Vaccination Rates Not Linked to Lower COVID Rates, Epidemiology Paper Finds

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by Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project:

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article noting that California has some of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the US, even though the Golden State’s vaccination rate lags many states that are currently struggling with the delta variant.

“One clear example is the New England states of Vermont and Maine,” the Chronicle reported. “Relatively shielded from the worst of the nation’s previous surges, they have struggled against the delta variant, which has sent their case rates soaring.”

In fact, Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the country. Among those 65 years and older, 99.9 percent are fully vaccinated, and 74 percent of those 18-64 are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Mayo Clinic.

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Yet, as the Chronicle points out, despite its high vaccination rate, Vermont recently set its single-day case record for the entire pandemic. And as of Oct. 1, Vermont’s seven-day average case rate per 100k people was 30—triple that of the Bay Area.

There is widespread agreement among scientists that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of developing severe COVID symptoms, which can result in hospitalization and death.

Their effectiveness at reducing transmission of the virus, however, remains a subject of debate, particularly since the CDC released findings in July* that show vaccinated individuals still contract the virus, transmit it, and carry just as many virus particles in their throat and nasal passages as unvaccinated individuals do when they contract the virus.

While scientists concede that the vaccines cannot stop transmission, many contend they still reduce transmission of the virus.

“We are confident vaccination against COVID-19 reduces the chances of transmitting the virus,” Johns Hopkins epidemiologists M. Kate Grabowski and Justin Lessler argued in The Daily Beast.

Other scientists are less sure, and new study suggests their skepticism may be warranted. The study, published last month in the European Journal of Epidemiology, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 168 countries and 2,947 counties in the United States and concluded that higher vaccination rates are not associated with fewer COVID cases.

“At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7 days,” the researchers concluded. “In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people.” (emphasis added)

At the county level, the researchers said, there “also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated.”

The findings do not suggest people shouldn’t get vaccinated. Again, there’s robust evidence showing vaccines reduce the risk of severe symptomatic COVID-19 reaction. What the research does suggest, however, is that vaccines are primarily a matter of personal health, not public health.

This is precisely what Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine who studies epidemiology at Stanford, recently suggested. Bhattacharya noted that research indicates that the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna offer abundant individual protection—Bhattacharya credits his own speedy recovery from COVID-19 to the vaccines—but don’t contribute to herd immunity or improve public health.

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