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Are the Unvaccinated a Threat?

Yesterday, our Unifier-in-Chief told us we should be angry with our unvaccinated neighbors for putting vaccinated people at risk, even though (he said) the vaccines make you very safe. All the same, he's trying to get employers to fire their unvaccinated employees because they're a threat to the vaccinated employees. Good luck with the testing option when there's a shortage of health care workers. 

If the vaccines reduce symptoms enough to keep people out of hospitals--by all accounts, they do--then the unvaccinated aren't a threat. "But the vaccines don't provide perfect protection!" the vaccine evangelists cry. Of course, everything else they do, like driving, eating and riding a bike, is completely free of any hazard--right? I'll bite, though: let's take a look at the odds of having a breakthrough hospitalization or death. I have data for Indiana, but you can play along with data from your area.

Odds of Breakthrough Hospitalization

According to Indiana's COVID vaccine dashboard, we've had 523 breakthrough hospitalizations. With 3,147,716 people vaccinated, the odds of having a breakthrough hospitalization here are less than one in six thousand. (I say less than because the Regenstrief dashboard records hospitalizations with COVID, not for COVID.) In fact, the vaccine dashboard has a visual aid for anyone who doesn't understand these are long odds. Hospitalizations are represented by the little green dot.


Odds of Breakthrough Death

The red pinpoint shows 144 breakthrough deaths, or 1 for every 22,000 vaccinated people. Since around 70,000 people a year in Indiana die of all causes, 144 people represent 0.2% of all deaths. There will be more before the year is out, but it's unlikely that the breakthroughs will add up to even 1% of all deaths. The dashboard says the average age of breakthrough deaths is 79--they surely didn't get infected at work. 

Furthermore, we don't know how many of these breakthrough infections came from unvaccinated people. As several news stories mention and statistics from highly vaccinated countries show, vaccinated people can easily catch and spread COVID, even if they don't get as ill with it. I have a hypothesis that because vaccinated people don't get as ill, they're less likely to stay home when they're infected, therefore (unintentionally) spreading COVID. Maybe that's the reason behind this summer wave. I for one have never been traced as a contact of anyone who got COVID, even though I am at the office almost every day and my employer makes both infected employees and those they've come in contact with stay home from work. By the way, just how common is transmission at work? Unless you work as a meat packer or have close contact with people, work seems like an unlikely place to get sick now that the ill are ordered to not come in.

Is This Legal?

Reason magazine says that if Biden couldn't create a federal mask mandate, it's unlikely he can create a federal vaccine mandate. Reason adds that emergency OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) rules are often struck down in court--and at least two lawsuits are already in the works. 

Is This Even an Emergency?

A year and a half into this pandemic, with almost everyone back at work, the emergency is over. Any crisis from a shortage of medical professionals and caregivers is largely the result of the bureaucratic bungling that delayed medical care last year and put up odious barriers to employment in the form of experimental vaccine mandates this year. If you're worried about the shortage of medical care, write to your state government about the mandates and about CON (certificate of need) laws that let hospitals squelch any competition. Don't blame the unvaccinated. 

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the World Trade Center--a set of buildings large enough to have its own zip code--suffered a terrorist attack that sent dust, debris and hazardous materials for blocks. People didn't need to be told to cover their faces with cloth or get medical care because it was a real emergency. COVID is still around, of course, but the emergency--largely the result of the novel experiment in quarantining healthy people and media-generated panic--is over. Anybody who wants a vaccine can get one; COVID patients in the US can get monoclonal antibodies; those uncomfortable working in a high-risk environment have had the chance to change jobs. People can stay home, too. 

The unvaccinated are not a threat to the vaccinated, but firing tens of millions of them would be a disaster for everyone. If you think it's all someone else's problem, wait until you need something done in person.


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