Will vaccines and mask abolition create an invincible strain of coronavirus? Or is this another false hypothesis?

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Will vaccines and mask abolition create an invincible strain of coronavirus? Or is this another false hypothesis?
Will vaccines and mask abolition create an invincible strain of coronavirus? Or is this another false hypothesis?

The media around the world began to tell that new strains arose due to the weakening of restrictions, the removal of masks, and even under the influence of vaccines. They allegedly exerted evolutionary pressure, forcing the virus to bypass vaccine protection. Alas, real biology points to a very different - and more frightening - picture. We understand the details.


New work in Scientific Reports claims that vaccination of 60% of the population or more will "force" the coronavirus to mutate in the direction of bypassing vaccine protection. According to the researchers' calculations, there is only one way out to prevent this option - maintaining social distancing, masking and travel restrictions. Otherwise, such strains may arise and gain a foothold in the population, which will render the existing vaccines useless.

At first glance, the conclusions of an article in a prestigious scientific journal sound very menacing. On the second, more intent, too. That's just not because they are true - rather, on the contrary. It is because of their disconnection from reality that they should cause serious concern.

What scientists have shown

Researchers led by F.A.Kondrashov from the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology decided to find out what the risk of coronavirus strains resistant to existing vaccines is. To do this, they created a model that numerically describes the dynamics of the spread of coronavirus in a conditional group of ten million people. The group adopted those parameters of the coronavirus epidemic that other scientific groups had previously established empirically. For example, mortality from coronavirus in the model is taken as real - 1% of all cases. The rate of loss of immunity in those who have recovered is taken as 1/180 per day - that is, after 180 days, the immunity of those who have recovered is taken as zero. A similar picture, as we wrote, is indicated by the epidemic in places where everyone has already been ill.

In addition, scientists mistook the infectivity of the virus as a variable value. The "infectiousness" of the virus is determined by the parameter R - it is equal to the number of people that a sick person can infect before he recovers. From the experience of the epidemic, it is known that in the classic coronavirus (the Wuhan strain), as well as in the South African and a number of others, R varies greatly depending on the severity of quarantine measures (and even the weather). And also on the number of carriers - the more there are at the first stage of outbreaks, the more "super-carriers" of the virus are among them. This is the name for people for whom R, for one reason or another, is much higher than the norm. If an ordinary person, having fallen ill, infects a couple of others with a coronavirus, then the super-peddler can infect a dozen or two, or even more.


At the same time, when a too large proportion of the infected was reached, the “contagion rate” in the model decreased: such a decrease is actually observed with large outbreaks, since the authorities are trying to stop them with serious restrictive measures.

So far, all the parameters of the model described by us look pretty realistic. What did the authors of the work get by modeling the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains with their help?

They found that before vaccination of a significant number of people in the population, the likelihood of a strain that bypasses vaccine protection is not very high.Such a probability becomes really serious only if 60% of the population or more is vaccinated (in this case, the virus "has no way out" except to develop resistance to vaccine protection).

However, the authors note, this struggle and the emergence of new dangerous strains can be effectively prevented - by restrictive measures such as travel bans, wearing masks and social distancing, which persists even after 60% of the population has been vaccinated.

The authors also note that strategies to “vaccinate the elderly first, because among them there is a higher mortality rate from coronavirus” look unsafe. Yes, they will save the lives of some of the elderly. However, such a decrease in mortality can lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of anti-epidemiological measures among the rest of the population - and then the chances of the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains in the population will increase.

The low rates of vaccination are driving up the chances of such new and more dangerous strains emerging. They give time for the evolution of the virus: the more man-days in the unvaccinated ones it receives, the more copies it will have time to create. And the greater their number, the higher the likelihood of new mutations. Vaccination will push these mutations towards vaccine resistance.

Finally, the presence of countries where vaccination is slower than in the world as a whole also contributes to the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains. They will serve as a kind of "reservoirs" where the virus will have the opportunity to create more copies of itself and "try" more variants of mutations.

The job sounds very disturbing. How close is it to reality?

We respect modeling, but the entire history of the development of science shows that its data can be taken seriously only if they do not contradict the observed facts concerning the objects of modeling. For example, it is difficult to take seriously the models that promise desertification due to the emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (and there were many such models) if in real life the planet is undergoing rapid global greening due to these gases. So what's the new model? Does it fit in with the really observed coronavirus situation?

Not at the moment, and here's why. The model adopted almost the same levels of R - the infectivity of the coronavirus - both for the base strain and for new, mutant strains. This is obviously not the case. Back in 2020, a British strain of coronavirus emerged, which had a noticeably higher infectiousness than the "Wuhan" version, due to which it ousted it. At the end of 2020, a much more dangerous Indian strain of coronavirus emerged - the notorious "delta", which caused the strongest outbreak in Russia this summer.


So: R "delta" - not "up to 2, 52", adopted in the model of the authors of the new work, but at least five - and, according to a number of estimates, even higher, up to seven. This is a huge level, twice or more higher than that of the base strain of the coronavirus. A similar level of infectivity was observed in smallpox until vaccination eradicated it. With such an infectiousness, the epidemic began to give the strongest outbreaks even in summer, although the underlying coronavirus experienced problems with this in the summer.

If this factor is not taken into account in the model, it largely devalues ​​it. While some strains of coronavirus can be twice as infectious as others, then in real life they will displace less infectious ones - even if they are better at bypassing the vaccine. Actually, this is already happening. The South African strain ("beta") bypasses the Sputnik vaccine more often than the "delta" - but despite this, it is the "delta" that displaces the "beta", and not vice versa. This is because the infectiousness of the "Indian" is twice as high as that of the "South African". And even the fact that the latter is more resistant to vaccines does not change the situation. The doubly infectiousness of the "delta" among the unvaccinated "interrupts" the somewhat greater infectiousness of the "beta" among the vaccinated.

Another assumption of the model: immunity after vaccination lasts indefinitely (that is, the model does not take into account the need for revaccination). It is already known from Russian experience that this is not the case.Even Sputnik, currently the most effective delta vaccine, loses its protective power after about six months. Obviously, the same is happening with Pfizer. Israel has already de facto acknowledged this by launching a "third dose" of Pfizer for seniors. In other words, even though the word “revaccination” is also avoided there, they have already started it, although so far it is available only to the elderly, and not to all ages, as in Russia.

Western countries will follow the Russian-Israeli path with some delay: the United States authorities continue to ignore the need for revaccination. But there will be no other way out there either. Take the latest data from the US Centers for Infectious Disease Control. They have already described a case when among 900 people, during one local outbreak, 469 contracted the coronavirus. 74% of cases were vaccinated, although in general the proportion of vaccinated among the population of the States in this area is below 74%. Of the five hospitalized during this local outbreak, four were fully vaccinated by Pfizer. That is, from this case it is not at all clear that the Pfizer vaccine protected from hospitalization with covid (fortunately, there are no deaths in this outbreak yet).

Moreover, this outbreak cannot be attributed to the thesis "mostly the elderly are vaccinated, so they become infected more often than others, because the elderly are more vulnerable to coronavirus." The fact is that the average age of those infected in this local outbreak is only 40 years.


What does it mean? Yes, a very simple thing: they all needed a revaccination. Pfizer does have a reduced (only 64%) efficacy against the "delta", However, in this outbreak, 64% is not particularly observed, otherwise 74% of patients (and 80% of those hospitalized) would hardly have been vaccinated. It is much more likely that some of them, vaccinated six months ago or more, simply exceeded the period during which their protection worked.

But the American medical authorities, until very recently, persisted in saying that there was no scientific evidence for the need for revaccination. Therefore, no one strengthened the immunity of these people, which is why they began to get sick and go to the hospital. It is easy to see that any modeling of the course of the coronavirus epidemic without revaccination is completely unrealistic. Fortunately, the authors made their model code publicly available. If there are those who want to introduce revaccination there and other unaccounted for factors, it will clearly become more useful.

A model describing an unreal world?

Another factor in the authors' model undermines its value for predicting the course of the epidemic in the real world. The model assumes a final unvaccinated proportion of 1%. With such a proportion, the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains is inevitable: without them, the virus is simply doomed to extinction. But the point is that the very achievement of such a share is pure fantasy. This means that the idea of ​​"the obligatory appearance of vaccine-resistant strains" is still a fantasy.

Let's take a look at the map: if in Rwanda the population is conscious enough that more than 90% are vaccinated, then this should not be expected from countries such as Japan, France, Russia, Ukraine and others. The consciousness of their inhabitants was washed out by anti-vaccination ideas even before the coronavirus and did not become clearer during the new epidemic. Not only 1%, but also 20% of the unvaccinated for these states is an unattainable dream.


We have already stated the reasons for this more than once, and, in fact, they have been described even before us. Already in Soviet times, a certain Solzhenitsyn, describing the phenomenon of "education", characterized it as follows: "The ever-increasing narrowing of professional knowledge, which makes it possible for half-blinds to become a doctor of sciences." These are absolutely accurate words: the average inhabitant of modern Japan or Russia can be half-ignorant, even if he is a doctor of sciences. We have already given examples of doctors of medical sciences (epidemiologists!) Who died of their own ignorance about the coronavirus. Outside of their rather narrow education, such doctors of sciences know little.But those who are not doctors are also not too curious outside of their highly specialized education.

The overwhelming majority of the population does not know anything about how their ancestors, with stakes in their hands, beat up representatives of the Russian state, which was trying to fight epidemics of the past, or resisted attempts by the authorities to introduce smallpox vaccinations (until the Bolsheviks introduced them with violence). The majority did not read "Without a Road" by Veresaev, who described similar problems. This majority knows almost nothing about the details of how vaccines work. But at the same time, people consider themselves educated enough to have some vague doubts about the need for vaccination.

Why is there no Russian or Japanese anti-virus savagery in Rwanda and other countries in Africa and Latin America? After all, it would seem, if not in Russia, then in Japan with education is clearly better than in Rwanda. The point is that many people who have received a large amount of knowledge in a "ready-made form" often find it more difficult to make decisions correctly than other people who have not received such knowledge in large volumes. The first to describe this was Heraclitus of Ephesus, who noticed two and a half thousand years ago:

"Much knowledge does not teach the mind."

The task of real, high-quality education is not the formation of multi-knowledge. She is in honing the ability of the mind to make decisions. However, the modern school is far from the ancient Greek Lyceum. She gives more knowledge than teaches on their basis to make correct and completely independent decisions.

Therefore, at the exit from it, we often get a lot of knowledge - a bunch of facts in the student's head. But this knowledge only gives the person a sense of his own greater competence - in comparison with the Rwandan who brought a bunch of smaller sizes out of school. But we are not talking about any real greater competence.

Knowing less facts, the Rwandan is not tempted to consider himself competent enough to judge the safety of vaccines based on some abstract anti-vaccination ideas. He trusts them - because from his observations it follows that everyone around is vaccinated and after that they get sick less. And in that distant village, where there is no luck with the number of vaccines available, they get sick more.

A modern Japanese, French or Russian does not face powerful epidemics, and neither did his fathers. At the same time, having got used to receiving ready-made knowledge from the outside at school, he easily “pulls into his mouth” ready-made ideas from social networks and the Internet. For example, ideas about "vaccine infertility" and similar unscientific fantasies.

Our schools primarily create consumers of knowledge, not producers. People who are accustomed to obediently accepting external ideas without a detailed understanding of their complex details. It is not surprising that such consumers find it easier to throw any external ideas - regardless of the degree of their scientific validity.


There are no working ways to combat anti-vaccination sentiments. The modern school of the Prussian model was created a long time ago, and no matter how you reform it, it will always remain based on authority and the acceptance of facts on faith, without their critical analysis. This means that its graduates will always be vulnerable to false anti-scientific ideas: after all, they do not teach them to analyze seemingly "well-known" facts from the standpoint of the scientific method either at school or at a university. And not only in Russia, but, in fact, nowhere.

If our population is so vulnerable to the ideas of anti-vaccination savagery, maybe it makes sense to establish anti-vaccination censorship? Then these anti-scientific ideas simply will not penetrate into the soft and incapable of critical analysis of reality in the consciousness of citizens?

In theory, this is possible, but in practice it is unrealistic. Let's take a fresh example: in Russia more than a million people are vaccinated with EpiVacKorona. No, not like that: "vaccinated" with "EpiVacCorona", because this is not a vaccine: it simply does not work, as we wrote about in detail. This entire million is practically not protected from the coronavirus. As noted above, one in every hundred of those infected with coronavirus dies.Among this million, sooner or later everyone will get sick, since the epidemic in Russia will not disappear in any foreseeable future.

That is, this pseudovaccine will in fact kill (with covid) about ten thousand only among those already vaccinated. And this is approximately equal to the combat losses of the USSR during the ten years of the war in Afghanistan.

If we establish anti-vaccination censorship, analyzes of this "pseudovaccine" will also disappear from public discussion. Because technically it is a vaccine.

No exit. We cannot censor the information field about vaccines because the authorities can call something that is not a vaccine. Without censoring the information field, citizens unprotected by the ability to critical analysis will never cease to contain a very significant stratum of anti-vaccinators.

Which of all this is the practical conclusion

So, we have established that the idea of ​​the "inevitability" of the emergence of vaccine-resistant viruses from new scientific work does not quite match with reality. The model, firstly, was created before the appearance of the "delta" and does not take into account its enormous infectiousness. This is not the fault of the authors: Scientific Reports is a peer-reviewed journal, and the peer review process takes a long time, so articles on rapidly changing events published in it often do not keep up with reality. Second, the new model uses another unrealistic assumption - that 99% of the population is vaccinated. It is obvious that the cultural and educational level of existing humanity excludes such achievements (except in the DPRK - but there are no high-quality vaccines there).

This means that the idea of ​​"vaccination and the removal of restrictions will create new dangerous strains" is wrong. In fact, new dangerous strains will give rise to regions where the bulk of people have not been able to be vaccinated with high-quality vaccines. For example, as was the case with the "delta" in India last year. That is, it is not “vaccination” and “abolition of antikidny measures” that generate new strains. On the contrary, it is precisely the places where vaccination and anti-cactus measures have not been serious enough give rise to them.


The centers from which "novelties" come to us can be countries with vaccinations, such as Russia. But definitely not because of the abolition of restrictions - the blessing of restrictions at least of the western level (not to mention the Chinese one) we have never had. And certainly not because of vaccinations - but, on the contrary, because of its lack.

But what's the bottom line? If we forget about ignoring the “delta” and the cultural level of earthlings, what conclusions does the model still allow us to draw?

Quite definitely, it shows that low rates of vaccination dramatically increase the possibility of the emergence of new dangerous strains. This is a very important conclusion for Russia - because the rate of vaccination in our country has always been low, even at its peak, not exceeding 0.5% of the population per day. And now, moreover, they have also dropped to 0.3% of the population per day.

In fact, at such a rate of vaccination, we will never be able to protect ourselves from the virus at all. Sputnik developers note: after six months, vaccine protection against coronavirus is weakening and revaccination is required. But in more than six months of mass vaccination, we were able to vaccinate less than a quarter of the population. And the protection of the first vaccinated had already subsided - which is why the authorities began revaccination. This means that when in six months we will inoculate another quarter, we will only maintain the current level of protection of the population with the vaccine - and will not increase it.


As we can see, we will not achieve any complete vaccination of the population. Therefore, it is very likely that a vaccine-resistant strain will nevertheless emerge, and it is in our country - or another with a low vaccination rate, for example, in France, Ukraine or Japan.

However, it should be noted that this strain will almost certainly be only partially vaccine-resistant. The envelope of the coronavirus, unlike the flu, is composed of a single type of S protein. This means that its variability is unlikely to lead to the appearance of a viral envelope that will be completely invulnerable to antibodies to the S-protein. That is, new strains can drop the protection of "Sputnik" (85-90% of the "delta") or Pfizer (64% of the "delta") to, for example, 50-60%.But it is hardly much stronger. Protection against severe covid and covid death can drop from 99% to, for example, 70-80% - but hardly lower. That is, vaccinated people will generally survive even new strains.

It will definitely be worse for those who have been ill, but not vaccinated. We wrote separately that the level of their antibodies is many times lower than that of those vaccinated by Sputnik, and that data from Manaus and Peru show that those who have recovered completely fall ill and die.


Even so, the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains should not be overly feared. Yes, they will come: the low topics of vaccination in Russia and some other countries of the world make it inevitable. But no apocalypse will take place. There are just tens or hundreds of thousands more dead residents of our country. Against the background of catastrophic mortality since the beginning of the epidemic, it is a common thing.

It is possible that the constant epidemic of the coronavirus, new strains and many thousands of people who die from it every month are a new Russian normality … To which you just have to get used to. Fortunately, neither our society nor our state want to seriously fight it.

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