Archive for September, 2021

Finally, some data on antibodies…

September 30, 2021

… from the Pfizer booster application
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As we previously posted…

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only wanes slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

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Source

That’s a strong commendation for the efficacy (and durability) of the vaccine … but, it’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

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But, Pfizer also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

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Source

That’s a pretty strong case for boosters since any infection brings with it (1) the threat of “long covid” complications (2) the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death (3) the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

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Supporting the data re: the waning protection from infection (and the case for boosters), Pfizer also submitted some data re: “neutralizing antibody titers” … a clinical assessment derived from from a specialized blood test.

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The way antibody titers are measured (and reported) is complicated.

For an explanation, see What is an Antibody Titer?

In a nutshell: higher titers mean more antibodies … and more antibodies means more immunization.

According to Pfizer, vaccine recipients have an average of 762 titers one month after receiving their 2nd dose.

That’s good … it’s a level that provides about 90% protection against infection.

But, over time (6 months) the titers’ level drops about 80% … down to 136.

That’s not so good …  it’s only strong enough to provide 40% to 50% protection against infection.

A booster shot generates a 17 times increase in the pre-booster titer level … boosting it from 136 to 2,374.

That’s very good … it’s about 3 times the post-2nd shot level … suggesting near total infection immunity.

That is, of course, subject to waning protection over time.

But, 2,374 is a very high level which, taking the Pfizer data at face value, can wane down to 762 and still provide about 90% protection against infections.

That’s a strong case for boosters!

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Still more vax math: What about booster shots?

September 29, 2021

In a prior post, we dug into the data supporting Pfizer’s application (approved last week) for a booster shot emergency use authorization (EUA).

Specifically, we looked at the vaccine’s effectiveness preventing hospitalization (and, presumably, death).

The  numbers that Pfizer submitted were surprising … at least to me

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Source

Look carefully at the chart.

Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less.

But, we asked: Is a boost from 85% to 90% statistically and operationally significant?  Does it support a broadscale booster program?

We cautioned against hard conclusions and promised that there would be more to come.

Here it is…

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So, why boosters?

Here’s another interesting twist.

Based on its original clinical trials, Pfizer’s initial vaccine approval application made no claims regarding effectiveness against asymptomatic infections … just effectiveness against symptomatic infections.

In its booster application, Pfizer presented data from an Israeli study indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% after about 5 months.

Think about that for a moment…

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Source

Those results tie a couple of puzzle pieces together.

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Transmission by vaccinated people

Early on, the CDC was saying that covid transmittal by vaccinated people was a remote occurrence.

That appears to have made sense at the time when the number of vaccinations was surging … and the vaccine’s early on effectiveness preventing infections was very high.

But, as early vaccinations “aged”, the effectiveness against infections waned … so, increasing numbers of vaccinated people may have been vulnerable asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection.

The CDC backed off its original position, acknowledging that vaccinated people could get infected and transmit the virus.

In this case, the CDC’s apparent waffling really might have reflected “following the science and the data.”

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An alternative rationale for booster shots

Again, Pfizer presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine in preventing hospitalization only waned slightly … from around 90% shortly after 2nd shots to about 85% 6 months later.

That’s a relatively weak case for boosters.

But, Pfizer’s also submitted data indicating that effectiveness against infection starts high (90% immediately after the 2nd shot) …  but it wanes down to around 40% 6 months later.

That’s a pretty strong case that puts a different paint job on the booster debate:

> The case for getting a booster for personal protection against hospitalization and death is marginal … resetting from around 85%   back to, say, 90% effectiveness  might not be worth the cost and the incumbent risks.

> But, the case for personal protection against infection is strong since any infection brings with it the threat of “long covid” complications … and brings with it the accompanying risk of hospitalization and death

> And, the case for getting a booster for social good — reducing transmission and community spread — is very strong.

To spread the coronavirus, you have to have the coronavirus.

And vaccinated people are far less likely to have the coronavirus—period.

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My Take

I’m Moderna vaxxed and intend to get a booster when it gets approved.

But, my reasons are shifting.

It used to be focused on self-protection from hospitalization and death.

Now, based on the Pfizer data, I’m more swayed by preventing infection and the likelihood of transmitting the virus to my grandkids (and everybody else) … again, I can’t spread it if I don’t catch it.

That’s good enough for me…

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Pew: Majority disapprove of Joe’s job performance…

September 28, 2021

… and don’t think that he’s “mentally sharp”
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The latest Pew poll pegs Biden’s job approval underwater by 9 percentage points … 45% approve of the job he’s doing; 53% disapprove.

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Those results are consistent with most other recent polls … and, aren’t really new news any more.

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What is new news is Pew’s diagnostic drill down.

First is the public’s confidence in Biden’s handling specific hot issues.

Joe scores highest on his handling of the pandemic … a narrow majority (51% to 49%) have confidence in his handling of the pandemic.

But, those confidence levels are waning … and, even on the pandemic, he’s 9 percentage points underwater looking at the net of  “strong opinions” (“very confident” minus “not at all confident”)

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Biden’s worst scores are on unity: “bringing the country closer together”.

In that area, Biden is a whopping 32 points under water in total … and 28 points underwater among those with strong opinions.

In the middle, Joe is substantially underwater on economic policy, foreign policy, use of military force and immigration policy

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Pew also drilled down on Biden’s personal characteristics.

Biden scores highest on “stands up for what he believes in” and “cares about ordinary people”.

He breaks about even on honesty … and is marginally underwater on “good role model” and “takes responsibility”.

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The ho-hum crasher (i.e. that which can be counted on to catch a crowd’s attention) is Biden’s score on “mentally sharp”.

On mental sharpness, Joe is 13 percentage points underwater in total (43% to 56%) … and, among strong opinionators, he’s 21 points underwater (14% “very well” to 35% “not at all well”)

Ouch.

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So, in summary:

Pew agrees that a majority disapproves of the job Biden is doing … especially on bringing the country together … and, Pew reports that a majority question his decision-making and his mental sharpness.

Except for that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?

More covid math: What about booster shots?

September 24, 2021

In yesterday’s post, we squeezed some data from Israel’s Dept. of Health.

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Analyzing that data, we concluded:

> Vaccinated patients accounted for almost 65% of Israeli covid deaths in August

> But, the death rate among the unvaccinateds (181.7 covid deaths per million unvaccinated adults) was more than double that of the vaccinateds (81 covid deaths per million among vaccinated adults)

> So, the implied effectiveness of the vaccine (protecting against death from covid) was 55%

OK, let’s move the ball forward…

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The case for boosters

Let’s assume that our analysis of the Israeli data is correct and the implied death prevention effectiveness rate of the Pfizer vaccine has, in fact, waned down to 55%.

Question: What if the vaccinated Israelis had all gotten 3rd shots that boosted their protection back up to, say 90%?

From yesterday’s analysis, we concluded that the monthly death rate among unvaccinated Israelis (in August) was 181.7.

So, at a 90% effectiveness rate — if all were boosted — we would only expect 18 deaths per million vaccinated people (1 – 90% = 10% of the unvaccinated rate).

At that rate, about 300 of the 389 vaccinated deaths would have been saved (18 deaths per million x 4.8 million boosted vaccinateds= 86.4; 389 – 86.4 = 302.6).

That’s about a 75% reduction in vaccinateds deaths… and about a halving of the total death count (218 + 389 = 607; 302.6 / 607 = 49.8)

Those are pretty compelling numbers in favor of booster shots…

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But, Pfizer’s numbers differ

Here’s an interesting twist to the story…

In Pfizer’s booster application, the company presented data indicating that the efficacy of its vaccine only waned slightly

Specifically, Pfizer claimed  that it’s vaccine’s effectiveness  against hospitalization (and, presumably, death) declines from 96.2% percent at seven days after dose 2 to 90.1% two months later to 83.7% six months later.

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Source

Stating the obvious: 83.7% is a high level of effectiveness … and much higher than 55%.

Think about that for a minute, though…

Based on Pfizer’s data, the vaccine is highly effective preventing hospitalization and that effectiveness does not wane very much over 6 months.

So, presuming that the grand objective is prevention of hospitalization and deaths, Pfizer’s data seems to weaken its  case for booster shots.

Sure, it’s always better to have more immunization than less … but, is a boost from 84% to 90% statistically or operationally significant? Is it worth the cost and incumbent risks?

Hmm.

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CAUTION

Don’t draw any hard conclusions yet!

There’s much more to the story that we’ll get into next week.

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!
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Thanks to DF for pointing me to the Pfizer data

 

How good is your covid math?

September 23, 2021

Let’s put it to a test, estimating vaccine effectiveness on some real life data …
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In yesterday’s post, we channeled Dr, Marty Makary’s conclusion that “The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.”

Often, the CDC has relied on data from Israel.

Israel was one of the first countries to start vaccinating … and is doing the best job, by far, of systematically gathering, analyzing and reporting vital data that can be squeezed to draw clarifying conclusions.

For example, below is a chart that Israel’s Dept. of Health recently released.

The key summary statistic: Vaccinated people accounted for 64% of Israeli Covid deaths in August.

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Is that good news or bad news?

Specifically, what do the numbers say about the efficacy of the vaccines? Good or bad?

Take a minute, think about those questions … and maybe, crunch a few numbers before reading further

(more…)

Makary: The CDC is failing to provide actionable Covid data…

September 22, 2021

Johns Hopkins Dr. Marty Makary’s recent WSJ opinion piece struck a chord with me.

Paraphrasing his basic point:

The CDC has failed in its primary function to deliver data to guide our pandemic response.

Remarkably, the CDC, an agency with 21,000 employees, does not have much of a rapid response team.

Though the CDC is a very large organization, staffed with thousands of trained researchers …  it most often just reacts to data from other countries (usually Israel) and regurgitates ad hoc observational studies with questionable scientific rigor (from places like Kentucky and Cape Cod).

Makary asks: Why isn’t the CDC producing (and reporting) the research that policy-makers (and the public) need for decision-making?

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My take: 20 months since the onset of the pandemic, “the science” is far behind the learning curve and hasn’t even developed what consultant’s call a “coherent theory of the case”.

Individual pieces of the puzzle seem to change shape based on the latest research study … from who knows where … done by who knows who.

And, there doesn’t seem to be much thought given to how the pieces fit together.

So, it’s not surprising that the research plan — if there is one — seems haphazard and incomplete.

Save for the near-miraculous vaccine development, we don’t seem to know much more than we did when the pandemic first hit.

And, taking the booster indecisiveness as an example, we don’t even have a clear picture of how the vaccines should be deployed, e.g. Should people with natural immunity be vaccinated? is it better to have more people partially vaccinated or those already vaccinated “boosted”?

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Makary concludes: “The CDC’s failure to report meaningful data has left policy makers and the public flying blind.”

Thankfully, Israel has its act together re: data collection and analysis … so the CDC has something to work with.

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For the record:

> The CDC has 21,000 employees and a $15 billion annual budget.

> It has data on more than 40 million Americans who have tested positive for Covid and 200 million who have been vaccinated.

> The data include the vaccine type, dosing schedule and vaccination date.

But, somebody has to turn the data into actionable information.

The CDC isn’t doing it…

Uh-oh: Joe’s job approval hits the Mendoza Line…

September 21, 2021

And, his usually reliable media is now openly questioning his competence.
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First, an explanation of the metric:

The Mendoza Line is an expression in baseball deriving from the name of shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose low batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting.

This is often thought of as the threshold below which a player’s presence on a Major League Baseball team cannot be justified.

The term has come to be used in other contexts when one is so incompetent in one key skill that other skills cannot compensate for that deficiency.

In baseball, it’s dropping below a .200 batting average.

A presidential variant: A majority disapproving of job performance.

Well, Biden has hit the presidential Mendoza line in RCP’s poll-of polls … that’s not a single poll, it’s the composite of 8 politically balanced polls.

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Note that the disapproval line had been increasing by about 1% each month until the Afghan fiasco … then it jumped about 4 percentage points during the botched withdrawal (despite ample air cover being provided by prevailing Bide-leaning media) … and is now trending at about a point a month again.

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A harbinger that the trend is likely to continue (or accelerate) is a recap by Townhall.com:

Across networks on Sunday morning, mainstream network anchors, panels, and reporters didn’t hold back in their criticism of President Biden’s ailing performance amid multiple crises at home and around the world, tempering their normally lavish praise to point out there are serious concerns over how the country is being run and Biden’s competency..

Some specifics offered up  to support the point:

  • NBC’s Chuck Todd: “It’s been a rough six weeks and it seems as if it’s only getting worse.”
  • ABC’s Martha Radatz: “”What he has done so far, hasn’t really worked”.
  • CBS’s David Martin: “Biden says  the U.S. is going to prevent any any reconstitution of Al Qaeda with surveillance conducted from outside the country, drones flying over the horizon  from outside the country… and that they will be able to detect a plot in the works and then be able to disrupt it with a drone strike. But you have to say that the mistake made in Kabul is not an encouraging precedent”.
  • ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “Biden’s credibility on COVID has been what has driven his level of his popularity … and we’ve seen it eroded over the past several weeks.”

More generally, NBC’s Todd observed:

Biden’s  got a pretty big credibility crisis on his hands because all of these problems in some ways, showed up after he said something basically the exact opposite.

He said that the Afghanistan withdrawal wasn’t going to be messy, that it wasn’t going to look like Saigon.

On booster shots, he came out and essentially said eight months and even indicated maybe we should start it as soon as five months. 

Now we’re not sure if anybody under 65 is going to get a booster shot.

Of course the border, he said things were under control.

It’s pretty clear we have a bigger problem now than we’ve had in years and his policies have turned into becoming a magnet.

He’s got credibility issues on the world stage to make sure people still view America as not just a stable democracy but a competent leader of the free world right now

Whoa, Nellie.

Losing Chuck Todd is an indication that Biden might be facing another contagion…

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But, as a friend likes to ask: Who are the 46% who think Biden’s doing a good job?

Maybe they put a ceiling on his disapproval numbers…

FBI Report: No “insurrection” on Jan. 6

September 20, 2021

The Afghan fiasco allowed most media outlets to bury this Aug. 21 news item.
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In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago left-leaning Reuters’s reported that:

Despite months of intense investigation, the FBI has found “scant evidence” of any “organized plot” behind Jan. 6

One agent explained, “90 to 95 percent of these are one-off cases. Then you have 5 percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized.

There was no grand scheme for all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”

In other words, the FBI concluded found:

While there clearly were those set upon trashing the Capitol, most people were just milling about in the halls, taking selfies and posting the scene on social media.

A protest became a runaway as insufficient security preparations quickly collapsed.

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Commenting on the Reuter’s report, law prof Jonathon Turley noted that about 600  (of the tens of thousand protesters) have been charged with crimes, but…

After five months of dragnet arrests nationwide,  no one has actually been charged with insurrection or sedition.

The vast majority of people face charges such as simple trespass or “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building”.

Turley concludes:

Many of us remain disgusted and angered by the Jan. 6 riot — it was a riot and a desecration — and people deserve to be punished.

But it was not an “insurrection”.

The question is whether you can have an insurrection without anyone actually insurrecting.

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The Reuter’s report of FBI findings may largely explain why last weekend’s media-hyped protest in DC turned out to be not big deal … and why Pelosi’s Jan. 6 Commission seems to be fizzling out.

Vax: Maybe the “hesitants” are being completely rational…

September 16, 2021

Behavioral economics prevail when personal risks outweigh the personal benefits.
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Yesterday, we reported a study by researchers at researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh concluded that vaccine hesitancy follows a U-shaped curve with the highest hesitancy evident among those least and most educated.

People without  a college degree — mostly Rural Whites and Urban Blacks — are highly hesitant, citing mistrust of government.

But, the highest hesitancy is among those holding a PhD degree.

The primary reason for hesitancy among PhDs: “the data just doesn’t add up.”

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Economist-YouGov released survey results that asked people about their Covid experience and attitudes.

Here are a couple of the questions that caught my eye….

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19. Do you personally know anyone who has tested positive for covid-19?

> 39% did not personally know a close friend or family member who tested positive for Covid.

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20. Do you personally know anyone who has died due to complications from covid-19?

> 67% did not personally know a close friend or family member who had died from Covid.

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My take: Except for people who are undeniably vulnerable (e.g. seniors), those  who haven’t been personally touched by covid’s health consequences are less likely to be vax-inclined. And, many have not been personally touched by covid health consequences.

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32. Which do you think is a greater risk: possibly contracting COVID-19, or possibly having a bad reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?

> On average, 39% perceive that the risks outweigh the benefits, but…

> Those over 65 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 72% to 28% (a ratio of 2.5 to 1)

> Those who are 45 to 64 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 63% to 37% (a ratio of 1.7 to 1)

> Those 18 to 44 perceive the benefits to outweigh the risks — 53% to 47% (with rounding, a 50-50 proposition)

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So, just based on the perceived risk – benefits numbers, you might expect seniors to be more vax-inclined … and, they are, with a 90% vax rate.

And, you’d expect younger folks to be less vax-inclined … and they are (with vax rates running in the 50s or 60s).

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I think that just about everybody buys into the vaccines’ benefits: 90%+ protection against hospitalization and death.

So, what about the risks?

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30. Among people who have been vaccinated: Have you experienced any negative reactions to the vaccine?

> About 1 in 5 vax recipients report that they experienced “negative reactions” (i.e. side effects) from receiving the vaccine.

> A slightly higher percentage of those 18 to 29  reported a negative reaction … almost 1 in 4

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Those are just the immediate negative vax reactions.

What about the longer term risks?

The CDC — speaking on behalf of “the data” and “the science” — says that there are absolutely no long-term risks of serious complications.

There isn’t data to conclude that there won’t be negative reactions in, say 20 years.

And, while “the science” may conjecture about future health risks being inconsequential … there’s no experiential certainty … and there are plausible arguments to the contrary.

See our summary post: Unexpected things happen when you start fiddling with the innards of living cells.”

So, what?

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For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a low but statistically significant risk of future health consequences (i.e. a probability greater than zero).

If so, it logically follows that the longer a person’s remaining expected life span, the higher the probability that they would incur a negative health consequence.

So, an older person (highly vulnerable to severe covid health consequences)  might reasonably conclude that the expected benefits from getting vaccinated (protection from hospitalization and death over a short time horizon) exceed the risks of future related health consequences (over a short expected “natural” life span).

Conversely, a younger person who has low vulnerability to a consequential covid infection may perceive the vax benefits to be minimal compared to the possibility (albeit low) of a severe future health consequence (given their otherwise long expected life span).

Said differently, it’s completely rational for a vulnerable senior to rush to get vaccinated … and, conversely,  quite reasonable for a low-vulnerability young person to wait & see.

That’s how risk-benefits behavioral economics works.

Again, it’s completely rational…

Vaccine hesitants: Real dumb or really smart?

September 15, 2021

According to the mainstream media (nudged by Pres. Biden), the vast majority of unvaccinated Americans are Neanderthal Trump-supporters.

But,  researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh studied the association between vaccine hesitancy and education level. Source

Their data indicate that vaccine hesitancy follows a U-shaped curve with the highest hesitancy evident among those least and most educated.

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People without  a college degree — mostly Rural Whites and Urban Blacks — are highly hesitant, citing mistrust of government.

Missed by the media: The highest hesitancy is among those holding a PhD.

The primary reason for hesitancy for PhDs: “the data just doesn’t add up.”

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Most revealing

> Rural Whites and Urban Blacks have a common bond: They don’t trust the government.

> Many PhDs — ostensibly among the best and brightest thinkers — conclude that the data just doesn’t add up.

Hmmm.

Will Biden’s vax mandates be strangled by the “cobra effect”?

September 14, 2021

Hospitals are already losing nurses who refuse to get vaccinated … retailers and restaurants, too.
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A couple of weeks again, Houston Methodist Hospital enforced its vaccine mandate and fired  150 unvaccinated medical workers.

Then came the Delta variant and …

“An internal memo at Houston Methodist Hospital said it ‘is struggling with staffing as the numbers of our COVID-19 patients rise” Source

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More recently …

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Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, NY, will temporarily stop delivering babies, after maternity-ward employees quit rather than be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hospital officials say: “If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” Source

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As Gomer Pyle would say: “surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE”.

Behavioral scientists call it the “Cobra Effect

The Cobra Effect causes unintended consequences.

Long ago, colonial India was being over-run by cobra snakes.

The government offered citizens a bounty for each dead cobra that they turned in

Initially, the cobra population declined.

But, citizens started breeding cobras to sustain their stream of cobra bounties.

And, the cobra population grew. Source

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The lesson to be learned:

Every governmental decision brings about consequences, intended ones and unintended ones.

When hospital administrators in Texas an NY complied with government directives (i.e. mandates) — get vaccinated or lose your job — their goal was to increase vaccination rates of hospital staff.

The unintended consequence was a shortage of nurses and other hospital workers during a deadly pandemic. Source

These days, practically every hospital, restaurant, store or delivery service is reporting a shortage of workers.

Biden’s mandate — to fire unvaccinated workers if they don’t get vaccinated — is absolutely certain to intensify the labor shortage.

Some workers will choose to give up their jobs and rather than get vaccinated.

Others will quit “big company” jobs and seek employment with an “under 100” company (or the USPS) which aren’t covered by the vaccine mandate.

Whether right or wrong, that’s their decision to make.

Trust the behavioral economists on this one.

Finally, I agree with Fauci on something…

September 13, 2021

But, it raises a big question: Why isn’t there more emphasis on antibody testing?
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OK, Biden has declared war on the unvaccinated.

Putting aside the constitutional questions, I’m swayed by the opposition’s arguments re: natural immunity.

On CNN (of all places!), Dr. Sanjay Gupta challenged our chief political-scientist Anthony Fauci.

Paraphrasing Gupta’s question: The science (and its data) show that unvaccinated covid survivors have a much higher level of antibodies than previously uninfected vaccinated people.  So, what’s the logic for making those people take a potentially risky vaccination shot?

Watch the 1-minute video posted here to see the exact question and Fauci’s surprising (to me) answer.

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Fauci’s response: “I don’t have a really firm answer for you on that”.

He then goes on to diminish the referenced Israeli study asserting that it didn’t investigate the “durability” of natural immunity (i.e. whether the protection diminishes over time and, if it does, how quickly).

Wrong, Dr. Fauci.

The Israeli study did test the durability and concluded that natural immunity is at least as durable as vaccine durability.

Which begs a broader question:

Why aren’t we doing more antibody testing to calibrate the level of immunity that people have?

First, that would use “the science and the data”  to determine whether an unvaccinated person really needs to get vaccinated.

Second, it would provide a scientific determination of whether (or when) vaccinated people (like me) might need to get a booster.

Rather than “how many weeks after last shot”, the criteria would be “how many antibodies?”.

Why use time stamped average rate of protection diminution instead of a precise antibody count?

And, why make protected people take a shot?

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Hadn’t Biden already mandated that Federal employees get vaccinated?

September 10, 2021

Apparently not since he mandated them again yesterday…
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I’m officially confused…

More than a month ago, Biden mandated that all Federal employees get vaccinated or be subjected to weekly covid tests … or else?

At the time, I (sarcastically) applauded the the move.

See: Covid: Finally, a Biden mandate that I like…

The essence of my cynical support:

> I recognized that a couple of Biden’s core constituencies (think: unions and minorities) would be spotlighted

> I assumed widespread non-compliance and hoped that the “or else” would cut the government payroll.

But, in late August, I asked:

So, how’s the federal employees’ vaccine mandate going?

Since “the most transparent Administration ever” hadn’t released any numbers showing progress, I assumed: “not so good”

Well, I got my answer yesterday when Biden announced a beefed-up vaccine mandate for Feral employees.

According to press secretary Psaki:

The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president.

Aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.

If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which includes progressive disciplinary action.

Hmm.

So the “vast majority” of Federal employees must comply by sometime in December.

If they don’t they go through the “standard H.R. process” … which I assume takes months or years … pushing enforcement into 2022.

By then, hopefully covid will finally be under control.

So, the non-compliers will be fired some time in the future for not getting vaccinated against a virus that’s no longer a major health crisis.

Double hmmm.

Seems like Biden’s new & improved mandate is less than meets the eye, right?

So, why do it?

Simple.

It’s merely window dressing for Biden’s attempt to force the vaccination burden on companies … making companies  enforce vaccination mandates or get fined.

Ah, politics.

COVID: So, where are we?

September 9, 2021

Recently, like many (most?) Americans, I haven’t been paying particularly close attention to the COVID stats.

So, I thought it was time to take a look…

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Vaccinations

There have been incremental gains since I last looked:

> 78% of those 18 and over have have gotten at least 1-shot … up about 10 percentage points since July 4

> 92% of Seniors have have gotten at least 1-shot … that’s essentially all Seniors when you consider naturally immune and medically disqualified

> 55% of teenagers (12 to 18) … that’s almost 14 million of them

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Deaths

We’ve consistently touted the death count as the truest measure on COVID’s impact.

The current 7-day average is 1,128

> That’s about 4.5 times the July 4 low point (255) … which is coincidentally, about the level 0f in-season flu deaths in a typical year.

> But, the current rate (1,128) appears to be peaking … and, it’s about 70% lower than the all-time COVID peak on Jan 16  (3,515)

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ICU Capacity & Utilization

Currently, according to JHU, there are approximately 85,000 ICU beds.

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Source: JHU

Of 85,000 ICU beds, about 66,000 (79%) are currently occupied.

Of the 66,000 currently occupied ICU beds, about 25,000 (38%) are  occupied by COVID patients…  the other 42,000 are occupied by non-COVID patients.

The 25,000 ICU beds currently occupied by COVID patients are 15% below the all-time COVID peak (Jan. 17, 29,000 beds)

But, current COVID case rates (150,733 per day) are 40% lower than the Jan.12 peak (254,358) … indicating that a higher percentage of cases are requiring hospitalization. (15% versus 11%).

That said, that’s bad, but …

The CFR (case to fatality ratio) is currently .7% … roughly 1/2 of the January peak CFR (1.3%).

So, that’s where we are….

Buyer’s Remorse: 20% of Biden voters admit regret…

September 8, 2021

According to  RCP … the percentage of Americans who think that the country is moving in the wrong direction has increased from 50% to 60% in the past 10 days … only 30% think that the country is moving in the right direction.

And, according to YouGov. only 19% of Independents think the country is moving in the right direction … and only 58% of the people who voted for Biden think that the country is moving in the right direction.

So, it’s not surprising that in the latest Zogby poll, 1 in 5 Biden voters admitted to regretting their vote for Sleepy Joe.

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Drilling down…

Among the sub-groups that regret their votes more than the average:

  • Cryptocurrency holders (44%)
  • Middle aged voters aged 30-49 (30%)
  • Hispanics (33%)
  • Republicans (29%)
  • Weekly Amazon shoppers (29%)
  • Urban voters (28%)
  • Younger voters aged 18-29 (27%)
  • African Americans (25%)

Zogby notes that this poll taken before the Afghan withdrawal fiasco.

So, Zogby concludes:

“One gets the sense that Biden’s ship is sinking fast, and Biden might not have any lifeboats aboard to save him”

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Addressing the exasperated the mean-tweet-haters who voted for Biden, the WSJ’s Holman Jenkins opines::

Admit it: You didn’t vote for him, yet his absence hasn’t solved any problem.

America doesn’t feel noticeably less chaotic with him out of the picture.

COVID is resurging, inflation is rampant, Putin is winning (Nord Stream pipeline, halt of weapon sales to Ukraine, pleas for more oil, ransomware victories). citizens were left behind in Taliban country, allies have lost faith.

A big price for eliminating the mean tweets.

Uh-oh, Joe: You’re underwater and sinking…

September 7, 2021

And, the disapprovers have the strongest feelings.
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For openers, according to RCP’s latest poll-of-polls:

> 45.6% of American adults approve of the job that Biden is doing … an all-time low

> 49.1% disapprove … putting Biden 3.5 percentage points underwater on net total approval

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Digging deeper: According to the most recent Washington Post poll:

Back in April, Biden’s net strong approval (a measure of intensity) was essentially a push … … 34% strongly approved,  35% strongly disapproved.

Now, Biden’s net strong approval is underwater by 17 points … 25% strongly approve,  42% strongly disapprove. 

The 16 percentage points slide in  Biden’s net strong approval  since April is evenly divided between a 9 point slip among strong approvers … and a 7 point increase in strong disapprovers.

image

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Consistent with WaPo’s numbers, the left-leaning YouGov poll puts Biden’s net strong approval 15 points underwater.

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Digging still deeper into the YouGov poll’s internals…

> Blacks’ net strong approval — while still high at 22% — has dropped 7 percentage points in 10 days

> GOP strong disapproval increased to 80% … and net strong disapproval increased by 4 percentage points to 77%

> While Dems’ net strong approval is still a sky high 48% … strong approval has dropped below 50%’  Said differently, less than half of Dems strongly approve of the job that Biden is doing

> Most indicative politically, Independents’ net strong disapproval increased by 8 percentage points to 31%

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Good luck, Joe.

Manchin: “I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion”

September 3, 2021

Senator Joe talks big (and right), but will he fold again?
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This week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declared that he won’t vote for the Dems’ $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill.

Fiscal and social conservatives are giddy about his his declaration which — taken at face value — would kill the bill given the 50-50 Senate.

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Let’s start with the essence of Manchin’s logic … which he wrote in a WSJ op-ed:

My Democratic friends want to use the budget reconciliation tactic to push through sweeping legislation that makes “historic investments.”

The proposed $3.5 trillion in new spending isn’t to solve urgent problems, but to re-envision America’s social policies.

Democratic congressional leaders have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises.

An overheating economy has already imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American.

Spending trillions more dollars not only ignores present economic reality, but makes it certain that America will be fiscally weakened when it faces a future recession or national emergency.

In the words of Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called debt the biggest threat to national security.

I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation has on the value of Americans’ wages and income and sky-rocketing debt has on existing government programs

Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation:

> To provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic

> To allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not

> To allow for a complete, transparent reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next.

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My take: Manchin’s declaration is far less than meets the eye.

First, he’s suggesting “a pause” … not a “dead on arrival”

Second, note the wiggle room that the Senator provides himself:

> “Anywhere near $3.5 trillion” … The senator did not rule out voting for a smaller bill. Is $3 trillion distant enough $3.5 trillion? $2.5 trillion? $2 trillion?

> “Without further clarity” … English translation: more pork for West Virginia.

Third, consider Manchin’s track record.

He often (usually?) talks like a rational independent.

But, when crunch time comes, he jumps lemming-like on the Dem train.

So, I’m not taking this one to the bank yet.

Biden: “Whether it’s true or not … change the perception. ”

September 1, 2021

Makes Trump’s Ukraine call look “perfect”.
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Last night, Reuters — based on a  leaked audio tape and a written transcript of a July 23 phone call between Biden and Afghan Pres. Ghani– reported that:

“In the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of the country, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics.”

Specifically, Ghani told Biden:

Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis.

Biden tried to prop Ghani up with talking points:

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing.

Then, Biden “asked for the order”:

I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.

The perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition.

And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Whether it’s true or not?

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The takeaways:

> Ghani warned that the situation was dire: “A full scale invasion”.

> Biden promised “close air support” … which could only be done from Bagram .

> Biden told the Afghan Pres. to lie, if necessary: “Whether it is true or not”

Let’s see how the White House and Biden-friendly media wiggle out of this one.


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