Advanced Narrative Collapse
One of Germany's dumbest immunologists explains why everything is actually going as expected right now.
Germany vaccinated 70% of everyone against SARS-2, and the press spent September wondering if it was finally time to declare victory over Corona. Now, the very thing that anonymous crazy Twitter accounts predicted, is coming to pass: A lot of people are getting sick and ending up in hospital again.
Many ICUs are strained under the burden of Corona patients. The first hospitals are already postponing planned operations. The situation reminds us of last winter, when high rates of infection were followed by days with as many as 1000 deaths from Covid-19. But now the situation is different. Everyone has been offered vaccination, and most people have accepted it. Nevertheless, on Monday, the Robert Koch Institute announced a nationwide 7-day incidence of 201 [cases per 100k people]—higher than ever before in the pandemic. How is that possible?
How indeed. To patch the narrative back together, they call Dr Christine Falk, president of the German Society for Immunology and one of the most idiotic people in central Europe. Her field is transplant immunology, which has nothing to do with viruses or vaccines. Naturally, this has not prevented her from saying ridiculous things about Corona to the press at every opportunity for many months now.
The Welt reporter asks: What is going on, Dr Falk?
Well, says Dr Falk:
[T]his was … predictable in the summer. As early as July, the Robert Koch Institute published models showing which vaccination rates are likely to lead to which rates of infection. There, you can clearly see that a vaccination rate of 65 to below 75 percent is too low to prevent high case rates. We haven’t overestimated the effect of vaccination, it’s very good.
One of the things that has been so hard about the last 20 months, is enduring the constant stream of garbage-grade lies that flow forth from the press and their scientific informants. Everything that is said about Corona in mainstream news outlets is just hopelessly broken.
We’re seeing what we feared with a low vaccination rate and insufficient contact tracing.
Contact tracing, that’s the problem: You can’t make this up.
It’s surely true that we simply have too few vaccinated people in the population. For a significant flattening of infections and thus hospitalisations, we would have had to achieve at least 75 percent. A few percent has a very big impact there.
Emphasis mine. Once you go over 75%, Corona just flattens out. It’s science, that’s how science works. It’s why things are going great in 76% fully vaccinated-Denmark, for example.
It’s why the United Kingdom, where over 90% of adults have antibodies to the spike protein of SARS-2, has fewer infections than Germany right now.
Even Falk seems to realise this is weak tea, so she immediately takes up another line:
I also think we failed to point out over the summer that the pandemic unfortunately just isn’t over yet. It was clear that seasonality would make things worse again in the fall and winter. The more people stay in closed and poorly ventilated rooms, the greater the risk of infection.
It’s always interesting, to see in which contexts experts choose to acknowledge seasonality. Generally, they studiously ignore regional and seasonal effects; here, however, to save the vaccines, winter is allowed to explain the rise in infections.
Could this all be down to Delta, Welt wants to know? Falk plainly has no idea:
It’s not possible to put a reliable figure on this … But you could obviously say that we’d of course be better off if we only had the alpha variant or the wild type of SARS-CoV-2. I don’t want to even think about how things would be, without vaccination and with Delta, that would be a much harder situation.
Somehow, because Delta is aerosolised and so much more infectious, we need to mask more:
With Delta, even a low concentration of infectious aerosols is sufficient … For this reason, I find efforts to lift the mask requirement extremely dangerous right now. This virus has been playing Russian roulette with people from the very beginning – even with the younger ones. The more who are infected, the more people who are actually at low risk end up in intensive care. Delta is by no means just a disease of the elderly.
If Delta can infect you at very low aerosol concentrations, masks aren’t going to do anything. From the beginning, airborne transmission has been a very obvious argument against masking. And this panic mongering about Russian roulette: What it means, when you define a demographic as lower-risk, is that they will experience severe outcomes at lower rates than demographics at higher risk. Any virus will put an increasing number of people in hospital, the more people it infects. The point is the rate at which it does so. Falk is not interested in things like rates, because she is not a serious person.
Why do healthy young people need to be vaccinated? Well, says Falk, it’s like football, or something.
To make it clearer, I thought of a comparison to football the other day. Being unvaccinated is like taking a penalty kick without a goalkeeper. The virus is the ball and our nasopharyngeal cells are the goal … You have zero protection, you can eat as many vegetables and exercise as much as you want.
Even after 20 months of wall-to-wall dishonesty from the press, it is still astounding to see an immunologist telling one of Germany’s largest papers that being unvaccinated is the equivalent of having no immune system.
WELT: And in this incomplete defence – to stay with the football metaphor – fresh players could be substituted by a booster vaccination?
Falk: That’s right – the booster can restore optimal defence against the virus.
What do you even say to absurdities like this? Vaccines train your immune system to respond to specific pathogens. They are not in themselves “players” that can be fielded against the virus and changed out as necessary. This is a completely ridiculous way to think about what is happening, here, it makes no sense.
WELT: Would you also recommend boosters for younger age groups, such as under-40s?
Of course Falk would recommend boosters for younger age groups. She probably hopes to vaccinate her goldfish. But she also stands by current guidelines that reserve boosters for those 70 and older:
From a logistical standpoint … and to avoid renewed chaos and a rush to get vaccinated, it makes sense for everyone over 70 and for people with serious comorbidities to get the booster first. In Israel it looks like booster vaccinations have contributed significantly to easing the infection situation. However, it’s just as important to win over everyone who still has doubts about vaccination and to return to following hygiene and distancing rules more closely again. Otherwise, I think, the fourth wave can’t be broken.
Emphasis mine. Falk invokes seasonality to explain the rising winter wave in Germany, while letting boosters take the credit for the receding August wave in Israel. If any interventions actually worked, they wouldn’t have to lie like this. Otherwise, her reluctance to openly embrace boosters for everyone is revealing. The reason is not that they fear there will be some chaotic rush for Dose 3 (imagine believing that), but rather that, with every further dose, fewer will opt in, deepening the ranks of opposition. Every time the subject of boosters for the general population comes up, you can feel a guardedness and evasion creep into the discourse of the vaccinators.
Welt then wants to know if we’ll see the same mortality we saw last winter.
That depends on many factors, especially the age distribution among the unvaccinated. We now have more younger people in intensive care units, and they recover more frequently. So the dynamics are a little different than last year. Overall, though, any prediction would be speculation because it’s hard to see how new infections will actually develop over the next few weeks. In any case, if things continue as they are now, it will be very uncomfortable. And once again, the most vulnerable group is undoubtedly the unvaccinated – who, curiously enough, are the most outraged by contact restrictions.
I am laughing while I translate this. Falk knows as well as I do that we’ll be lucky if 1000 deaths a day is as bad as it gets.
She concludes by saying that “this winter will probably be enough” to end the pandemic, confirming that the plan is to manically vaccinate until the spring, and hope that natural immunity begins to stabilise the situation behind the scenes.
It is hard to emphasise what a discursive train-wreck this is. The broader narrative that framed our response over the past year – “hide under the bed until the vaccines save us” – has been totally destroyed.
Whenever I post about about the extreme stupidity of vaccinators like Falk, some of you object that they’re actually quite smart and merely playing a part for the public. That is very much the wrong view. On the one hand, people like Dr Falk don’t have any deeper arguments, about why we need more masks or more vaccines or more anything. But on the other hand, her rhetoric is just unimaginably dumb, even as a messaging strategy. You never want too much truth to accumulate with the opposition. When events start getting away from you, the first thing to do is make a show of recalibrating and conceding some points to reality. Instead, Dr Falk and the rest of Team Corona continue to say oblivious and ridiculous things all the time. This is bad for them, it really is.
UPDATE: Whenever you see major press outlets trying on different, contradictory, narratives, you know things aren’t going well in the Ministry of Propaganda. While in German we’re told that the coming suffering reflects our vaccine hesitancy, the Wall Street Journal wonders if we’re getting a case surge now because we locked down too effectively.
Note how these narratives are calibrated for different audiences: Our domestic press wants to scold us into higher vaccine uptake, while the American press has held up lockdown funhouse countries like Germany as an example of what the US should be doing.