COLUMN/ THE WRITE LINE
November 12, 2022: Dr. Ashish Jha, the Covid-19 response coordinator at the White House, recently said India’s coronavirus vaccination drive was one of the most impressive in the world.
His interview at a summit held by a Delhi-based media organisation sounds more like science fiction. Scientists working in the trenches know only too well how messy and unpredictable real science could be. And honest researchers do not gloss over uncomfortable truths. They know that they learn more from the errors than the sanitised version of new discoveries, which are currently being promoted more in the manner of social marketing than hard science.
Modern scientists may be brilliant, but they still may have no idea of what is going on. This blind spot can harm humanity. Asking questions with the innocence of a child who wondered at the Emperor’s New Clothes, may save the day. With this approach, let us ask some childlike questions concerning ‘The Emperor’s New Vaccines’, and try to answer them on the basis of the available evidence.
The first question is, did the mass vaccination rolled out in unholy haste in most countries reduce the incidence of cases and deaths from Covid-19 at the population level? Well, the experiences of most countries are not very encouraging.
SINGAPORE, JAPAN, AUSTRALIA
The figures below show the trend of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in Singapore, Japan and Australia before and after the mass vaccination roll-out.
A similar paradox is seen from the trends in Japan as illustrated below.
Australia, too, which had one of the most stringent restrictive measures and coerced mass vaccination, fared more badly after the mass vaccination roll-out as illustrated below.
Similar has been the sobering trends from other countries such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea and others. And most of these countries have a much higher level of population level vaccination cover than India, with some going for second boosters.
Supporting these observations is a peer-reviewed paper published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, which found no correlation of population level vaccination coverage with trends of Covid-19 on the analysis of data from 68 countries and 2,947 American counties.
THE SCENE IN INDIA
While due to its size, the absolute numbers may be high, the proportion of people vaccinated in India is much less than the countries showing the vaccine paradox as illustrated above. The majority of the Indian population – more than 80% – have not taken booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine.
Millions of vaccine doses, both Covishield and Covaxin, are nearing expiry dates and may have to be destroyed. How come India has so few cases and deaths from Covid-19, in spite of mathematical models predicting the fourth wave, which never really materialised?
Doomsayers had warned the public to observe ‘Covid-appropriate behaviour’ during Ganesh festival, Dussehra and Diwali, and to take boosters – “Nahi toh Gabbar aa jayega,” to quote a famous dialogue from the Hindi blockbuster Sholay. Ganesh festival came and went, Dussehra came and went, Diwali came and went, but Gabbar did not come! And people thronging the markets hardly observed the impossible-to-observe Covid-appropriate behaviour. Very few people wore masks.
WHAT EXPLAINS THIS PHENOMEMON?
Covid-19 trends in India are illustrated below.
India had three spikes, the first wave was more protracted and peaked in August-September 2020, after which it subsided. The vicious second wave peaked in May-June 2021. A national-level serosurvey after the second wave showed that almost 69% Indians had IgG antibodies to the coronavirus.
Vaccination coverage at the time the second wave in India ended was a meagre 7.35%. This level of vaccination coverage was woefully inadequate to halt the second wave. The speed of science was no match for the speed of nature in a densely populated country like India.
Large swathes of the population acquired robust immunity after recovery from natural infection, which explains the current endemic state in India. Studies have established beyond doubt that natural infection confers 27 times more robust immunity compared to vaccine induced immunity.
The third spike in India, which peaked in February 2022, was due to the wave driven by the Omicron variant, which in any case caused very mild self-limiting illness with very low rates of hospitalisation and deaths.
A few childlike questions at this point. How does one evaluate a vaccine against such mild variants? It is accepted that vaccines do not prevent transmission. So what is the added benefit of mass vaccination in such a situation? And the vaccines had been prepared based on the old strains. If Omicron and its variants show immune escape, what good will be achieved by an older version of the vaccine?
Subsequent serosurveys in many parts of the country indicated almost 80% of the population had protective antibodies. More importantly, surveys in September-October 2021 revealed that over 80% of children below 18 years of age in New Delhi had IgG antibodies – at the time when vaccines for this age group were not rolled out – putting to question the science and rationale for mass vaccination in this group.
In spite of such widespread infection among children, which were mostly asymptomatic, there was no ‘pediatric third wave’ as was projected by so-called experts. This puts to question the need for rolling out the vaccines for children below 18 years of age.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
There are disturbing reports from many parts of the world, including India, of increasing deaths in young people after mass vaccine roll-out. After each such unnatural incident, experts have rushed to give vacuous explanations implying that the deaths are due to ‘natural causes’, ‘underlying conditions’, or ‘long Covid’.
Our data-keeping is poor. We do not have a proper adverse events monitoring system. So, it is difficult to establish whether there is really any unusual rise in deaths among the young in India after the Covid-19 vaccine’s roll-out, and more importantly, if these events can be attributed to the vaccines.
However, reports from countries with better baseline data are concerning. Edward Dowd, in his book Cause Unknown: The Epidemic of Sudden Deaths in 2021 and 2022, reports an 84% increase in sudden deaths among people aged 24-44 corresponding to the vaccine mandates in the US.
Closer to home, a quick analysis by a professor from IIT Bombay found a six-fold increase in heart attacks in Mumbai during the first half of 2021. While these cannot be taken as absolute proof of vaccine injury, they certainly merit deeper investigation. More so, when evidence of myocarditis among the vaccinated, particularly young males, is accumulating.
The UK seems to be one country that is taking it seriously. Increased mortality among the young and risk-benefit analysis of mass vaccination of those with natural immunity and young people with negligible risk from Covid-19 have become the subject of debate in the British parliament. It’s high time our politicians engaged in such debates.
A few more childlike questions here. Without having a proper adverse events monitoring system in place, was it not highly irresponsible to roll out an infructuous mass vaccination drive with a dud and leaky vaccine with known and unknown side-effects in unholy haste? Was it not like running a superfast train on rickety old tracks? Where is the method in this madness? Let us hazard a guess in the following paragraphs.
A LESSON FROM HITLER’S GERMANY
Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, a German general and a long-term opponent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, conceived a classification of military leaders. He distinguished four types for allocating responsibility. In his words – “There are intelligent, hardworking, stupid and lazy officers. Usually, two qualities occur in combination. Some are intelligent and hardworking – they should be given staff duties or research work. The next type are stupid and lazy, they make up 90% of any organisation, and are suited for routine and repetitive tasks. Those who are intelligent and lazy make the best leaders as they possess the mental alacrity and nerves of steel necessary for crisis management, and conserve their energy by avoiding wasteful meaningless actions. The most dangerous type are those who are both stupid and hardworking. They should not be entrusted with any responsibility since they will drain huge resources in vain and cause immense harm!”
The tragicomedy in this pandemic has been that the last category of leaders seems to have been at the helm of affairs in almost all countries with a few exceptions. And what is most unforgiving is that they continue to weave a virtual world of fairytales that has become the opium of the masses.
The stupid and hardworking experts, most of them faculty or researchers in haloed Western universities without any present-day experience of communicable disease control, are running the narrative, perhaps with good intentions, which the rest of the world is aping.
Meanwhile, smarter people from all professions have got their skin in this game. They are career bureaucrats, career politicians, career scientists and now career filmmakers! Spinning tales and glorifying both messy war as well as messy science is easier than fighting real war and doing real science!
The virtual world of Covid fairytales is the new opium of the masses. It would require the combined efforts of all right-thinking people with high integrity and a bit of conscience to come out of the spell of this opium to break this ‘Mayajaal’.
(Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD, is a clinical epidemiologist, professor, and Head of Community Medicine at Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Pune. He has over two decades of experience in the Indian Armed Forces as a field epidemiologist. He led the Mobile Epidemic Investigation Team at the Armed Forces Medical College Pune from 2000-2004, when he investigated many outbreaks. He was awarded for his work on Tribal Malaria and its impact on soldiers serving in hostile terrain.)
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