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Right All Along: Actual Science Keeps Undercutting Vaccine and Mask Mandates

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Over the past few weeks, deep reviews of actual science – not agenda-driven political science – have undermined the basis for both vaccine and mask mandates. There are also fairness, civil liberties, and personal freedom arguments to be made on these fronts, but even from the standpoint of pure medical and scientific efficacy, the imposition of such requirements is looking worse and worse. On the vaccines – which saved many lives, especially among elderly and vulnerable populations – mandates have been controversial from the outset. Many people, experts and doctors included, who objected to requiring COVID vaccines, and who emphasized the importance of natural immunity, were dismissed and demonized for much of the pandemic. But as we've learned, once again, they were right all along. 

The latest confirmation: 

Immunity acquired from a Covid infection provides strong, lasting protection against the most severe outcomes of the illness, according to research published Thursday in The Lancet — protection, experts say, that’s on par with what’s provided through two doses of an mRNA vaccine. Infection-acquired immunity cut the risk of hospitalization and death from a Covid reinfection by 88% for at least 10 months, the study found. “This is really good news, in the sense that protection against severe disease and death after infection is really quite sustained at 10 months,” said the senior study author, Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington...The immunity generated from an infection was found to be “at least as high, if not higher” than that provided by two doses of an mRNA vaccine, the authors wrote. While Murray and Wachter agreed that vaccination remains the safest route, having a past Covid infection should at least be considered in policymaking decisions going forward, such as vaccination requirements, they said.  

Sure, there are reasons why getting vaccinated or boosted may still be the wise move for a lot of people, particularly those of a certain age, or with pre-existing conditions. But treating unvaccinated people who've attained natural immunity like they're dangerous pariahs is unfair, unsustainable, and anti-scientific. That's not a brand new revelation either. There has been strong evidence supporting that view for a long time, but certain tribal narrative guardians largely refused to even acknowledge or consider any of it. Maybe some of that was driven by a fear of digressing or deviating from the pro-vaccine talking points at all, but in choosing that path, trust was eroded and credibility was lost. Relatedly, these are entirely fair questions. To his credit, Maher has been asking them for a long time:

And yet, the dead-end clingers continue to do this sort of thing:

Much like with harmful school closures, this was never about any real science, especially after the initial few months. It's been about the Science, politics, and control. The same applies to mask rules, which were shown to be ineffective by the data long ago. The New York Times' lead COVID writer (belatedly) explicitly explained how mask mandates don't work in mid-2022, yet some people have continued to defend such policies, sometimes rabidly. Will any of this finally change their tune? Or are COVID mandates just ideological and tribal dogma?

The most rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of masks for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses — including Covid-19 — was published late last month. Its conclusions, said Tom Jefferson, the Oxford epidemiologist who is its lead author, were unambiguous. “There is just no evidence that they” — masks — “make any difference,” he told the journalist Maryanne Demasi. “Full stop.” But, wait, hold on. What about N-95 masks, as opposed to lower-quality surgical or cloth masks? “Makes no difference — none of it,” said Jefferson. What about the studies that initially persuaded policymakers to impose mask mandates? “They were convinced by nonrandomized studies, flawed observational studies.” ...These observations don’t come from just anywhere. Jefferson and 11 colleagues conducted the study for Cochrane, a British nonprofit that is widely considered the gold standard for its reviews of health care data. The conclusions were based on 78 randomized controlled trials, six of them during the Covid pandemic, with a total of 610,872 participants in multiple countries. And they track what has been widely observed in the United States: States with mask mandates fared no better against Covid than those without.

...When it comes to the population-level benefits of masking, the verdict is in: Mask mandates were a bust. Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as “misinformers” for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong. In a better world, it would behoove the latter group to acknowledge their error, along with its considerable physical, psychological, pedagogical and political costs. Don’t count on it. In congressional testimony this month, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called into question the Cochrane analysis’s reliance on a small number of Covid-specific randomized controlled trials and insisted that her agency’s guidance on masking in schools wouldn’t changeIf she ever wonders why respect for the C.D.C. keeps falling, she could look to herself, and resign, and leave it to someone else to reorganize her agency.

As another doctor told us recently, the greatest under-cutter of public faith in the CDC is the CDC, and it's not even close. Speaking of that doctor, I'll leave you with her vindication tweet on the vaccine mandate subject:


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