It's a good day for Vietnam analogies

Welcome to the Tet Offensive phase of The War on Covid

Yesterday Naftali Bennett, the prime minister of Israel, issued an stark (if unintentionally) revealing warning to his country about the failure of the mRNA vaccines.

As you know if you are a regular reader, Israel is the canary in the world’s coalmine for Covid and the vaccines. It vaccinated more of its citizens with the Pfizer shot more quickly than almost anywhere else.

This spring, Israel’s experience seemed to validate the success of the vaccines. Now it’s a cautionary tale, as I explained in a Substack almost two weeks ago (time flies when nations are falling).

Unfortunately since then the data has gotten much worse.

The number of serious cases has risen almost 30-fold since late June. Roughly 60 percent of those people are fully vaccinated.

Yet the vaccine fanatics refuse to admit the depth of Israeli the crisis. Instead they continue to point out that per-person rates of serious illness are higher in the unvaccinated elderly.

They are correct, but they’re leaving out a key fact. Over 90 percent of Israelis over 70 have been vaccinated, suggesting that many of the remainder have not received vaccinations because they are too frail to do so. (One datapoint supporting this fact: Vaccination rates actually peak among people in their seventies and then decline as people get older, even though the oldest people are at the highest risk and should be the most likely to be vaccinated.)

Thus the relative numbers matter much less than the absolute numbers and trend. And the absolute trend is awful.

Which brings us to what Naftali Bennett tweeted yesterday.

“Non-immunization for a third time leaves senior citizens in mortal danger. Get vaccinated now.”

Mortal danger?

Get vaccinated now?

These older Israelis are already vaccinated. Yet as Israel’s Covid wards, fill their prime minister is now more or less admitting that they are unprotected against the virus.

A major preprint out of Japan from July 30 explains why.

The researchers examined Pfizer vaccine-generated antibodies in more than 200 people and found that on average they fell to undetectable levels about 6.5 months after the first shot - or roughly five after they reach full vaccination.

In other words, the Israel failure is happening right on schedule. Vaccine protection lasts months, not years. (Four months, give or take, since protection is limited the first month and likely negative the first week or two.)

Thus Bennett’s desperate call for a third shot. But although the booster does seem to produce new antibodies, neither the Israeli government nor Pfizer nor anyone else can know whether it will reduce infections or deaths, either temporarily or permanently. NO ONE HAS CONDUCTED ANY CLINICAL TRIALS TO DETECT THESE ENDPOINTS OR TO EXAMINE THIRD SHOT SIDE-EFFECTS IN ANY DETAIL. (I looked at this issue last week in a different Substack.)

For much of 1967, in the face of rising American discontent, the United States government insisted it was making progress in beating back the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong.

Then, in late January 1968, the VC and North Vietnamese launched a massive offensive that coincided with the lunar new year (which in Vietnamese is called “Tet”). All over South Vietnam, including in the capital of Saigon, American and South Vietnamese troops came under attack.

Many military historians have made the point that Tet was a failure for the attackers. The American military was not overrun.

But it didn’t matter. The scale of the offensive put the lie to the Pentagon’s insistence that it was near victory. Tet made clear that even with a force of 500,000 American soldiers and a massive airpower advantage, the United States was further from pacifying Vietnam than it had been years before.

The war was over.

But the killing wasn’t. The American government couldn’t admit the truth that was obvious to anyone paying attention. Even when it did, it needed years more to extricate itself. From 1969 through 1971, more than 20,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died in a fight everyone could see was pointless.

Covid has now reached its Tet moment. Anyone looking hard at the data can see the stark limits of the vaccines. Unfortunately, that group includes very few journalists. Almost no one yesterday pointed out what Bennett was really saying.

And of course our governments appear committed to this course and cannot admit the truth.

What’s going to make them? And how long will it take?