The new case for jabs makes the idea of vaccine passports absurd
It may be half a pandemic ago, but cast your mind back to last November when the good news about Covid vaccines first arrived. Boris Johnson heard the “bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill”, and within weeks both Pfizer and Moderna had reported a stunning 95 per cent efficacy rate for their vaccines. To most of us, 95 per cent sounded rather a lot like 100 per cent: if we could get everyone vaccinated, Covid-19 would become a thing of the past.
That underlying presumption explains a lot of the discourse ever since: the drive to vaccinate younger people even if they were at negligible risk from Covid, to play their part in reducing transmission, for example, and of course the enthusiasm among the technocrat class for vaccine passports. If you are at a party or a football match with only certifiably double vaxxed folks, so the idea went, we could all breathe easy.
It hasn’t worked out quite like that. While the vaccines are still doing a good job of reducing serious disease and death, their protection against catching Covid has proven disappointing. A combination of new variants and fading immunity has left those early hopes of 95 per cent protection in tatters. As Professor Neil Ferguson put it only yesterday, “92 per cent of adults may have antibodies at the moment, but only about half of those are protected against infection, so there’s a lot of transmission going on between vaccinated people.” His university, Imperial, now estimates protection against infection from two vaccines at 50-60 per cent.
Meanwhile, Israel, one of the earliest countries to vaccinate almost all its citizens and therefore a useful sign of things to come, is experiencing a surge in infections. In May, the Israeli Ministry of Health estimated the efficacy of two vaccines against infection at 95 per cent; by July 5, that estimate had fallen to 64 per cent; and the most recent estimate puts it at 39 per cent. They’re now rolling out booster shots to try to shore up the crumbling wall of immunity against infection.
As usual, there’s a lag of a month or two before the full implications of such a fast-changing situation sink in, but let me try to put it simply. If you have had your two vaccines, it doesn’t mean you will not get Covid: there is no way to remove that possibility. Happily, if you do get it you are much, much less likely to get seriously ill or die, so it is absolutely worth getting vaccinated, as well as taking booster shots when they are offered. But the case rests on protecting yourself from ill health, rather than other people. And you can leave behind any notion of dividing the world between the safe, clean, vaccinated majority and the scary unvaccinated hordes – Covid will continue to circulate among the entire population
, hopefully at manageable levels.
The implications of this development in terms of policy are becoming clear. It delivers a final coup-de-grace to the “Zero Covid” movement, as if that goal was ever achievable; and it removes much of the moral argument for vaccinating the youngest, who will evidently be able to pass on the infection in any case.
Perhaps most significantly, it represents a hole under the water line for vaccine passports. If you are worried about catching Covid at a gathering, which would you rather: that everybody has done a quick test at the door, or that everybody presents vaccination papers? The former now makes more sense – whether the powers that be admit as much remains to be seen.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/0 ... ts-absurd/