by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
This past October the North Carolina Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS) started reporting data on reinfections with Covid-19 (in daily case counts) and post-vaccination infections (in weekly respiratory disease surveillance reports). DHHS’ weekly counts of post-vaccination infections lag by a few weeks, but now extending to January 1, it is enough to produce the graph below.
The graph shows how lab-confirmed Covid-19 infections across December break down according to three categories: reinfections, post-vaccination cases, and cases to unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals.* Based on the dates of DHHS reports, these data basically cover the month of December as the omicron variant started filtering into the state, going from December 4 to January 1.
Here are the raw numbers behind the graph:
Readers surprised that 35% of cases were to people fully vaccinated should be aware of this ongoing and yes, worsening problem — irrespective of what Pres. Joe Biden said on Jan. 4 about it being a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” The DHHS report updated Jan. 13 showed that 40% of new cases in the final week of December came to the fully vaccinated (this statistic does not differentiate among cases according to severity).
Fans of the North Carolina State University baseball team got an early indication of this problem when the team got sent home from the College World Series after the NCAA, in a highly questionable decision, subjected all players of NC State (and only NC State) for testing, and four vaccinated team members tested positive for Covid-19. I wrote then that, “Notwithstanding the small sample of NC State baseball players, but at some point we’re going to have to talk about this high rate of positive tests coming from people who’ve ALREADY BEEN VACCINATED.”
Public health officials tried to hide the falling efficiency of the vaccines (for example, DHHS was still telling people in late July that “unvaccinated people account for 99 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases since May,” even though their own charts showed that to be false). They tried to define it away (q.v., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changing the definitions of “vaccine” and “vaccination”). Now they are beginning to acknowledge it. Their acknowledgment includes pointing out that the vaccines help prevent worse infections and outcomes, which still seems to be the case.
A Jan. 19 report from the CDC showed that natural immunity from a prior infection of Covid-19 provided significantly stronger protection against the delta variant than that offered by the current vaccines. It’s noteworthy in that it is from the CDC. Scientific research literature is suffuse with studies (146 and counting as of now) attesting to the superior strength of natural immunity to Covid-19, but public health officials and leaders from Pres. Joe Biden on down to Gov. Roy Cooper have been pretending as if there is no such thing.
Still, all too often officials’ acknowledgment of the problem includes trying to keep vaccine passports, mandates, and other statist control measures in place even though the ostensible public health purpose behind all the unconstitutional — and unconscionable — coercion against people has collapsed. Such a case is unsustainable. A vaccine that cannot prevent infection to, nor the spread of infection from, its recipients undoes the government’s only rationale behind forcing it on people at great personal cost to them for noncompliance.
A government that mandates such a vaccine with no accounting whatsoever for overwhelmingly research-backed greater immunity from prior infection (natural immunity) is enforcing compliance over actual public health. Free states don’t treat its citizens that way. Free states trust people to weigh the benefits and costs of health decisions to themselves and try to give them the best information possible.
The issue is coercion, the use of government force against individuals amid and despite great uncertainty. There are good reasons why people — especially in high-risk populations — would choose vaccination against Covid-19. There are also good reasons why people, especially with natural immunity or in very low-risk populations, would choose not to receive vaccination against Covid-19. Both those choices ought to be fully respected, and neither should be coerced. The benefit/cost profile changes significantly from person to person, and that reality is ignored by one-order-fits-all mandates.
* Note: Because of how the “unvaccinated” are defined bureaucratically as opposed to plain speaking, the category of “unvaccinated” must be properly stated “unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals.” Taking cues from the CDC, DHHS defines someone as “unvaccinated” if the person has received only one of two injections or if the person is within two weeks of receiving the second injection.
What that means is that some unknown proportion of cases has occurred to people in definitional limbo somewhere between the first injection and 13 days after receiving the second one. Precision requires they be at least acknowledged.