Article: Why experts say Premier Moe's claim vaccines no longer protect against COVID-19 is based on misunderstanding
Why experts say Premier Moe's claim vaccines no longer protect against COVID-19 is based on misunderstanding is a fact-checking article published by CBC News on February 3, 2022, which attempts to cast doubt on statements made by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on January 29. "He's spewing basically nonsense," one expert says. The article makes a number of bad points that do not convincingly debunk Moe’s statements.
In a letter thanking Canadian truckers, Moe expressed his disagreement with the controversial policy of the Canadian federal government that prevents unvaccinated truckers from entering the country. He stated that "vaccination does not keep you from contracting COVID-19" and that "vaccination is not reducing transmission."
Moe made these comments during the Omicron wave, in which Saskatchewan, a province with 75% of the adult population fully vaccinated, experienced a surge of new cases, “the second-highest case rate among the provinces” according to CTV Saskatoon. This is probably because the Omicron variant is able to infect people who are vaccinated. A study out of Denmark has shown that vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is “significantly lower than that against Delta infection and declines rapidly over just a few months.”
Experts in the CBC article freely admit that “the Omicron variant has lowered the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing transmission.” However, they add that “that doesn't mean they're useless” and “that doesn’t mean [vaccination] isn’t working.” These are strawmen of Moe’s statements because he does not claim that the vaccines are useless. In a part of the letter not quoted by the CBC article, Moe states that “[vaccination] does prevent most people from becoming seriously ill. That is why I will continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”
The article emphasizes that booster shots are necessary to provide increased protection against Omicron. However, the article freely admits that this only increases protection to “about 60 to 70 percent.” In addition, there is no mention of the fact that this protection diminishes over time. According to a report by the UK Health Security Agency, “[t]here is evidence of waning of protection against symptomatic disease with increasing time after dose 2, and by 10 weeks after the booster dose, with a 15 to 25% reduction in vaccine effectiveness after 10 weeks. This waning is faster for Omicron than for Delta infections.”
Furthermore, the article fails at mentioning emerging data from Denmark indicating that both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines appear to reach negative effectiveness after 90-150 days. Thus it is important to differentiate between an effect of the vaccine captured by a study in a restricted time window, and the broader statement by Premier Moe that "vaccination is not reducing transmission." It may very well be that a study incorrectly captures a delay in transmission as a reduction in transmission, if it fails to follow-up on its subjects during the waning phase of immunity. Taking for granted the Danish data mentioned earlier for a moment, a true reduction sustained across time in the year-long transmission of COVID using vaccines would imply a booster shot being given to the whole population every 90 days or so, so as to avoid the negative effectiveness of the vaccine which appears around that time. Because there is no credible public health project indicating that such a booster schedule (4 boosters per year per individual) is feasible at all (putting aside the question of whether people would commit willfully to such a schedule and all the associated problems that it would cause in terms of side effects due to repeated dosages), the statement by Premier Moe is true in effect, and the claim by the CBC article is true in a theoretical world in which such massive repeated dosages are imposed unto the population, but false in effect since such an injection schedule is not realizable, nor desirable.
Separately, the article also complains about a statement made by Premier Moe in his January 31 press conference, that "[t]he new cases that we have in this province are roughly about the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated people here in Saskatchewan." The article claims that Moe makes the base rate fallacy and is relying on “messy data” here (in other words, it’s impossible to know the true breakdown given the unclear status of those with infections who for whatever reason do not make it into the totals). However, this is to hold Moe to an unfair standard of perfect knowledge of the breakdown of cases before he can draw any conclusions about the groups responsible for transmitting the virus. Many lockdown critics have made similar points about messy data in their criticisms of the mainstream COVID-19 policies, suggesting for example that case totals are probably overinflated. But this has not deterred pro-mandate experts and policymakers from carrying out their heavy-handed policy prescriptions.
In summary, CBC News deployed strawmen, appeals to authority, accusations of ignorance, and an unfair standard to try to undermine Moe's statements. Nevertheless, Moe’s statements are supported.
- Quon, A. (2022, February 3). Why experts say Premier Moe's claim vaccines no longer protect against COVID-19 is based on misunderstanding. CBC. Accessed on February 5, 2022.
- Moe, S. [@PremierScottMoe]. (2022, January 29). Here is my message to Saskatchewan and Canadian truckers. Twitter. Accessed on February 5, 2022.
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- Government of Saskatchewan. (2022, February 4). New COVID-19 Cases. Accessed on February 5, 2022.
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