Covid 6/23/22: Under Five Alive
America has now approved the Covid vaccine for children as young as six months old. Should you vaccinate your very young child?
Yes, I believe that you should. I don’t think you absolutely have to do that. Children that young are at minimal risk from Covid. However, vaccination decreases the chance they spread the infection to others, including you, and there is some chance that there are long term effects from Covid, and this danger far exceed the trivial risk of any potential long term effects from the vaccine. Also, even if getting Covid isn’t that dangerous, it is still universally a stress ball and a giant pain in the ass. That’s worth avoiding on its own merits.
Either way, I consider it a small mistake. The kids will be alright.
We might not be, if the Responsible Authorities get their way. A commission to look at the failures of our Covid response are going to call for an overhaul of our public health system… that concentrates power to determine response with the Federal Government, because that’s going to go great. This probably won’t happen, and there’s always some chance the new job involves doing a semi-competent job of it rather than being captured by the same craziness as the FDA and CDC. But I am not holding my breath on that.
They have forgotten what actually happened. Federalism wasn’t the problem. Federalism saved us from a much worse problem, with states able to react in ways their populations demanded and could tolerate, and in the face of an administration bent on a Blinking Spirit approach to the pandemic - that if they didn’t look at it, maybe it would go away. It would similarly have saved us if, as I would have counterfactually expected, a Hillary Clinton administration had tried to impose extreme lockdowns over a long period and red states would have been having even less of it than they did in our timeline.
There are of course alternative scenarios where the correct response was extreme measures that would have suppressed a deadly virus, or that some states would have gone and destroyed their economies if left to their own devices. In extremis, the Feds do need to take control of such matters, and I am sure that in a true full emergency they would do so and be allowed to, but I notice that making it easier for them, making it a default outcome, is not making me feel better.
Another development is there is yet another Long Covid preprint making the rounds, causing the exact same causation vs. correlation confusions. I’ve concluded this simply is not a confusion that humans in our civilization are equipped to understand. There is no way to make it stick, so we’ll have to keep hearing about this, over and over. I’ve accepted this. Also, the data may well be royally screwed up as mortality numbers are crazy high including in the control group.
Covid vaccine available for children as young as six months.
Meet the new Long Covid study, same as every other Long Covid study.
They’re trying to give those who failed us more power again.
Let's run the numbers.
Prediction from last week (made without taking into account Juneteenth so this should be adjusted by -10%): 650k cases (+1%) and 2,000 deaths (+4%).
Adjusted prediction for Juneteenth: 585k cases (-9%) and 1,800 deaths (-6%).
Results: 593k cases (-8%) and 1,768 deaths (-7%).
Prediction for next week: 675k cases (+14%) and 2,015 deaths (+14%).
Some common sense. I am all for Juneteenth, it is an excellent holiday, but we need to get it right. If we want to call it Juneteenth (as opposed to something like Emancipation Day) and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, we should celebrate it on Friday, not on Monday. Because Friday is in fact a day compatible with the name ‘Juneteenth’, the 17th or 18th of June, whereas the Monday will not be compatible because it is the 20th or 21st. That’s simple math.
Also, because as the Talmud would have said, freedom cannot wait. It is always better to get your freedom one day sooner.
Florida’s case count is now big enough that when I forget to do the manual adjustment (in either direction) the numbers remind me to fix that.
Arkansas hasn’t reported a death in over a month, which seems rather implausible, but it isn’t that big an effect so I’m going to ignore it for now.
After all that, a -10% adjustment for Juneteenth seems to have been about spot on, or more likely I got lucky on the details. Lot of noise out there, luck is always welcome.
Things have been basically static for a while, so I’m mostly just going to say the -10% gets undone next week plus a little backfilling, and call it a day at +14%.
There continues to be a clear decline in the Northeast and Midwest, with the South and West less clear. Any fears of things spiraling out of control can be put to rest at this point.
Did You Know We Could Make Better Vaccines?
I mean, yes, of course you did. And yes, you figured out it was a good idea.
Someone please tell the Congress and the FDA.
You know exactly how, and you know how I know you know. The key is deciding not to care about getting people a vaccine as much as you care about… other things.
You Know, For Kids
The vaccine’s been approved. Should you get it?
Aside from the degree of Long Covid concern, this seems right to me. Getting Covid sucks even if everyone involved ends up fine, it’s a giant stress ball and pain in the ass. Children are unhappy, life and work are missed. Reducing the chances of that is valuable. And even though I discount Long Covid concerns, they’re still far bigger than the risks from the vaccine itself.
Scott Gottlieb points out that there are good reasons to think not catching a virus might turn out to be better than catching it, and the uncertainties favor vaccination.
Once again, though, I consider this a small mistake either way. There will be no hard sell here.
Let’s say you decide you want your kid to get it. What happens now, what to do?
With younger children, mass vaccination sites aren’t an option, so you’ll do this the same way we do other things, and it will go somewhat slower. Which is fine. This is a smaller (in multiple ways) cohort, and a smaller fraction of it is going to get the vaccine, and the situation is far less urgent.
Some places really have their act together, which is pretty great. Being outdoors is a nice touch.
Also, isn’t it funny that they couldn’t ship the vaccine until it was approved? Again, only a few days, but it outlines how much this very much isn’t an emergency. Speaking of which…
Everyone’s second favorite and/or second least favorite Florida Man, Governor Ron DeSantis, is reported to be at it again. There’s a long history of Florida Man doing things a little differently in the ‘Free State of Florida’ with varying degrees of crazy versus crazy like a fox, so let’s see what it is this time.
As Google’s non-sentient AI LaMDA might ask us if given the right prompt, does the press think?
Top reply to that first one, as usual making the permitted versus compulsory confusion:
The responses to that, in turn, are mostly not pointing out that no one is taking anyone’s rights away and are instead, shall we say, ‘misinformation’ about the vaccine.
Florida has a longstanding policy of actively recommending against vaccinating otherwise healthy children, and they logically extended this to younger children. They did not pre-order the new vaccine shots, both because they don’t especially think the shots are worthwhile, and also because ‘preordering’ is, according to them, more like transferring custody of the vaccines between agencies rather than a useful thing to be doing, and of course physicians are still free to order them.
I’m not sure if they’re right about that, but in practice I doubt this slows things down more than a few days and if slowing things down a bit is so terrible I suggest you first have a word with the FDA and CDC rather than Florida.
The Long Long Covid and Reinfection Discussions
Covid still exists, and everyone is taking the same attitude about it and being as reasonable about it as they are with everything else.
The Long Covid hypothesis keeps taking a licking, and it keeps on ticking.
This week had yet another Long Covid preprint, which of course is going to once again not use proper controls and confuse correlation with causation and get picked up by the media and terrify a bunch of people, when the main thing happening is that being unhealthy in various ways is the big risk factor for a Covid reinfection.
I grow tired and have a lot to do. What’s going on this time?
Getting a disease means you’re likely to be unhealthy for a bit, yo. Who knew?
Again, I grow tired. Dylan Smith and Zeynep Tufekci, you have the floor.
It’s not only that one line. Look at the rest of that chart.
But wait, they do weigh the sample, it’s all fine, right?
That all seems right. Getting infected with things isn’t great, and if you are sufficiently unhealthy in various ways that you handle it badly even the second or third time around (which is correlated with those times happening at all) then you can be in trouble.
I wrote all that yesterday. Today I woke up to the news that the numbers look rather borked and the whole thing might be worthless.
As in none of this makes any sense:
What these findings absolutely should not do, even if these concerns are addressed, is worry people in good health. It should do the opposite. First infections hit healthy people at rates not that different from unhealthy people. Reinfections clearly do not do this, and third or fourth infections very much do not do this. If you are doing fine in general, your risk is smaller, not larger, than it looks.
There is a renewed claim that some Long Covid symptoms are correlated with continued finding of spike protein within the body.
I highly approve of this framing by Arson. If what Long Covid we do see (that isn’t false attribution) is simply the virus hanging around some of the time, then the obvious solution - wipe out the virus properly this time - seems easy enough, and something we are getting much better at dealing with over time.
Paxlovid For the People
Paxlovid is like a bank loan. To get it, prove you don’t need it.
Yes, in some sense this represents a mismatch between who should get a limited supply of a wonder drug (those at highest risk) versus those who got the drug (those at less risk).
However, it also represents a very good match in the sense that it matches those who value Paxlovid the most (those who trust medical authorities, those who take steps to protect their health, those who saw themselves at high Covid risk) with the drug, while not giving it to the unvaccinated who are none of these things. It is well-documented that those who are not vaccinated don’t trust the vaccine and they also don’t trust Paxlovid because the lack of trust generalizes. And if not, then they’re showing they are not much worried about Covid, for reasons that may or may not be valid.
To the extent that those at high risk get vaccinated more often, especially the elderly, this could represent a good allocation even in the risk sense. Kids tend to be unvaccinated and also are still at very very low relative risk.
A worry is that perhaps some doctors are taking a ‘screw you, if you weren’t willing to take the vaccine I am not about to waste Paxlovid saving your ass’ attitude, but I doubt this is doing much of the work. At most, they’re not telling any patients about it.
In Other News
As usual, this wasn’t subtle data manipulation. This was something else.
This is unsurprising. Certain areas are less trustworthy than others, shall we say.
What is especially unsurprising is that, given there was a statistical fraud, the fraud was this obvious.
It is very easy to look at a bunch of numbers, decide ‘hey this would go well if these numbers looked better’ and then change the numbers. People do it all the time.
What they don’t do all the time is spend the extra effort to make those numbers stand up to even ordinary scrutiny, by which I mean ‘I looked at this and asked if it looked too smooth or blatantly violates Zipf’s Law or is otherwise super fishy and then did the work to make sure it didn’t.’ That’s much harder, especially if you are looking to get a good instinctual reaction from those not asking those questions as your top of mind goal, and also trying not to directly contradict what observations people have.
People round off numbers, they copy data or make it up, they p-hack, they do all sorts of things, but what they very rarely do is use a properly random process that simulates the types of distributions you’d naturally see so it actually stands up to ordinary and even careful scrutiny. They don’t let it look superficially fishy while they’re committing fraud so that an actual careful analysis won’t be able to show anything. They make sure it doesn’t look superficially fishy, and hope for the best.
Or they don’t, and Saddam Hussein reports he got 100% of the vote and dares you to tell him different.
So that’s the thing about outright fraud, at least in my experience. It’s never subtle. So the next time you’re thinking an election was fraudulent, or someone’s data is fake, don’t worry about something super subtle. Look for the obvious.
Mark Cuban is on a mission to reduce prescription drug prices, and is now selling a wide array of them super cheap at Cost Plus Drugs. I haven’t verified quality, but it being done by Cuban without me seeing any complaints is more verification than a lot of the foreign pharmacies a lot of people I know get drugs from, and the prices seem super cheap. They don’t take insurance at all, and don’t do paid advertising. Most importantly, we know why this is available, so we don’t have to go looking for the reason. If someone knows about something wrong (or right) with them, please share in the comments.
FDA Delenda Est this week is all about them once again going after vaping, and also looking to restrict the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. Neither of these things is either (1) any of their damn business or (2) helping. Reducing nicotine both creates a black market and potentially makes cigarettes more dangerous since it makes people smoke more of them to get the same hit (but it could also get people to reduce intake or quit, so it’s non-obvious) and making it harder to vape traditionally increases smoking, which is much worse than vaping. Reducing nicotine levels all the way to being non-addictive seems like a de facto ban on smoking. One guess how that would play out. When the FDA is sitting around not approving life-saving medicine and not allowing us to have access to baby formula, this is what it is doing instead. It has been pointed out that this was the FDA plan under Trump as well, but that doesn’t seem like it makes this any better (or worse).
AirBnB announces crazy house contest. They’re offering 100k to each of 100 winners to build crazy houses that can then be turned into wacky AirBnBs. For round one all you have to do is write a few hundred words describing your crazy idea, so this seems like great low-hanging fruit for anyone with a cool concept.
That is quite the effect size.
Essential Terms of the Authority Crisis, at Marginally Compelling. The model is that we’d like things to work like this:
For a long time, we all knew that the part where the popular media told us the institutional knowledge wasn’t great, but most of us mostly trusted the other steps and the resulting institutional knowledge. Now we don’t, because they’ve done too much spouting of obvious nonsense and been caught in too many lies that they defended by pointing to the need to maintain public trust. So now we can’t trust that part either.
I think there’s a lot of truth to that story, but there’s also another story to consider.
A tale I have been told about what is wrong with politics goes something like this. Trade and free trade agreements are good. Economists agree we should have a lot of trade and a lot of free trade agreements. Yay, trade. Politicians mostly know that the institutional knowledge says this, and they believe it too. So traditionally they go out and sign a bunch of free trade agreements.
Alas, the public doesn’t know economics and does not like free trade agreements.
Amazon Alexa will be able to mimic the voice of anyone after hearing a short clip. And you can already use it to read arbitrary text. It is being marketed as a way to remember a departed loved one. I… do not think that is going to be the use case.