Sunday 21 November 2021

Delta Rocks Gibraltar: Lessons to be learned from Covid-19’s global resurgence.

Hard To Beat: Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from what is happening in Gibraltar is that vaccination is not a magic bullet. Yes, it makes it harder to contract the virus, and significantly ameliorates its worst effects, but it does not confer absolute immunity to Covid-19 – especially if you received your second jab four or five months back.

WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE of what Delta is doing in Gibraltar? This tiny British toe-hold at the very tip of the Iberian Peninsula has the distinction of being the most Covid-19 vaccinated community on Earth. Thanks to the fact that many of the people who work in Gibraltar every day, return to their homes in Spain every night, fully 118 percent of Gibraltar’s 32,000 inhabitants have been inoculated. That’s pretty impressive – or, so you might think. But the truth is that Covid-19 is once again surging through the tiny Crown colony. Its daily count of community cases is about the same as ours, which, given its size, is pretty damn scary.

Also frightening are the obvious domestic implications of Covid-19’s global resurgence. For months now, we’ve been told that getting vaccinated is they very best thing New Zealanders can do to defeat the virus. But, if a vaccination rate of 118 percent can’t stop Delta in its tracks – then what can? What lessons we are supposed to draw from Gibraltar’s experience?

The first lesson to learn is that statistics should never be taken at face value. That figure of 118 percent, for example, is derived from the number of Gibraltans aged over 16 who have received a full dose of the vaccine. The true percentage of fully vaccinated Gibraltans must, therefore, be considerably less than 118 percent. While children and teenagers under the age of 16 remain unvaccinated, Covid will always have plenty of vulnerable human-beings to prey on.

Another lesson to be drawn from Gibraltar’s experience is that booster shots of the vaccine are essential. The waning effectiveness of the initial jab/s means that those particularly vulnerable to infection will need to be vaccinated again. If we’re talking about the Pfizer vaccine, that means giving the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses a third jab as soon as they approach six months since their second injection – maybe even sooner. Like the flu, Covid-19 is shaping-up to be one of those viruses that must be battled constantly. Getting your Covid shot seems likely to become an annual event.

It would also seem prudent to inoculate the nation’s children. The United States Centre for Disease Control has found that inoculating the over-5s would be both prudent and safe. Reducing sharply the number of potential Covid targets is, obviously, a key strategy for curbing its spread. New Zealand should, therefore, start protecting its children – and the families they live with – as soon as possible.

Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from the Gibraltan experience, however, is that vaccination is not a magic bullet. Yes, it makes it harder to contract the virus, and significantly ameliorates its worst effects, but it does not confer absolute immunity to Covid-19 – especially if you received your second jab four or five months back.

What’s happening in Gibraltar – and the Netherlands – and Singapore – and South Korea – is a timely reminder that all those other anti-Covid measures: social distancing; strictly limiting your indoor human interactions; and, most importantly, wearing a mask whenever random human contact is likely; remain vitally important weapons for keeping the virus at bay.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealanders (and Aucklanders especially) are looking forward to enjoying a kick-ass summer holiday. It has, after all, been a bloody awful year! Unfortunately, in facilitating this heartfelt wish, the Labour Government has set up the conditions for Delta’s rapid spread across the country. Undoubtedly, a number – perhaps quite a large number – of the vaccinated will, nevertheless, contract the virus. Some of them – hopefully a very small number – will get quite sick.

Just because you have printed-off your Vaccine Pass and/or downloaded it to your phone, does not mean you are now officially bulletproof. All those other instructions about wearing your mask, sanitising your hands, and keeping 2m distant from your fellow citizens, offer vital additional protection – alongside the Pfizer vaccine. They should not be treated as afterthoughts.

For the unvaccinated, however, the nationwide spread of the Delta Variant is promising the Summer from Hell. While the immune systems of those who are double-jabbed are fighting off the virus’s invasion force, unprotected immune systems will soon find themselves overwhelmed. In communities where the vaccination rate is low, the results are not likely to be pretty. The Delta Variant of Covid-19 is a killer. Many unvaccinated New Zealanders are going to die of it before Autumn.

If not for their own sake, then for the sake of those who love them, and rely upon them, I implore the vaccine resistant to give themselves a fighting chance.

The fate of heavily vaccinated Gibraltar should not be taken as proof of the inefficacy of the vaccine, but of the deadly efficiency of the Delta Variant. This thing is a Terminator every bit as deadly as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Cyborg assassin. Remember Kyle Reese’s chilling words from the movie:

“Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!”

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 19 November 2021.


Flaneuse said...

I think you hit the nail squarely on its head there, Chris - mask wearing, social distancing hand washing/sanitising is just what we should be doing for as long as we need to, even when fully vaccinated and all boostered up. I read this today and thought it was very sensible advice:

Chris Trotter said...

To: Brendan.

I will not encourage the shouting of "Fire!" in the crowded theatre of a global pandemic.

Those lending aid and comfort to the anti-vaccination movement - or offering their outright support to it - will not have their comments posted.

DS said...

By good fortune, it is increasingly looking like the Auckland outbreak has peaked, and that by mid-December, the risk of travelling Aucklanders infecting everyone else will be much reduced. Which will make everyone much, much happier.

In fact, with New Zealand being so small and (via the closed international border) isolated, it's entirely possible that the disease will actually die out on its own accord at some point in the new year. Recall that influenza actually dies out every year in New Zealand, only to get fresh imports. The key is keeping the international border closed, in spite of media and right-wing whingeing.

Unknown said...

Covid isn't just about Covid though is it. It is about technocratic authority.
Bear with me it's 1:35 my alarm is set for 2:45 and while I was having a good sleep I woke for a pee and found a wasp in my head. It relates to an attempt to have me silenced "that racist" - the invoking of a taboo and the accusers "you should hear what he said about Chinese and Indians" (it's so bad I can't repeat it). There was that and a picture of Auckland and it's density and two wealthy academics (Cliff Rd must be nice) saying Auckland used to be booring.
The old Jim Crow and Holocaust becomes like John Keys, or Paul Spoonley's credit card.
Getting back to Covid the technocrat and lived experience. My house is now a sheep tied to a stake and my wife doesn't know if she can keep her low paid job up (those places can't afford the donkeys). What our Dickens doesn't know about (probably loaded) is the life of the ordinary person and need for trust in society and it's institutions. Jacinda sits through a speech in Germany where the host heaps praise on her "the people of the world need our help; we have to take care of them". For her part she sees her life's works as being rewarded with "a lovely time somewhere in the Mediterranean ". Woow!
You can't tell me globalism is good for NZrs.

Gerrit said...

Is there a lesson for covid response on Zimbabwe? Only 6% of the population is vaccinated yet;

"When the coronavirus first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions. Although it's still unclear what Covid-19's ultimate toll will be, that catastrophic scenario has yet to materialise in Zimbabwe or much of the continent."

Seems like the west has spent to much time fighting viruses (and malaria)over the last few ages to keep resistance to new viruses at bay. Maybe Zimbabwe is a better example than Gibraltar?

"Earlier this week, Zimbabwe recorded just 33 new Covid-19 cases and zero deaths, in line with a recent fall in the disease across the continent, where World Health Organisation data show that infections have been dropping since July."

Nick J said...

For your eyes Chris. So much dystopian authoritarianism from yourself and others here, so I left. Until your respect for freedom of expression no matter how whacky returns I will regard this site as a train to the gulag.

DSB said...

“Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” - C. S. Lewis

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” - Albert Camus:

“If you have to be persuaded, lied to, incentivized, coerced, bullied, socially shamed, guilt-tripped, threatened, punished and criminalized. If all of this is considered necessary to gain your compliance. You can be absolutely certain that what is being promoted is not in your best interest.” - Ian Watson:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny isn't it. Conservatives go on and on about choices – people who "choose" to work in low-paid jobs, people who "choose" to be poor, people who "choose" to be gay – and apparently it's their own fault and they should just put up with the consequences. But as soon as someone gives them a "choice" to be vaccinated is tyranny!

Chris Trotter said...

To: Nick J,

Freedom of Speech, Nick, does not extend to the person who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Nor to those who peddle lies about a safe and effective vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic.

Outside of a system of moral order, "freedom" has no meaning.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

Fair enough.

One of the fires I do observe and ought to be called out, is that only a single narrative is permitted, not just on your blog, but particularly in the MSM. Are there truly no downsides to vaccination? Will vaccination provide herd immunity? What do we know about the medium to long term effects on our immune system regarding the mRNA product from Pfizer? What about following multiple boosters? Is dividing New Zealand into two distinct groups based upon their vaccination status a good thing, people being forced out of their employment when they could easily have been retained based upon weekly saliva testing? What happened to the team of 5 million?

Will we begin to see scapegoating of the unvaccinated when we know that both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated are able to be infected by the virus and carry similar viral loads? Are you in favour of a New Zealand government that imposes a 'show your papers' mandate to obtain full access to the economy, when both 'groups' can be infectious but only one is discriminated against? Why is there no Government discussion about when vaccine passports may no longer be required? Where are the assurances that they are just a temporary measure?

There are worse things that can happen to New Zealanders than a severe covid pandemic. The virus will eventually burn itself out and reduce in risk, but totalitarian measures once invoked are more difficult to roll back.

Anonymous said...

In the kingdom of the thick, the thinker who deviates from ideology and doctrine is a hooligan who must be crushed

David Stone said...

It might have been interesting to see where Brendon went in his presumed departure from his normal panacea of savings as a remedy for everything.
However whatever he said, your justification for censoring it worries me.
What you are saying is that the criteria for allowing free speech is not so much the veracity of what must be censored as the importance of the issue.
There are many experts in the field of epidemiology with as highly qualified credentials as any in the world which you must know, who are expressing the deepest concern about what they fear will be the overall effects of these new so called vaccines. Only time and truthful reporting will tell whether their concerns are justified. I don't have that expertise and neither do you. But we all have to have the have the freedom to consider what such people say and make up our own minds or we are heading where Nick is pointing and no doubt about it.

Nick J said...

Covering your eyes whilst driving and I will gaurantee that you will crash. Back seat drivers you can at least correct and ignore. As to "moral order" that is one of the first calls made by authoritarians such as the religious Right when they claim to know what is best
for you. It is your site Chris, I have enjoyed, all the best.

greywarbler said...

DSB Using quotes to back up your gut feelings is reasonable, but on reading yours my gut feeling says 'The exception proves the rule'. Covid19 is an exception, we have had problems with attacks by microbes etc on human bodies every decade about, but Covid19 and its variants have a massive impact and are very infectious and can be killers, and coping with long Covid will be a lifetime burden on the sufferer and on the health service supporting the disabled person.

It is also an exception that people are being ordered to do something to protect others and their country as well as themselves and family, neighbours, whanau etc. We haven't had compulsory military training for decades; the trend today is to be self-oriented, and in fact government has withdrawn from helping and supporting citizens as a whole, though elderly have retained their standing. Younger citizens are not used to having positive interest from gummint, negative is the norm. Vaccination is government doing supportive caring things for the general population, using the taxpayer dollar for the people, not just against. That's an exception.

People need to snap up the vaccination, and go on to agitate for better treatment in other ways, forming little local groups and coalescing and lobbying government with plans for building their own practical aids in life, housing etc. Turn this new experience of receiving from the government into a national movement flowing through sensible, informed, committed young and mid-age people. Make it a norm for a citizens group to deal with a progressive government immersed in practicality and fairness, not an exception.

Kat said...

And then in 1940 there was the chap that shone his torchlight up at the London sky to make sure it really was a German bomber and not some govt plot to keep him penned up inside at night with windows blacked out while suspicious shadows in uniforms moved about outside. Luckily he survived the blast and when pulled out of the rubble he was given a hot cup of tea from a thermos by one of the wardens, "ooh nothing like a hot cup of tea" said the grateful chap, "yes these thermos flasks are wonderful at keeping the Rosie lee hot, and the Tanqueray cool" said the warden. "Aye, but how does it know" the chap replied.......

The Barron said...

In regard to the substantive piece by Chris, I have already expressed that opening up before pediatric vaccination and booster shots for the elderly will have consequences, especially when Long Covid (CFS / ME) is factored in. I am not naïve to the political weight of the Christmas period, but we should not pretend that the decision to open up will not come without increased death and permanent disability - including to children. I guess every Christmas story includes the slaughter of the innocents.

In regard to the blog contributors, we must remember the recent poll which showed 74% in favour of mandates, and only 20% against. Those vaccinated is projected towards the high 90%. Clearly, the contributors are not representative. I guess Chris' views get a reaction, and many don't get more reactionary than those Chris has published. The few unpublished...

Reading the comments, I am astounded by the sense of entitlement of some of the writers. The victims of Covid19's spread will be the poor, the elderly, the health compromised, the very young and ethnic minorities - especially those indigenous the NZ and the Pacific. To view the contributors use the language of the struggles of the disenfranchised in order to put at risk the lives and well-being many of the inheritors of those fights is a curious appropriation of victimhood. The undermining of public safety measures by a very small minority couched in clichés of civil rights completely looses the concept of community at the centre of social justice movements.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The virus will eventually burn itself out "

Like the flu has? No Brendan, it will keep mutating and will quite possibly be a yearly event just like the flu.

"only a single narrative is permitted,"

There is only a single narrative. Vaccines have been saving our lives for hundreds of years.

"What do we know about the medium to long term effects on our immune system regarding the mRNA product from Pfizer?"

People have been experimenting with mRNA vaccines since the 1970s. BioNTech has been testing out mRNA as cancer vaccines for some time and Moderna was running rather large trials with mRNA vaccines against CMV and RSV. There are even mRNA vaccines against Zika.
They are in fact almost certainly safer and less toxic than vaccines that use attenuated viruses.

But it also comes down to choices Brendan. You're the prime example of someone who denigrates other people for their "choices". You've been presented with a choice just like all those poor people you hate, make your choice live with the consequences.

DS said...

Brendan's comment about a single narrative is truly hilarious, given that the New Zealand media has been universal in its promotion of Let It Rip (aka "we must learn to live with the virus"), its hostility to public health lockdowns, and now its bizarre fetish with the "victims" of Vaccine Mandates. That's the real single narrative.

All the media ever focus on is when Auckland elites will be able to enjoy overseas holidays. Not about whether the Government is appropriately protecting lives. That New Zealanders might think the Government is opening up too fast never factors into their equation.