Professor Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine who studies epidemiology at Stanford, on Herd Immunity, Seasonal Spikes, and the Return of Rationality.. 18 Sept 2021
Discussion & précis of this interview is also at:
(This is a very edited and unofficial transcript of the interview)
JB: People are jaded with lockdowns. The idea that there is a scientific consensus
around lockdowns has been shattered. There is push back against school closures.
Tom Woods: TW reports he had Covid, did not have the vaccine, has recovered. Many European countries consider prior infection instead of vaccine. In Slovenia and Lithuania you can go grocery shopping and that’s it. Is that reason for pessimism?
Dr B.: Dr. B expresses optimism that science will cause a reversal of these policies in short order. The vaccine does not stop infection and very likely does not stop disease spread after a short time. It has protection against severe
disease. This means the vaccination question is a private matter, not a public matter. “My vaccine, after a few very short months no longer protects you.” After recovery from natural Covid, there is protection for quite a long time,
including probable protection against infection. You put those two together — the vaccinated may pose more risk of disease spread than the unvaccinated.”
Tom Woods: This is the kind of thing we could not say on YouTube, even though it’s completely true. Even the statement that one has more robust immunity after natural infection than after the vaccine was removed as misinformation, even though this almost never contested. This interview will be on Odysee but I am not even going to try to put it on YouTube.
Dr. B: I think the scientific evidence is overwhelming. There is a study out of Qatar –they have a pretty good health information system–they tracked the vaccinated and found reinfection. After 4-5 months there was no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated in terms of infection. At 6 months there was protection against disease severity for the vaccinated. Highly vaccinated countries like Israel have seen surges in cases. That does not happen unless the vaccine does not stop infection.
On reasons for optimism, I don’t think they’re going to be able to defend [vaccine mandates] scientifically. My vaccine does not protect you, so why have a mandate for it? If you’ve recovered from the disease you have much stronger immunity
than with the vaccine. These 2 facts kill vaccine mandates from a rational point of view. There is a widespread movement against [vaccine mandates] and it will be overwhelming.
Tom Woods: It will be difficult for Biden to back down, even if he were inclined. A small survey of epidemiologists, many of whom seemed to be hypochondriacs, found many who were still afraid of many activities they thought would expose them to Covid. Also, the argument we also have to address is that the unvaccinated will fill up hospital beds.
Dr. B.: I participated in many cases as an expert witness to get lockdowns eased.
Judges were afraid to rule. But this year, “judges are starting to wake up”. There’s been more pushback. Biden is not a dictator. There are still checks and balances left. I think there will be more success in courts than we had last year.
It tends to be the poor and the minorities who are unvaccinated. I don’t see how excluding them from American life is politically viable. I don’t see the courts being comfortable with it. It’s going to be tough for Biden to get his way.
Tom Woods: The opposition is scattered and there is duplication of effort. Dr. B. After Biden gave his speech, 28 to 40 state governors said they would not do it. But it will probably have to be the courts, but political leaders can put a
face to this movement. There are a lot of people deeply unhappy about the social implications. It [vaccine mandates] does not have any actual science behind it.
About the hospitals: a similar claim was made last year about hospitals going to be overloaded with Covid. But hospitals stayed empty, People didn’t blame those who did not get cancer screening. Also, mandates are reducing staffing. Nurses are quitting or getting fired, making the hospital problem worse..
Tom Woods: In Switzerland and elsewhere people are picnicking in front of restaurants that won’t let them in.
Dr. B: I think the US protesting has been less than Europe, but I think the movement against the vaccine mandates is going to be fairly broadbased. It’s too bad. The anti vaccine movement used to be fairly marginal. Most babies still got MMR and DPT. But the mandate has turned more people sceptical about public health measures. “I think it is absolutely wrong what we’re doing with these vaccine mandates.” “Public health has worked very hard to discredit itself in the minds of so many.”
Tom Woods asks about spike in cases in the south, despite huge efforts to get the vaccine out. It is not reasonable to blame an outbreak now on Florida’s decision to open up a year ago.
Dr. B: In January I thought the vaccine stopped disease spread, but no, the trials did not go on long enough to prove that. Because Florida vaccinated early, it was less protected later on. I think it is likely the Northeast will see something comparable when winter comes.
Why are the expert classes not re-evaluating? I think they were in the same position as me, expecting the vaccine to stop disease spread. They over-promised. I wrote a WSJ piece last December  saying the vaccine should
be used to protect the vulnerable.
That IS the right use of it. “But the expert classes said it would stop disease –turn it into Covid zero or close. That is clearly not true. Rather than re-evaluating their premises, they’re flailing around trying to find some way to
cover up the missed promise…Like this push for boosters when there is no randomized data available about them. That’s amazing to me. It’s the kind of thing you do when you have a failed policy and you want to patch it up. Or the
push to vaccinate, to force large numbers of the young children. I mean, they’re flailing around trying to find some reason they might still have been right. It’s like a general who knows that he’s lost the war, but he sends the last brigade up
anyway to get slaughtered in the hope this last sacrifice will do it.”.
If the vaccine does not stop the spread, it is not contributing to herd immunity.
You should not count the vaccinated-but-never-got-the-disease as part of the equation.
Herd immunity just means one infected person infects only one other person or fewer.
Tom Woods: the Iceland epidemiologist said, (more or less, in translation) after an upswing in cases, that we cannot reach herd immunity with these vaccines. We can shelter the vulnerable and let the virus pass through society and manage it the best we can.
Dr. B: I think every country is going to realize that at some point. The ones that do the worst are the ones that take the longest to realize that.
I recommend the vaccine, esp. for the older people to defang the disease, To be clear, I don’t think it is possible to protect yourself from getting Covid in the long run. You can delay it, at great cost to yourself, by hiding.
I think everyone will eventually get this disease. You have to look at life as more
than just infection control. I had Covid in August, I had the vaccine in April. It was 3 days of fever, fatigue.
Maybe it would have been worse w/o the vaccine, but I was not surprised that I got it.
Tom Woods: How is Australia going to walk this back after they have completely screwed up children for a year and a half, keeping them in their houses? By saying, “Oh, this was the wrong strategy. We just have to come out and deal with it.”?
Dr. B. [Laughter] Their goal is 80% vaccination and then they say they’ll open up. Then the cases will spread and it will be super interesting to see what they do. Australia is a fantastic case of failed promises and of how politicians and
scientists cope when their promises have failed over and over again.
Tom Woods: Articles, e.g., Ian Miller on Twitter, will describe cite an article, maybe NYT, on how some country defeated Covid, illustrated with a flat line graph. Then a couple of months later, the line turns wildly up, but there is no
second article. [They discuss a typically failed quiz where one guesses, from case graphs, which country used lockdowns.]
Dr. B: Governor DeSantis (spell? Florida?) is the most creative political leader in the US. I have been impressed by him. People in the Dem Party view him as a threat, so that is why… nonsense. I wish that would just stop. That this disease has become politicized has caused enormous problems. The media continually politicizes it. Gov Santos puts out an early monoclonal antibody treatment program, FDA approved, cuts death rate. A godsend, right? But there is strange political pushback.
Tom Woods: About a month later, even Dr Fauci did a positive presentation on what he called under-utilized treatment. So, as long as it has Santos’ name on it, they’ll be against it??
Dr. B: Yeah, it is really weird to me. I can’t understand it.
Tom Woods: It’s nothing but politics. Age-adjusted mortality in Florida is one of the best among the states. He should be congratulated, not called death-Santis.
Dr. B: It’s disgusting. I’ve been an informal advisor to Santos. Someone put posters up with Fla deaths on Stanford campus
Calif has higher age-adjusted Covid mortality than Florida. Instead of arguing from facts, they’re trying to intimidate, to suppress people from speaking up . It is amazing to me that that sort of thing is happening onStanford campus. A group of faculty members, some I previously respected, who put together a petition asking the president of the university in effect to censor me.
TW: Yes, because you’ve said things about masks…all you’ve said is that there’s insufficient evidence here.
Dr. B: Yes we have a population-wide intervention on children that is potentially harmful to them but no randomized evidence evaluating this. We are, I think, the only country that masks two-year olds. It’s a federal law.
They should be going after Biden to stop, not American Air.
Dr. B: Masking 2 year olds, Talk about how irrational. Friends with kids at pre-school say they take the masks off when napping, thank god, then they put them back on. So I guess the Covid does not come out of them when they are sleeping….
You made the worst decision of your professional life and joined Twitter only a few months ago, and you already have > 42,000 followers.