Letter to the Editor
Recent correspondents have stated that vaccinated persons can harbour and spread the Covid virus. This is not wrong, but knowledge of the entire process is necessary to reveal the complex meaning of the statement.
The Covid virus, like most viruses, is sterile on its own. Just as the malarial parasite needs the mosquito to complete its life cycle and would be extinguished without this helpful little insect, a virus needs an organic host to reproduce. The only ‘purpose’ of a virus is to reproduce, which it does by using the generative machinery of the host’s cells to replicate itself, killing the host’s cells in the process. The host population should be as large and social as possible to make sure the virus population thrives. Any sickness brought about by viral infection is collateral damage. This viral play book is true whether for polio, measles, mumps or Covid. Very crudely the number of your cells destroyed by the virus determines whether you suffer a lot or a little and whether you live or die.
However vaccines differ in their ability to reduce viral load. Some ,such as the smallpox and measles vaccines, give sterilizing immunity which means they both prevent the disease breaking out in the individual and kill the virus entirely—no transmission possible. Others such as the Hepatitis B and the rotavirus vaccines protect the individual from the disease but retain the infective virus in the individual’s body. The rotavirus vaccine is an interesting case because it still allows infection by the vaccinated but reduces significantly the viral load and thus the level of transmission. A 10 year (2006-2016) study indicated that positive tests for the rotavirus dropped anywhere from 74% to 90% after the vaccine was introduced in the U.S. As it takes a long time to measure AND interpret transmission rates and vaccine lifetimes the jury is still out on the Covid vaccines. But it does appear they do not have sterilising immunity, they do reduce the viral load in vaccinated people, and they do offer good protection against effects of the disease. The vast majority of vaccinated persons, if not already in compromised health, usually suffer no ill effects or, at most, a much milder version of the sickness associated with the virus. And vaccination ensures that any virus spread by a vaccinated person will be significantly less potent.
‘Natural’ immunity creates the same defence antibodies a vaccine does. But the virus has much more time to get to work replicating and destroying cells while the immune system takes time to recognize the virus’ protein, notify the immune cells to create antibodies, and finally gets busy doing so. In that extended time the virus is busy reproducing by killing the host’s cells. If you survive an infection without vaccination, you have now become vaccinated. The Black Death is seen as an historical artefact, however an outbreak in Madagascar in 2017 left thousands infected and 170 deaths. With a minimum death rate of 30% I leave it to your imagination as to what reliance on ‘natural’ immunity to the Black Death would produce if public health providers were not allowed to ameliorate its effects by placing antibiotics in the body’s ‘sacred’ temple and instituting widespread sanitation procedures.
Simply stating that vaccinated persons can spread the virus is meaningless without the full viral story and doing so bolsters an unstated belief by assuming that the reader will see it as a reason for believing vaccines are harmful. The out-of-context bias is very common deflective trope. It is an example of what Freud called externalisation. Perhaps the most egregious trope of this type is the projection of your own faults onto others—Rush Limbaugh was an expert practitioner of externalisation when he endlessly spoke of femi-nazis and the drive-by-media as being guilty of name calling. Conspiracy theorists do the same in accusing their opponents of lacking ‘critical reasoning’ while they build their fantasies with illogical reasoning. Mr. Rennpferd’s letter in the Grapevine of Dec. 16th maligning his opponents by quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a classic example of this form of externalisation. The Nazis made widespread use of denial of reason and falsification of facts as first conceived by Hitler as “the big lie”in Mein Kampf . Bonhoeffer, a pastor whose short life was dedicated to resisting Nazis would be horrified to find his words being used to attack the very people he would consider as allies.
Lee McIntyre in his book “How to Talk to a Science Denier” lists five tropes commonly used by conspiracy theorists. The most interesting one is “a belief that if science isn’t perfect, then it is wrong.” Science has never claimed perfection; indeed its exponents have endlessly upheld its existence as an ongoing process subject to change. But it appears to be this particular belief in perfection that lets our anti-vaccine correspondents dismiss entirely all real vaccine evidence. The viral cycle is so well known that it should be accepted by both sides in this controversy before they even begin to put forward their arguments for and against vaccination. It is the result of the ‘critical thinking’ we are endlessly encouraged to use and therefore one of the known facts on which we could begin to come together, as some of your heartfelt correspondents have so earnestly requested us to do.