The cost of crying wolf

Why do so many Americans believe crazy things? Maybe not "crazy," but beliefs that wildly get wrong factual costs and benefits, such as those of vaccines? 

It does not help that they have been lied to, over and over again. Why should they believe anything now? Our elites, and in particular our public health bureaucrats, though invoking the holy name of "science," have been trying to massage public psychology via deliberate obfuscation for a few years now. There is little science of managing public psychology, and if there is, epidemiologists don't have it. There is some good ancient wisdom, as codified in the story of the boy who cried wolf.  We do know that when lies are exposed, when elites are shown to be disparaging and trying to manipulate average people, trust erodes. 

This thought is boosted by Marty Makary's WSJ Oped "The High Cost of Disparaging Natural Immunity to Covid."

For most of last year, many of us called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release its data on reinfection rates, but the agency refused. Finally last week, the CDC released data from New York and California, which demonstrated natural immunity was 2.8 times as effective in preventing hospitalization and 3.3 to 4.7 times as effective in preventing Covid infection compared with vaccination.

Yet the CDC spun the report to fit its narrative, bannering the conclusion “vaccination remains the safest strategy.” 

Why? Well, both facts can be true. It can be true that immunity from previous exposure is very powerful, and even more powerful than vaccination, but that vaccination rather than let-it-rip, lockdowns, or masks, remains the safest public health strategy.  Why not say so? Because the CDC thinks we're morons and can't understand that, so it must suppress evidence of natural immunity to scare people into vaccination. Then the word gets out, and people trust the CDC even less. (The rest of the article is great on facts of natural immunity.) 

It's worse.

The narrative disparaging natural immunity does not just counter the do-nothing policy, it reinforces policies for mandatory vaccination. As it becomes clear that vaccines do not stop transmission (another falsehood reiterated by many local vaccine mandates -- vaccinate to "make the workplace safe" for the rest of us), the rationale for mandatory vaccination, which mostly protects the patient, is much weaker. 

As the article makes clear, the Narrative is also in support of policies for mandatory vaccination of those who have had Covid, so have natural immunity, and not allowing proof of prior infection in place of vaccination. I guess the latter is to enforce a sort of "we're all in this together with no excuses" mentality. Heaven knows what science justifies that. 

As the article points out, once it turned out that many Americans resist vaccination, for whatever reason, this policy has been a disaster. 

By firing staff with natural immunity, employers got rid of those least likely to infect others. It’s time to reinstate those employees with an apology...

...public-health officials recklessly destroyed the careers of everyday Americans, rallying to fire pilots, truck drivers and others in the supply-chain workforce who didn’t get vaccinated. And in the early months of the vaccine rollout, when supplies were limited, we could have saved many more lives by giving priority to those who didn’t have recorded natural immunity.

CDC, FDA: Provide information, timely, truthfully, transparently, and with warnings of uncertainty. Earn trust, don't squander it trying to manipulate people. Like the wolf-boy, the trust you earn with each pronouncement is far more important than the announcement itself. 


Incentives to get vaccinated are another sad story of American policy. We seem unable to get past the old joke about communism that everything is either mandatory or forbidden. (I tried to get a booster in September and ran in to forbidden. Before it became mandatory.) 

A small section of commentary suggests that unvaccinated people not be treated in emergency rooms. Doctors and medical ethicists answer, correctly, that this is inhuman. But as a corollary to the last theorem, everything in America must now be free or denied. The right answer would seem to be, if you are not vaccinated, health insurance will adjust your premiums, as they do for smokers. Why must higher premiums for unvaccinated people be illegal? 

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