Scarey Variants

During more than 15 years of working with infectious diseases, a large part of my role involved reducing panic and fear in order that appropriate and proportionate responses could be implemented. This was never easy. People are drawn to fear and panic where infectious diseases are concerned, and even qualified medical doctors with limited infectious disease experience (which is most, in today’s first-world healthcare environment) will respond irrationally. Disproportionate responses from all manner of general public and health professionals alike eventually became discouraging enough that I moved away from the discipline. Over the past year I have become convinced that whoever the main players are behind the raft of dishonesty driving this pandemic response, are well informed of the fact that they didn’t need to work very hard to elicit a fear based global response to Covid-19 which has promoted a high need atmosphere for profitable medical interventions.

There are so many untruths and exaggerations about Covid-19 that it is hard to know where to begin. Yesterday I was told that “we have good reason to be afraid”, with multiple references to the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918. This is a completely disproportionate comparison given what is now known about Covid-19.

As a lone voice in a room it is very challenging to respond to one aspect of the fear-based narrative, let alone multiple aspects, and in a single conversation I heard “Long Covid, Brazil, young people can die, more infectious variants spreading, Spanish Influenza”. This has to be addressed systematically, one point at a time, rather than argumentatively when people are genuinely afraid, so I closed my mouth.

At Pandata scientists and writers are working hard to bring established public health back into the fold, whereby adequate information is provided to promote proportionate responses over hysteria. One example is an article written by Dr Michael Yeadon and Marc Girardot, Fear of mutations that make their way around antibodies or vaccines is likely misplaced. A well known feature of viruses is their evolutionary mechanisms which help to ensure ongoing survival, as their life cycle relies on maintaining access to the cells of host organisms. Viruses which become more transmissible generally become less lethal because killing off their hosts reduces their ability to transmit.

Dr Yeadon speaks on this issue and others, at The Last American Vagabond podcast. He states that SARS-CoV-2 is a more lethal version of the four common cold coronaviruses, worse than seasonal influenza for the elderly, but a “middling virus” to the rest of us. He calls it a “slug of a virus” in terms of changing its form, which is evolution rather than mutation. The SARS-CoV-2 variant which is furthest evolved from the original Wuhan variant is only 0.3% different. In 16 months the most that this virus has evolved is 0.3%. This means that all of the variants are 99.7% identical.

When our immune systems recognise a foreign organism, they cut it up into dozens or hundreds of pieces, and “go through a molecular identity parade”, offering each of the pieces to the immune system’s “investigating army”, until a piece is recognised, eliciting an appropriate response. A functioning immune system is more than capable of recognising and responding to all of the SARS-CoV-2 variants. Immune escape – fooling the body into thinking it is encountering a new pathogen – is highly unlikely with these variants.

Why are the media telling us otherwise?

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