clinical sense. They seem to believe “suffering” is limited to those diagnosed with the disease. But that’s a very narrow definition of suffering.

Empathetic and compassionate people draw a wider circle. These kind souls count their neighbors who are out of work, their friends' who lost their businesses, and their lonely, elderly family no one will visit among the suffering.

Compassionate people believe living under forced behaviors, like being forced to wear a mask, is a form of suffering.

Compassionate people also recognize false hopes and prolonged fear as forms of suffering.

And the longer people fear the Coronavirus, the longer we all suffer. The more we mitigate, the poorer we get.

The compassionate people, therefore, want to end the suffering sooner. And this is where the great divide begins.

One side wants people to suffer until 60 percent of the population has been vaccinated. Compassionate people want to minimize human suffering by reaching 43 percent immunity as soon as possible.

Will There Be a Vaccine, and When?

There is a 30 percent chance of a vaccine that’s 50 percent effective and a 70 percent chance of no vaccine. That means there’s only a 15 percent chance that any particular American will achieve immunity through a vaccine. How do I know this? Simple probability:

  • 70 percent of all projects fail (read this for more)
  • The search for a Coronavirus vaccine is a project
  • Therefore, there’s a 70 percent chance it will fail and a 30 percent chance it will succeed

Next, let’s calculate the effectiveness of a successful vaccine. According to the CDC, a Coronavirus vaccine needs to be only 50 percent effective.

That level of effectiveness is the same as the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. About 50 percent. In other words, half the people who get a Coronavirus vaccine (assuming there ever is one) will still catch Coronavirus. And, as we shall see, the older you get, the less likely you are to build immunities from a vaccine.

So, we now have two numbers: 30 percent and 50 percent. There is a 30 percent chance we will find a vaccine that inoculates 50 percent of the people who receive it.

.3 * .5 = .15

That’s how we get to the 15 percent chance that any American will be inoculated from Coronavirus via a vaccine. Can we reach 60 percent immunity via vaccine? Let’s do a little more math.

There are 320 million people in the US, and each one has a 15 percent chance of reaching immunity via a vaccine.

320,000,000 * .15 = 48,000,000

Nope. Based on probability, we cannot reach herd immunity through a vaccine.

But let’s go a step further. Let’s pretend researchers do produce a vaccine that’s 50-percent effective. Can we reach herd immunity this way?

320,000,000 * .5 = 160,000,00

Nope. We’re still 38 million people short of artificial herd immunity. Artificial herd immunity would require 100 percent of Americans to receive a vaccine that’s, at least, 60 percent effective. Or 60 percent of Americans to receive a vaccine that’s 100 percent effective.

In other words, the chances of ending suffering from Coronavirus via a vaccine are infinitesimally tiny. Herd immunity from a vaccine would require that 80 percent of the population receive a vaccine that’s 80-percent effective.

There Are Skeptical Experts

Remember that virologists who don’t work for the NIH, the CDC, or Big Pharma continue to caution against hoping for a vaccine. As reported on CNBC last week:

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday, Robert Lambkin-Williams, an independent virologist at Virology Consult Ltd, said there was no clear evidence that antibodies produced to fight off the virus gave people any protection against being reinfected with Covid-19.

Dr. Lambkin-Williams went even further:

“That’s important because we don’t know if the vaccines that encourage those antibodies to be produced are going to work,” he explained, adding that the scientific community remained hopeful that antibodies would prevent the Coronavirus from infecting individuals more than once.

And further still:

“The vaccine is not going to be a cure-all. We have not had a successful vaccine against this type of virus ever,” he told CNBC. “We will get a vaccine of some description in the next couple of years, but it will not be perfect and it will need to be developed going forward.”

And Dr. Lambkin-Williams is not the lone vaccine skeptic. USA Today published this op-ed by Dr. Joel M. Zinberg, who wrote:

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have touted vaccines as the ultimate solution to dealing with the threat of COVID-19. There are strong reasons to doubt this. The eight vaccine candidates Dr. Fauci described to the Senate face daunting obstacles on the road from laboratory to final Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and mass manufacturing. If one or two vaccines do make it through, it will be a year or more before they are widely available. Even then, the vaccines may not be effective enough or sufficiently utilized to defeat the new illness.

He added that only 1 in 10 vaccines make it to market. That’s a 90-percent failure rate if you you’re keeping score.

Plus, Dr. Zinberg provides other statistics that challenge the notion of artificial herd immunity:

No vaccine is 100% effective at reducing the risk of becoming ill. Effectiveness rates often vary by age group, particularly for the elderly who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not mount as good an immune response to make antibodies as younger people. Over the past 15 years, vaccine effectiveness for another familiar respiratory illness — seasonal influenza — has ranged between 10 and 60%. The vaccine that was specifically created for the 2009 influenza pandemic was 62% effective for people under 65 and 43% effective for people 65 and older.

The probability that a hurried vaccine development will result in a safe and effective vaccine anytime soon is near zero. Dr. Zinberg says it will not be before the end of 2021.

And, If So, When?

The second part of the question is “when?”

If we think about the search for a vaccine as a 12-hour clock, we are at 4 a.m. The clock started at the start of the pandemic in January. Today is July 2. We’ve traveled 4 hours in 6 months, and we have 8 hours to go.

  • January to June: 4 hours
  • July to December: 4 hours
  • January to June: 4 hours

That means one year from today, you might be able to get a vaccine for Coronavirus.

That’s another full year of suffering.

How many businesses will fail by then?

How many people will die by then?

Will there be a country left to celebrate our liberation from Coronavirus, or will most of us be dead by some other means?

But there is a better way. A way to minimize both the length and breadth of human suffering. It’s the compassionate way.

Natural Herd Immunity Reduces Human Suffering

Are we out of hope, then? No. There is a logical, compassionate way, as I first wrote about on May 16.

The most humane approach to the Coronavirus is to let it spread without overwhelming the hospitals in any location. Mitigation orders, such as wearing masks, stay-at-home orders, and maintaining six feet of distance, while well-intentioned, actually prolong the agony, except when required in places that are in danger of overwhelming the hospital system.

The natural and compassionate way to end the Coronavirus scourge is through the natural, controlled spread of the disease as quickly as safely possible.

Healthy young people are more socially active than older or sickly people. You don’t need an academic study to know this. Young people are also unlikely to suffer severe effects from Coronavirus. Sure, some will have a blood-clotting problem, but those cases are sporadic and rare. Most young people who test positive have either no symptoms or mild cold-like symptoms. (Many common cold varieties are Coronaviruses.)

Because healthy young people are more likely to catch an infectious disease, that demographic will reach high levels of immunity faster than less active groups. We should let healthy young people do whatever they want, with one exception: stay away from the sick and the elderly.

Protect the people at greater risk of serious complications, let the others provide herd immunity.

Once we reach herd immunity, the risk to the most vulnerable diminishes rapidly. We’ll be able to visit our grandparents again. Until then, many forms of human suffering will only increase.

Time Is Not On Our Side

Time is against us. Every day that we live under restrictions on freedom is a day of suffering. Every day that the Coronavirus is spreading through the population is another day of more suffering.

If we get to July 2, 2021, and find out there is no vaccine, we will have lost 1.5 years of life to false hope. We will have lost any hope of a comfortable retirement for most Americans. We will have lost millions of lives to diseases to diseases that were not treated out of fear of just one condition.

And, imagine this: if we do get to July 2021 without a vaccine, the CDC and Dr. Fauci will tell us to do exactly what we prescribe here: let the young and healthy build herd immunity for us.

On the other hand, we could achieve 43-percent immunity by the fall, or sooner, if we let it spread as fast as possible without overwhelming the healthcare system. If an effective vaccine comes along, great. We’ll take it. But don’t shut down the world for a year and a half on a 15 percent chance. Be compassionate, instead.

Dr. Zinberg agrees:

Continuing the economically devastating lockdown another 6-12 months while we bet on the likelihood that a vaccine will be approved, that it will be highly effective and that people will use it, is a risky and unnecessary wager. As I have outlined elsewhere, we know that risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is concentrated in the elderly and people with underlying medical problems, and it is largely a mild, even asymptomatic disease for the young.

And it’s all based on experience and math, not masks.