Watch Australia closely
It is what happens when Omicron hits a highly vaccinated population with little preexisting natural immunity; the early returns are not promising
Australia has deported Novak Djokovic for the crime of being unvaccinated.
Sending the world’s top tennis player home may make the Karens of the South feel better. Too bad it won’t solve their Omicron crisis.
Australia now averages more than 100,000 new Covid cases per day - equal to about 1.5 million in the United States. One fine day last week, it reported 175,000, the equivalent of about 2.5 million, maybe the highest per-capita total any country has ever reported.
Not even six months ago, Australia was still chasing zero Covid and patting itself on the back for “Doughnut Days” - with no new Covid infections. (Because a doughnut is shaped like a zero, see?)
Yeah, about that:
By the way, Australia is among the world’s most Covid vaccinated counties.
Its policy of open coercion and discrimination against the unvaccinated has “succeeded” - more than 95 percent of Australians 16 and over have received at least one vaccine dose, and 93 percent two doses. Those figures effectively represent full vaccination - many of the people left are probably simply too frail to tolerate Covid vaccines.
Yet, as this headline explains:
Deaths are still relatively low by American standards. But they have risen sixfold in the last two weeks and are now at their highest level ever, equal to almost 700 deaths in the United States a day.
The trend adds to other worrisome signs about Omicron in highly vaccinated countries.
At this point two facts about Omicron are near-certain:
1: Vaccinated people are at HIGHER risk of being infected with Omicron than the unvaccinated (and whatever protection boosters offer does not last). In Scotland, another highly vaccinated country, vaccinated people are more than twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated - and people who have received a booster are 30 percent more likely.
2: Omicron is less dangerous than earlier variants.
But how much less dangerous is not entirely clear, because infections have risen so fast that hospitalizations and deaths are still catching up. In South Africa, the first country to see an Omicron spike, deaths from Omicron didn’t peak until Jan. 11 - almost four weeks after infections peaked. In Britain, infections peaked 10 days ago, but deaths are still soaring; they have tripled since late December.
Unfortunately, at this point we still do not know how those two facts interact.
In other words, if you are vaccinated and infected with Omicron, will your risk of being hospitalized or dying the same, higher, or lower than someone who is infected but unvaccinated? Remember, because their risk of infection is higher, a vaccinated person will need to have substantial post-infection protection to have an overall lower risk of serious outcomes.
In other words, vaccinations will only help and not hurt against hospitalization or death from Omicron if they somehow substantially reduce the risk of getting very sick even though they substantially increase the risk of infection.
Is that tightrope even biologically possible? Sure, it’s possible. The vaccine advocates have lately been writing stories about T-cell protection. But possible doesn’t mean plausible. In reality the vaccines do little to drive broad B- or T-cell responses - and that fact was known before Omicron.
Further, the British data (which is far better and more honest than American data) make clear that throughout the fall, vaccinated people made up the vast majority of deaths from the Delta variant in the United Kingdom. That’s the truth, despite the efforts to “age-adjust” (but not comorbidity adjust) it away.
Australia is now offering similar numbers. Its most populated province just reported that in the week ended Jan. 1, 12 people who died of Covid were fully vaccinated, compared to only four who were unvaccinated (four others were partially vaccinated or had an undetermined status).
Again, we are too new to Omicron to know for sure whether vaccine protection against serious disease has gone negative. The question will be very complicated epidemiologically (good news for the vaccine companies) and most scientists will not want to touch it (even better news for them).
But it will be very hard to hide the reality in Australia, with a nearly totally vaccinated population that has no preexisting immunity.
Deporting the world’s best tennis player will do nothing to change that fact.