The Costs of Selling Covid Fear
Covid vaccines are incredibly effective. The media’s overhyping of new research from the CDC is making people think otherwise.
When the CDC changed its guidance on masking earlier this week — recommending, among other things, that even vaccinated people start wearing masks in indoor public spaces in areas of substantial to high Covid transmission — it cited “unpublished data” as a reason for its decision. The next day, the internal CDC document that seems to have prompted the shift was published — by the Washington Post. And when major news media got a look at, the message they sent vaccinated people was pretty simple: “Panic!”
This reaction was not justified by the actual data in the CDC document. It did show that the Delta variant was, as we’ve known for some time now, far more contagious than previous Covid variants, and that the Covid vaccines were less effective against Delta than they’d been against previous variants. But on the whole, the data strengthened the already-impeccable real-world case for vaccination. The document found that the vaccines are 75–80% effective against Delta, meaning that unvaccinated people are 3x-4x more likely to get infected with Covid. It estimated that vaccinated people are one-eighth as likely to develop even mild symptomatic Covid. And most important, it showed that vaccinated people are 25 times less likely than unvaccinated people to be hospitalized with Covid or to die from it.
Needless to say, this dog-bites-man stuff wasn’t what the press focused on. Instead, it concentrated on the document’s most attention-grabbing assertion, namely that vaccinated people who are infected with Covid have similar viral loads to infected unvaccinated people and therefore may be able to transmit the virus as easily as unvaccinated people do. (This conclusion was based largely on a study of a recent outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where hundreds of vaccinated people tested positive for Covid over the course of two weeks.)
Now, it made sense for reporting to focus on this finding, since, judging by public comments from Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, it played a major role in the agency’s decision to change its masking guidance. There are questions about whether…