Coronavirus Update 8/26/21

By Whitney Tilson

Thursday, August 26, 2021
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1) I could be wrong, but I think the nasty (and completely needless) fourth wave we’re experiencing may soon peak – you can see the leveling off in this chart of cases (source):

Note that hospitalizations and deaths will likely peak roughly 1-2 weeks and 3-4 weeks, respectively, after cases do:

More evidence of a possible peak (source):

2) The formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine is great news for two reasons: first, roughly 30% of the unvaxxed say that this might persuade them to get the jab; and secondly, various companies and organizations were waiting for this before proceeding with a vaccination requirement – now the floodgates are open (for example, see: N.Y.C. will require shots for all education staff, including teachers and principals and Pentagon requires military members get COVID-19 vaccine immediately).

3) If you want proof of how effective the vaccines are, look no further than this study (source):

[Some eagle-eyed readers noticed that the partially vaxxed have lower infection rates that the fully vaxxed. I suspect this might be due to: a) statistical noise... b) partially vaxxed folks being younger... and/or c) the vaccine wearing off for some people (hence the need for boosters).] 

4) Here’s a Bloomberg article with good news about the boosters we’ll all need to get soon: 

Waning antibody levels in some highly vaccinated populations such as Israel have prompted calls to offer Covid booster shots to blunt fresh waves of hospitalizations in the face of the delta variant.  

So far, third doses seem to be working

In fully vaccinated, healthy adults, booster shots from Moderna as well as Pfizer and its partner BioNTech cause antibodies to rebound to peak levels, if not well beyond, says Shane Crotty, a virologist and professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology’s Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research in California. 

Those antibodies are also likely to be more durable and adept at fighting a wider range of SARS-CoV-2 strains. All that fits with what we know about the mechanics of immune memory generation“that it’s frequently taken three exposures to get that,” Crotty says. 

Also, see: J&J Says Covid-19 Booster Prompts Strong Immune Response and this thread on Twitter that begins: 

I played tennis this morning with a friend who got a booster yesterday. Other than a little soreness in his arm, he said he felt great.

It now looks like we can get a booster after six months, not eight: U.S. Regulators Are Likely to Approve Boosters at Six Months. I got my second shot on March 5, five-and-a-half months ago, so I look forward to getting a booster that will protect me even better.

5) Ah, but what about the risks? Neither I nor anyone else has ever never claimed that the vaccines are 100% risk free – rather, that based on everything we know, nearly everyone age 12+ is FAR safer getting vaxxed.

And every day that goes by, this becomes more true. We crossed a milestone yesterday, as more than FIVE BILLION vax doses have now been administered worldwide. I referenced this in an e-mail to a friend who said his 14-year-old daughter got vaxxed and now has excess menstrual bleeding, so urged me to dial back my vaccine advocacy. I replied: 

I am really sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope she gets better soon 

But you were not wrong to get her vaccinated. When it comes to critical decisions like this, you have to follow the data and assess the odds correctly, not fall back on anecdotes – because then what about my good friend’s 11-year-old son who’s really sick right now and my other good friend’s dad who refused to listen when my friend begged him to get the jab – and just paid for his foolishness with his LIFE on Saturday… 

I have always been clear that the COVID vaccines have risk – but today, we passed FIVE BILLION doses administered worldwide. And, needless to say, no vaccine campaign in history has been more closely scrutinized. If they were causing widespread complications of any sort, we would know by now.

Keep in mind that bad/unusual things happen to a certain percentage of people every day. Therefore, the law of large numbers means that it’s a statistical certainty that LOTS of people (when the denominator is FIVE BILLION), soon after getting vaxxed, will have bad things happen to them shortly afterwards – which, of course, people will attribute to the vax.

You and I have the analytical background to understand that 1, 2, 5 or 10 anecdotes isn’t data. But that’s not how most people think…

As I wrote in my July 31 e-mail:

I would wager that the average person isn’t able to fully, rationally assess the difference between a 1-in-1,000 risk of catching COVID and suffering severe consequences (even death) vs. a 1-in-100,000 chance of suffering severe consequences (even death) from taking one of the COVID vaccines. 

Both are extremely unlikely, so what’s the difference, right? Well, for 999 out of every 1,000 individuals, that’s in fact correct. So best to stick with the “safe” option of doing nothing – what psychologists call “status quo bias.”

But I trust you can see that, when we’re talking large populations, the vaccination option is 100 times better/safer! 

So I appreciate you sharing your story (and I’m truly sorry about your daughter), but I won’t be dialing it back because of a few anecdotes, when large-scale data so overwhelmingly supports everyone getting vaxxed (for example, see this article: CDC study shows unvaccinated people 29 times more likely to be hospitalized and More Kids Are Hospitalized With Covid-19).

6) Another reader e-emailed me: 

I have what I believe is a logical question. If the government is so suddenly worried about our health that they are starting to force people to inject something into their bodies they don't want, why do they still allow cigarettes to be sold??... I don't see much from the government mandating everyone get healthy and quit the bad habits. Alcohol? Another major cause of death and disease. So, once again; why is it anyone's business if I take the shot or not??? 

I replied:

Your comparison with smoking makes my case. As the saying goes, “your right to smoke ends at the tip of my nose.” 

You can’t smoke on a plane, train, bus or pretty much any indoor setting.

It’s the exact same thing for COVID – if you don’t want to get vaxxed, fine – but you can’t endanger anyone else. You can’t be indoors, on any public transport, or be a teacher, nurse, soldier, etc. 

Simple! 

He replied:

Yes, it's very simple. If you are vaxxed and the vaccine is effective, you should have no worry even if I blow covid smoke right up your nose. After you have your third shot, would you honestly be afraid to sit next to me on a plane??? Why wouldn't you be afraid to sit next to a person who was vaxxed, given that it's now an accepted fact they can still catch and pass covid?? The covid from them is no different than covid from me. I in fact may be safer, since theoretically I would be more likely to be symptomatic and stay home from that flight.

I replied:

You are badly misinformed.

1) Have you thought about my friend who can’t get vaxxed because he’s immunocompromised? What about all of the children under age 12?

2) The data is clear that unvaxxed people CAN infect vaxxed people, especially now that the highly contagious delta variant is running wild. 

You sound like you’ve been around a while, so maybe you can explain this to me. During times of crisis, we used to pull together as a nation and think about the common good. Americans, first and foremost, thought not about themselves, but asked, “What can I do that will help my fellow citizens and my country?”

Why does that seem to have disappeared?

Best regards,

Whitney

7) A friend pointed out this ironic inconsistency: 

Some people don't want to get the vaccines because they worry that they’re too new and unproven; yet, when they become ill, they are willing to receive to an infusion of monoclonal antibodies, an experimental new therapy!

Here’s another inconsistency: The Daily Show compiled clips showing Fox News praising (as I have) Trump’s Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines so quickly, but now they’re questioning how quickly the Pfizer vaccine was approved: Fox News on the FDA’s Vax Approval vs. Operation Warp Speed

8) You can NOT make this stuff up! A recent survey of both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans shows that, when asked which of the following people or groups are to blame for the rising COVID cases and spread of new variants in the U.S., the latter blame, in order: 1) foreign travelers in the U.S. (presumably meaning illegal immigrants); 2) the mainstream media; 3) Americans traveling internationally; and 4) Joe Biden. Meanwhile, 79% of vaccinated folks correctly identify the unvaxxed (source)…

Related: Jordan Klepper Debates Anti-Vax Mandate Protesters in NYC

9) The latest unnecessary deaths attributable to the anti-vax death cult:

10) Various articles of interest that I don’t have time to comment on:

Best regards,

Whitney

Whitney Tilson
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About Whitney Tilson

Prior to creating Empire Financial Research, Whitney Tilson founded and ran Kase Capital Management, which managed three value-oriented hedge funds and two mutual funds. Starting out of his bedroom with only $1 million, Tilson grew assets under management to more than $200 million.

Tilson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in government in 1989. After college, he helped Wendy Kopp launch Teach for America and then spent two years as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1994, where he graduated in the top 5% of his class and was named a Baker Scholar.

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