The Biden administration’s strategy to universally vaccinate in the middle of the pandemic is bad science and badly needs a reboot.
This strategy will likely prolong the most dangerous phase of the worst pandemic since 1918 and almost assuredly cause more harm than good – even as it undermines faith in the entire public health system.
Four flawed assumptions drive the Biden strategy. The first is that universal vaccination can eradicate the virus and secure economic recovery by achieving herd immunity throughout the country (and the world). However, the virus is now so deeply embedded in the world population that, unlike polio and smallpox, eradication is unachievable. SARS-CoV-2 and its myriad mutations will likely continually circulate, much like the common cold and influenza.
The second assumption is that the vaccines are (near) perfectly effective. However, our currently available vaccines are quite “leaky.” While good at preventing severe disease and death, they only reduce, not eliminate, the risk of infection, replication, and transmission. As a slide deck from the Centers for Disease Control has revealed, even 100% acceptance of the current leaky vaccines combined with strict mask compliance will not stop the highly contagious Delta variant from spreading.
The third assumption is that the vaccines are safe. Yet scientists, physicians, and public health officials now recognize risks that are rare but by no means trivial. Known side effects include serious cardiac and thrombotic conditions, menstrual cycle disruptions, Bell’s Palsy, Guillain Barre syndrome, and anaphylaxis.