Masks, Vaccines, Coronavirus, Herd Immunity, and Logic

Updated: Jun 20

I'll preface this by saying that I pass no judgement on someone who chooses to wear a mask, or not wear a mask, or get vaccinated or not get vaccinated; my judgement is on those who choose to force or compel others. There's an enormous difference.

Coronaphobia was instilled in the American population

“A person is smart. People are dumb, dangerous, panicky animals, and you know it.” — Agent K, Men in Black

K’s timeless wisdom is more applicable in the last year than at any point I can remember. Some people seem to be so infused with fear that they think they’re living in a bizarre variation of the Bird Box where certain death permeates the very atmosphere, and they have to cover their nose and mouth rather than their eyes.

I said recently that with the prevalence of vaccines, where everyone who wants to be vaccinated has now had the opportunity to do so, the wearing of masks is increasingly an indicator of which team you're playing for: the facial equivalent of shirts vs. skins.

Yes, there are certainly exceptions. Some people are immunodeficient and are at increased risk of serious complications or death from COVID, and cannot receive the vaccine. Others have loved ones who are in this category, such as my friend's son, who is battling Ewing Sarcoma, and they must take all possible precautions to protect him.

For everyone else, there is no longer any reason to mask up or, indeed, take any unusual precautions outside of good hygiene.

I wrote more than a year ago that masks help for obvious reasons of physics, but are hardly a panacea. The idea that a mask will render one immune to viruses is absurd. Inexplicably, however, some insist on wearing masks (even two masks) even after being vaccinated. You could see this at the Texas Capitol during the legislative session where some legislators posted signs on the doors of their offices that you had to wear a mask to enter, but some said you had to be vaccinated and wear a mask to enter.

As Senator Rand Paul so aptly put it to Dr. Anthony Fauci, "Isn't it just theatre?"

Yes, Senator Paul, it is indeed theatre.

Here's how it all works:

  • If you are vaccinated or if you've already had COVID-19 and developed natural antibodies, you are effectively immune to the virus

  • If someone who is infected sneezes on you, that's kind of disgusting, but due to your effective immunity, you don't really have anything to worry about

  • If you are not vaccinated or have not had COVID, you have now had plenty of opportunity to get vaccinated, so any risk incurred is your choice

  • If you are infected without realizing it, you present no real danger to anyone who has effective immunity, and any danger you present to the unvaccinated is their choice, thereby absolving you

Ergo, the idea that vaccinated people have anything to fear from unvaccinated people, or that people should be required to be vaccinated is the most absurd thing in all of this. Nobody should be required to be vaccinated, whether by the government, an employer, an airline, or anyone else, and nobody should be required to wear a mask in a public environment for the same reasons (medical providers are an exception to this for obvious reasons).

However, the now-familiar refrain is to “follow the science” (and more often, “You’re not following science!”). Well guess what, those perpetuating Coronaphobia haven't given a toot about science for a very long time now. Moreover, I have news for everyone: science has no opinions, and offers no path to follow. Science is simply the study of things, and yields facts and theories. It’s up to us to determine the best course of action given what we know.

And here's what we know. Y'all know how much I like data, right? Well I'm about to nerd out on you...

The Actual Science

According to the CDC, as shown in the graphic below, as of June 18, 2021, more than 52 percent of the population of the United States age 12 and over has been fully vaccinated (nearly 45 percent of the total population).

This doesn't count the people who have had COVID and recovered, thereby developing natural antibodies. Let's be really generous and assume that as many as one-third of known COVID cases also chose to get vaccinated, which out of 27 million cases, leaves 18 million with natural immunity, or another 5.5 percent of the population, which brings us to more than 50 percent. I could argue that many more people have had it and didn't know it, or never got tested, and so never became a "confirmed" case, but let's be generous again and assume that all of those have been vaccinated.

Add to that...

Children and COVID

On top of the rates of vaccination and natural immunity above, children under 18 years old, which make up more than 22 percent of the population, fight and react to the virus similarly to those who have natural immunity (this is what everyone knew President Trump meant when he said that "Children are basically immune." The operative word there is "basically.")

President Trump was excoriated for this comment, but he was right. As evidence, see Figures 2 and 3 below from President Biden's CDC. Out of 3.36 million cases (that we know of) in children under 18, in the past 16 months there have been 461 deaths, which is a mortality rate of 0.000137.

What may jump out at you about the charts above, however, is that the number of actual cases in age groups under 18 is significantly under-representative of those age groups' percentage of the population. Children ages 5-17 account for only 10.4 percent of cases, yet represent 16.3 percent of the population, while the next highest age group, 18-29, accounted for 22.5 percent of cases, yet represent approximately the same percentage of the population. Could that be right? Were children really so sheltered from the virus that they managed to escape infection to the tune of less than half the infection rate of the next highest age group?

Of course not. Many school systems in the U.S. have been open for many months, and children are as social as adults age 18-29. They're also a good deal less sanitary, as illustrated by the Tweet below.

The difference is that they're much more resistant, which is why they make ineffective carriers, despite their saliva-spreading inclinations. Being more resistant, they exhibit far fewer symptoms, which results in fewer parents even feeling the need to get the tested to make them part of the table above.

In fact, if their numbers were adjusted to account for this, reflecting a much more likely number of infections in children under 18, the mortality rate would go way down, to (according to my calculations) just 0.00006346, or 63.46 deaths per 1 million cases (not per 1 million population), similar to deaths in that age group from the seasonal flu. That's just 15 percent of the death rate of the next highest age group, and a mere 1.7 percent the death rate from my age group, which is still very low. So yes, children are "basically" immune.

That brings us to 72 percent of the population with effective immunity; let's just drop it to a cool 70 percent to allow for the 8 million children who have been vaccinated.

That's what herd immunity is. When a novel virus enters a population which has no natural resistance, a whole lot of people get infected and carry the virus around for as long as it's in their system (in the case of SARS-CoV-2, a couple of weeks). They serve as effective carriers of the virus, even if they have few or no symptoms, and can pass it along to others. Remember, that was the entire rationale for forced masking--that you may have the virus, but be asymptomatic, and unwittingly spread it to others. Though I was pro-voluntary masking, I was anti-forced masking (see my video recap from the attempt to force masking in Plano).

However, when enough people in a community have immunity (whether naturally by being infected and developing antibodies, or through vaccination), those people are ineffective carriers because their bodies immediately attack and kill the virus if they're exposed. See how this works here. That means that they don't carry it around for a couple of weeks, passing it along to others. They carry it around for only hours, possibly minutes, severely reducing the possibility of spreading the virus to others. Additionally, vaccinations have proven highly effective against the new "highly contagious" (note the Coronaphobia language) variants.

This is all a very long-winded way of saying the pandemic is over and no one should be mandating anything.

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