I don’t believe the vaccine was designed to be used as a cudgel
There is so much disagreement among my family, friends and colleagues regarding the measures adopted by governments to manage Covid. After these discussions, I’m often left feeling that I should tone down my criticism of the measures adopted by the governments of Bermuda, my adopted country, and Trinidad, my birthplace.
That feeling passes very quickly, however. I write this letter to share some of my thoughts; not to change minds, but to offer some insight into what is a minority-held view at present. Where necessary, I reference reliable information — the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, peer-reviewed studies, etc — that helped to shape my view.
The first and biggest source of disagreement is: is the danger of Covid overestimated?
My opinion in no way reflects a lack of sympathy. To those who have lost a loved one, I extend my condolences, truly. I have not lost anyone close (yet) and have worked to determine the likelihood that I will.
In my social/peer grouping, the answer is likely none, although not definitely none. If I were to assume my entire peer group were to become infected, even without the vaccine, the CDC’s age-specified survival rates are greater than 99 per cent for those under 70 years and 94.6 per cent for those over 70 years. Covid is disproportionately lethal to the elderly and very ill but by no means a death sentence, either, not even close — the infection fatality rate for 85-year-olds like my dad is estimated to be 15 per cent; for 75-year-olds like my mom 4.6 per cent, for 65-year-olds 1.4 per cent, and for 55-year-olds 0.4 per cent. The source here is the European Journal of Epidemiology in December 2020 — assessing the age specificity of infection fatality rates for Covid-19: systematic review, meta-analysis, and public-policy implications. If we’re truly acting on the data, then is the CDC and peer-reviewed study inaccurate?
The next biggest source of disagreement: is vaccination good?
Without a doubt, yes, but not as a discriminatory tool. Allow me to explain. Drawing from the above and again emphasising that Covid is not a guaranteed death sentence to the at-risk groups, that same group which includes my parents is in need of protection and peace of mind. The vaccines offer this, no questions asked. To the lower-risk groups, however, there is not much additional protection and best decided by the individual and their doctor, and definitely not by a far-removed government official with no medical training.
The argument put forward the most to get the low-risk group vaccinated is that it reduces asymptomatic spread. To that I respond with the words of Anthony Fauci in 2020 — “Even if there is asymptomatic transmission, in all the history of respiratory-borne viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks”. Surely we should be looking at the past hundred years of medical knowledge — coronaviruses aren’t new — in determining vaccination policy?
I find it impossible to believe that the doctors developing a vaccine intended it to be used as a cudgel. I understand the political need for the Premier to appear strong, but he could benefit from showing wisdom, too.
The last source of disagreement: have the lockdowns, quarantines, masking, and distancing policies worked?
I cannot say for certain but I lean towards no, they have not. There are more than 50 studies (and more coming out) that these policies on a net basis are harmful to overall population health, eg, mental health (suicide and depression), child development (not just in-person education but masks limit non-verbal communication development), increases in undetected cancers, drug abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, unemployment and the list can go on.
There are far too many sources to list but for anyone interested in hearing or reading more, please have a look at the papers and interviews with these esteemed professionals — Jay Bhattacharya (a senior adviser to Florida governor whose state is performing well; not without death, but overall well), John Ioannidis, Sunetra Gupta, Martin Kulldorf, Scott Atlas. These are but a few individuals from prestigious universities and medical schools, ie, not quacks.
Yes, the Bermuda Government has set a reopening date, but it has not publicly considered abandoning these net harmful policies, and many of us are aware of the asterisk next to these “reopening” dates.
In closing, I find it very discouraging that Bermuda has an entire (reputational) industry built around risk management and specifically a sector devoted to (re)insuring health and death risk, and to date I have not heard or seen a single captain from these industries come forward to broaden the discussion.
This industry fully understands that the zero-Covid policy is unachievable and the country would benefit in hearing the discussion move beyond the harmful policies adopted to achieve an unattainable goal. The virus is here to stay and there is no moving beyond it.
I’m no industry captain, but as an officer of a Bermuda reinsurer in the long-term sector, I come forward to say that there are better alternatives to what Bermuda has done — the ideas espoused in the Great Barrington Declaration are a good place to start.