HSE figures: 20% of new covid cases are in the fully vaccinated

This is one of those figures that sounds shocking, but is actually objectively good news:

According to the most recent figures, around 75-80% of the public are vaccinated. This means, then, that 20% of the cases are coming from 80% of the population, and 80% of the cases are coming from the 20% who, either because they do not want one, or have not had the chance to get one yet, are unvaccinated.

Another way of saying that, of course, is that unvaccinated people are catching covid at about twenty times the rate that vaccinated people are catching it. In other words, the vaccine is reducing cases by about 95% in the vaccinated population, which is pretty much as advertised.

There are a few caveats, obviously: Vaccinated people may be less likely to get tested than the unvaccinated, believing themselves safe. So, it is possible that some cases are being missed. Another point worth noting is that the unvaccinated tend to be much younger, and healthier, than the population at large. So, by getting covid, and surviving it, they too are gaining immunity – potentially a stronger immunity than that provided by the vaccines.

In any case, figures about cases and vaccines are not especially relevant. Lots of people have gotten covid, and lots more – including lots of vaccinated people – will get it in the months and years to come. The important question is how serious the illness is. And that is where the HSE news above is really good: The incidence of severe illness in the vaccinated is a fraction of what it is in the unvaccinated. That means fewer hospitalisations, fewer deaths, and generally fewer strains on the health service. As the number of vaccinated people gets ever closer to 100%, the case for remaining covid restrictions gets ever closer to zero.

But of course, that is not how headlines like the above will be read. Anecdotally, my own experience is that many people who are fully vaccinated, and not at any real risk at all of serious illness, still consider covid too much of a risk for them to resume their pre-pandemic lives. The polling bears this out as well, as the Iona Institute poll on Mass Attendance showed last week. Irish people – in common with people across the western world – are simply refusing to believe that they are safe, when they are.

In fact, the fear of opening up and getting back to normal actually strengthens the case for abandoning all restrictions: The fact is that even if all restrictions are abandoned, many people will continue in a self-imposed lockdown anyway. To those who want to stay safe, the legal situation is irrelevant. Just as, frankly, the legal situation is irrelevant to many of those who want to socialise and get back to normal. The continued existence of the laws is criminalising people, but to no real effect. If anything, continued restrictions serve a purely political purpose: To convince the nervous amongst us that everybody else is being kept under control, for the purpose of keeping the nervous safe.

These figures are good news. The problem we face is that a large chunk of the populace is unwilling to believe good news. You can thank Dr Holohan, RTE, and Claire Byrne, amongst others, for that state of affairs.

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