It is vital for workers – and for socialists within the working class – to know and understand the actual facts on any important issue in order to combat the hysteria, myths, half-truths, misconceptions and exaggerations that are flying around. That is true in general and it is true for covid, its delta variant, and the covid vaccines. The degree to which we engage in sloppy or even semi hysterical thinking regarding covid will affect our thinking and action on all other issues.
Medical Research Industry
There is much to condemn about the entire industry. Why, for example, is there such a pitifully low level of cancer research devoted to environmental causes? Why is so little independent research done on long term, multi-generational affects of all the new chemicals that come onto the market every year? Why is there so little research on sickle cell anemia, which almost exclusively affects (some) people of African descent? Clearly, the interests of the capitalist class guide the direction of research. But that is different from saying that the results of the research are lies; that the industry fakes the results. The health research industry employs millions of researchers, most of whom came into the field at least in part because of genuine interest in figuring things out. It would be impossible to fake the results that the CDC, for instance comes up with, just as it’s impossible (at present) to get most of those running elections in the US to fake the results. In order to do either, hundreds if not thousands would have to be involved and at least a few of those asked to participate would blow the whistle.
Not only that, but the capitalist class has a clear interest in getting covid under control. This pandemic has completely disrupted capitalist society and threatens the very stability on which the rule of capital rests. The capitalist class and its representatives cannot get covid under control based on myths and fake statistics. Even the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in coming up with a cure and a vaccine.
With that in mind, let’s start with the issue of the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-
2 virus, the virus that causes Covid. By now, most people will have heard about the virus’s “spike protein” – the little “spikes” made of proteins that are on the outside of the virus. It is these spikes that make the virus able to bind with the human cells and replicate. Verywellhealth explains “Various mutations in the spike protein… make it especially effective at tricking first wave antibodies. Delta carries a mutation in the spike protein called D614G, sometimes known as ‘Doug,’ which may increase the density of spike protein on the surface of viral particles.” The same article says that there may be other mutations in the general genetic material (“genome”) of the Delta variant that also enable it to bind more efficiently with the human cells.
As a result, the delta variant spreads far more rapidly inside the human body. In fact, the viral “load” (the amount of the virus) of the delta variation in the human body appears to be 1,000 times greater than with other variants of the Covid virus.
Apparently More Virulent
It is too early to tell for sure, but a study published in the British medical journal Lancet concluded that somebody infected with the Delta variant is twice as likely to end up in the hospital. Dr. Mark Williams, dean of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences writes “The delta variant is a different animal than the wild [original] variant. It is far more infectious and far more virulent…. It [the delta variant] will make people sick, even people that are young and would not have felt any consequence from the original wild variant.” A study in England found that those infected with the delta variant were 2.61 times more likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the alpha variant, which is more virulent than the original virus. A study in Scotland got a similar result.
Far More Transmissable
As we know, it is also more transmissable. Dr. F. Perry Wilson says that whereas a person infected with the Alpha variant will infect 2.5 people on average, a person infected with the Delta variant will infect up to 4 people. In other words, it is up to 60% more infectious than the A variant. It is reported to be 225% more transmissable than the original strain of the virus.
We also have to understand this “new” type of vaccine, the mRNA vaccine. The old type of vaccines used a weakened or dead virus or bacteria to cause our immune system to produce antibodies. Our immune system was in effect “trained” to react. As the CDC explains “mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the ‘spike protein’ which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.” In other words, it doesn’t even use the full virus but just a piece of protein. It would seem that this kind of vaccine is even safer than the old ones. Not only that, but although this is the first time an mRNA vaccine is being widely used, scientists have been studying these vaccines for over ten years.
Covid Vaccine’s Effectiveness
As far as the “efficacy” or effectiveness of this vaccine, vaccines produce two different types of immunity: Medical consultant Dale W. Harrison explains that there is sterilization immunity and disease immunity. The former prevents us from becoming infected with a pathogen (a virus or bacteria) in the first place. The second – disease immunity – prevents us from getting sick from that infection. At the start of the use of the new vaccines, Harrison had said that the covid vaccines provide about 50% sterilization immunity and over 95% disease immunity. That also seems to be true for the delta variant at least as far as disease immunity (getting sick). The delta variant has become the dominant strain in the US, and NPR reports that 97% of those being hospitalized for Covid are unvaccinated. Dr. Boozman (cited above) reports that 98% of those hospitalized for covid in Arkansas are unvaccinated. In May, 99.2% of covid-related deaths were of unvaccinated people.
Clearly, these statistics show that the vaccines are successful at preventing people from getting very sick or dying from covid, including from the delta variant. It is not clear, though, how much the current vaccines protect people from infection itself. The CDC report, released on July 30th, states that in one particular outbreak in Massachusetts in July, 74% of infected people had been fully vaccinated and that 90% of those infected had the delta variant. But testing is highly unreliable because so many people don’t have the symptoms and, therefore, don’t get tested. Also, we can’t be definite from that one particular event.
Opposition to Vaccination
There are several arguments against getting vaccinated on both ends of the political spectrum.
There is no real use answering the semi-hysterical Trump bigots and science deniers. As Trump famously said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” It’s probably one of the only true things he’s said since he ran for president, and if he could claim total credit for the distribution of the vaccine and urged people to get vaccinated, these same Trump supporters would be flooding the vaccination centers.
Racism in General
Of the non-Trump supporters who are unwilling to get vaccinated, many are people of color, including black people. Dr. Ala Stanford, a surgeon and founder of the Black Doctors Covid-19 Consortium explains much of it: “The health-care system has been largely untrustworthy to African Americans. Which is different than saying African Americans don’t trust the health-care system,” she says. In part, the health-care system has failed to provide adequate care for people of color as well as lower income people in general. But it’s not only that. One study showed that black patients – especially black men – are less likely to receive the same treatment for identical complaints as are white patients. While most black patients may not know the studies, they can see and feel the differences.
It is also related to poverty and lack of health insurance. Most people trust their personal physicians, the overwhelming majority of whom urge their patients to get vaccinated. However, the poor and uninsured often don’t have a personal physician. If they get injured or sick, they have to wait until it’s serious enough to go to the emergency room. There, the doctors and nurses simply don’t have the time to establish the bonds that real health care requires.
Crime at Tuskegee
Then there is the infamous Tuskegee study of 600 black sharecroppers who the (white) researchers knew had syphilis but allowed that deadly disease to run its course rather than informing and treating the people. That infamous study was a prime example of “black lives don’t matter”. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam concludes in part from this that the vaccines are an attempt to weaken or wipe out black people. That claim is ridiculous and should undermine Farrakhan completely. After all, a higher percentage of whites than blacks are vaccinated. Also, there is no evidence whatsoever that any medication, including vaccines, can act differently on black people from whites. How is that even possible when blood of white and black people can be transfused from one into the other? Same, in fact, for organ transplants. It is also ridiculous because, far from wanting to wipe out the black population, US capitalism needs black people both for cheap wages and as a political distraction and scapegoat. Farrakhan is no better than Trump in this regard and, like Trump, to the degree that he has any influence he has the deaths of thousands of people on his hands.
Vaccine Side Effects?
Nor is there any study which shows any significant health risk from the vaccines. Some might say, “well, that’s true, but use of these vaccines has only been recent. I want to wait till they’ve been used longer.” How much longer? One or two months won’t tell you anything. It would have to be years – the years in which you will go unprotected. And there is no vaccine that anybody claims has long term negative effects. Even if you believe those parents who claim that the mmr vaccine caused autism in their child – those parents claim that the effect was a matter of hours, not even weeks never mind months or years. And also, that vaccine is administered in babies whose immune system is not yet developed. That’s entirely different from administering a vaccine to a teenager or adult.
Nobody else seriously even claims any other serious negative side-effect from any other vaccine.
“Trust” the Medical Establishment?
We don’t have to trust the medical establishment. It’s a bit like safety on the job. Nowadays, with worker compensation insurance so costly, the boss sometimes actually wants the workers to take the time to work more safely. I experienced this time and again in construction. I know why the boss wanted that, and safety is disregarded if the expense of slowing down and working more safely outweighs the potential increased cost of insurance if we get hurt. Nevertheless, my own experience and “common sense” had taught me what was safe and what wasn’t, and most times the boss was right when they established safety rules. I never trusted any boss, but most times what they said about safety was true. They said it for their own reasons, which were different from mine, but they were right nevertheless. I didn’t intentionally disregard safe working practices just because the boss said they were safe. That would have been ridiculous.
As far as the statistics and reports: Again to emphasize: it’s impossible that all among the thousands and tens of thousand of people who gather and study these statistics, that there aren’t at least a few of them who would blow the whistle if the CDC and other government agencies were faking it.
It’s the same with the vaccines. All the statistics, plus what we know about the virus and the vaccines show that we are at far higher risk of serious illness or death being unvaccinated than being vaccinated.
Again, some point to the fact that vaccinated people are showing up infected. They entirely miss the point. The point is that the vaccine will in general prevent us from getting seriously sick or dying from covid, not that it will prevent infection altogether (although it may even lessen the chance of that).
Capitalist Experts’ Real Failure: Ignoring the Underlying Causes
But, just as we cannot simply trust the boss to establish a safe or healthy work place, we cannot trust the capitalists to fully deal with this zoonotic disease, meaning a disease that jumps from another species to humans. Anthony Fauci is the best representative of what the capitalists have to offer. But he’s only dealing
with the results, not the cause. Of course, we need to deal with the symptoms – the effects of the disease itself – but we also have to dal with the cause of this wave of zoonotic diseases. Evolutionary epidemiologist Rob Wallace has explained time and again that the underlying cause is two-fold: First is capitalism’s destruction of wild habitat. That brings both domesticated animals and humans into regular close contact with wild animals, especially bats, who carry an unusually large number of different viruses. Second is factory farming. Among pigs, for example, hundreds or even thousands of them are packed together like sardines. That allows any new pathogen to jump from one to the next like a fire in a forest that has no fire breaks. Scientists aren’t certain yet (and may never be) how SARS-CoV 2 evolved, but those are the underlying reasons for the increased rise of new zoonotic diseases like the various swine flus, bird flu, ebola, and nipa. In general, by the way, it is a complex process that can take years, jumping from one species to another and back again.
Capitalism has created an impressive technology to grapple with the results of habitat destruction and factory farming. That technology includes the new covid vaccines. Capitalism’s top health experts and institutions, like Anthony Fauci or the CDC, are good sources of information on the spread of this disease and the effectiveness of vaccines. Dismissing what they have to say is not some radical step; it’s actually underestimating the real problem since it doesn’t grapple with how these new zoonotic diseases have developed in the first place; it actually underestimates the threat that capitalist production poses. Workers, and socialists within the working class, have to go further.
To read more on the real underlying threat, see End Coronavirus Capitalism! An Environmentalist Manifesto
Also see this review of Rob Wallaces’s latest book Dead Epidemiologists
Also see Trump, Fauci and Ecomodernism.