The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man

There has been a lot of debate about the pandemic and vaccines … in the interest of getting all opinions out there … here is one from a science journalist writing in the magazine the Atlantic. – Ian Curr, Editor.

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In a crowded field of wrongness, one person stands out: Alex Berenson.

The pandemic has made fools of many forecasters. Just about all of the predictions whiffed. Anthony Fauci was wrong about masks. California was wrong about the outdoors. New York was wrong about the subways. I was wrong about the necessary cost of pandemic relief. And the Trump White House was wrong about almost everything else.

In this crowded field of wrongness, one voice stands out. The voice of Alex Berenson: the former New York Times reporter, Yale-educated novelist, avid tweeter, online essayist, and all-around pandemic gadfly. Berenson has been serving up COVID-19 hot takes for the past year, blithely predicting that the United States would not reach 500,000 deaths (we’ve surpassed 550,000) and arguing that cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus (yes, they can).

A graphic of Alex Berenson standing with an X of red dots over him.
Getty / The Atlantic

Berenson has a big megaphone. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and millions of viewers for his frequent appearances on Fox News’ most-watched shows. On Laura Ingraham’s show, he downplayed the vaccines, suggesting that Israel’s experience proved they were considerably less effective than initially claimed. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, he predicted that the vaccines would cause an uptick in cases of COVID-related illness and death in the U.S.

The vaccines have inspired his most troubling comments. For the past few weeks on Twitter, Berenson has mischaracterized just about every detail regarding the vaccines to make the dubious case that most people would be better off avoiding them. As his conspiratorial nonsense accelerates toward the pandemic’s finish line, he has proved himself the Secretariat of being wrong:

Usually, I would refrain from lavishing attention on someone so blatantly incorrect. But with vaccine resistance hovering around 30 percent of the general population, and with 40 percent of Republicans saying they won’t get a shot, debunking vaccine skepticism, particularly in right-wing circles, is a matter of life and death.

Berenson’s TV appearances are more misdirection than outright fiction, and his Twitter feed blends internet-y irony and scientific jargon in a way that may obscure what he’s actually saying. To pin him down, I emailed several questions to him last week. Below, I will lay out, as clearly and fairly as I can, his claims about the vaccines and how dangerously, unflaggingly, and superlatively wrong they are.

Before I go point by point through his wrong positions, let me be exquisitely clear about what is true. The vaccines work. They worked in the clinical trials, and they’re working around the world. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson seem to provide stronger and more lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants than natural infection. They are excellent at reducing symptomatic infection. Even better, they are extraordinarily successful at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Countries that have vaccinated large percentages of their population quickly, such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel, have all seen sharp and sustained declines in hospitalizations among the elderly. Meanwhile, countries that have lagged in the vaccination effort—including the U.K.’s neighbors France and Italy, and Israel’s neighbor Jordan—have struggled to contain the virus. The authorized vaccines are marvels, and the case against them relies on half-truths, untruths, and obfuscations.


Berenson’s claim: In country after country, “cases rise after vaccination campaigns begin,” he wrote in an email.

The reality: In country after country, cases decline after vaccination campaigns begin.

One of Berenson’s themes is that the mRNA vaccines are badly underperforming outside the clinical trials and are possibly even causing a spike in cases after the first shot. But just this week, CDC researchers studying real-world conditions came to the opposite conclusion: The mRNA vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer are 90 percent effective two weeks after the second dose, in line with the trial data. “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons,” they concluded.

Still, Berenson pushes the argument that the vaccines are causing suspicious illness and death. On Twitter and in his email to me, Berenson claimed that an “excellent” Denmark study showed a 40 percent rise in infections immediately after nursing-home residents received their first vaccine shot.

I reached out to that study’s lead author, Ida Rask Moustsen-Helms at the Statens Serum Institut, who said that Berenson had mischaracterized her findings. She explained to me that the Danish nursing homes in question were already experiencing a significant COVID-19 outbreak when vaccinations began. Many people in the long-term-care facilities were likely already sick before their vaccine was administered, and “these people would technically count as vaccinated with confirmed COVID-19, even if the infection happened prior to the vaccination or its immune response,” she said. With limited vaccines, countries ought to give the first vaccines to the groups most likely to get COVID-19. That’s exactly what seems to have happened here. Berenson is scaremongering about the vaccines by essentially criticizing their wise distribution.

In our emails, Berenson further argued that many of the perceived benefits of the vaccines are illusory. “It is very hard to distinguish the course of the epidemic this winter in countries that have vaccinated heavily, such as Israel and the UK, and those that have not, such as Canada and Germany,” he wrote.

This is hogwash. In the U.K. and Israel, hospitalizations have fallen by at least 70 percent since mid-January, and they remain low. In Canada, hospitalizations fell by significantly less, and in Germany, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases has more than doubled since mid-February; its government has debated a new lockdown.

This stage of the pandemic is a race between the variants and the vaccines. In many states, such as Michigan and New York, normalizing behavior combined with more contagious strains of the virus are pushing up cases again. This is not evidence that America’s vaccination campaign isn’t working. Quite the opposite: It highlights the urgency of moving faster to deliver vaccines, which are our best chance to control the spread of contagious variants.

Berenson’s claim: Pfizer-BioNTech’s clinical-trial data prove that the companies are being shady about vaccine efficacy.

The reality: His “proof” is a total mischaracterization of trial data.

Berenson seems to enjoy spelunking through research to find esoteric statistics that he then dresses up with spooky language to make confusing points that sow doubt about the vaccines. Arguing that COVID-19 cases spike after the first dose, he directs people to the Pfizer-BioNTech FDA briefing document, which reports hundreds of “suspected but unconfirmed” COVID-19 cases in the trial’s vaccine group that aren’t counted as positive cases in the final efficacy analysis.https://e5f3e3373c78570cac90ed71cba75f2c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

But “suspected but unconfirmed” doesn’t refer to participants who were probably sick with COVID-19. On the contrary, it refers to participants who reported various symptoms, such as a cough or a sore throat, and then took a PCR test—and then that test came back negative.

“His point is absolutely stupid, and I would know because I enrolled participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech trial,” Kawsar Talaat, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, told me. “He’s talking about people who call in and say, ‘I have a runny nose.’ So we mark them as ‘suspected.’ Then we ask them to take a PCR test, and we test their swab, and if the test comes back negative, the FDA says it’s ‘unconfirmed.’ That’s what suspected but unconfirmed means.”

When I emailed Pfizer and BioNTech representatives about Berenson’s claim, they struggled to even understand what I was talking about. Someone was taking a group of several thousand people who had tested negative for COVID-19 and, from afar, diagnosing all of them with COVID-19? “Does not make sense,” a BioNTech spokesperson responded curtly.

If you were enrolled in Berenson’s vaccine trial for SARS-CoV-2 and never contracted the virus, but one day you told a clinician that you had a bit of a cough, Berenson would mark you down as “infected with COVID-19” and blame the vaccine. That’s the logic here, and, as you can tell, it’s not really logic; it just seems like an attempt to find something—anything—wrong with the vaccines.

Berenson’s claim: The mRNA vaccines dangerously suppress your immune system, possibly causing severe illness and even death.

The reality: His claim is based on a total misunderstanding of how the immune system works.

Berenson wrote in an email that “the first dose of the mRNA vaccine temporarily suppresses the immune system.” He has claimed on Twitter that the mRNA vaccines “transiently suppress lymphocytes,” or our white blood cells, and suggested that this might lead to “post-vaccination deaths.”

Scientists tore this one to shreds. “The claim he is making is simply fearmongering, connecting a simple physiological event with bogus claims of deaths,” Shane Crotty, a researcher at the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, told me. “The observation of lymphocyte numbers temporarily dropping in blood is actually a common phenomenon in immune responses.”

A little background is useful here: White blood cells are the immune system’s scouts. After an effective vaccination, some of them leave the blood and go to the site of inflammation, such as the arm that received the shot. “The cells are not gone,” Crotty said. “They come back to the blood in a few days. It is generally a good sign of an immune response, not the opposite.” To demonstrate that the vaccines are counterproductive, then, Berenson is pointing to the very biological mechanism that strongly suggests they’re working just as scientists expected.

Readers are surely familiar with other biological events that sound bad in the short term but are part of a normal, healthy process. When you lift weights at the gym, your muscles experience small tears that recover and then strengthen over time. Imagine if some loudmouth started screaming in the middle of the weight room, “You all think you’re building your muscles, but actually you’re tearing them to shreds, and it could kill you!” You would probably carry on calmly, assuming that this guy just got a little overexcited after finding a Yahoo Answers article about muscle formation and stopped reading after the first paragraph. Berenson’s claim is basically a version of that, but for your immune system.

“Actually,” Talaat said, “his argument is even worse than your analogy. Muscles really do tear at the gym. But lymphocytes don’t go away. They just move. What he’s describing as dangerous in these tweets is just the regular functioning of our immune system.”

Berenson’s claim: In Israel, the shots are causing a scary number of deaths and hospitalizations.

The reality: Israel is a sensational vaccine success story: a nearly open economy where COVID-19 rates are plunging. See for yourself!

On February 11, Berenson warned his followers that early data from Israel proved that vaccine advocates “need to start ratcheting down expectations.” This was a strange claim to make at the time: An Israeli health-care provider had reported no deaths and four severe cases among its first 523,000 fully vaccinated people. But the claim seems even more ridiculous now, in light of Israel’s incredible success since then. New positive cases in Israel are down roughly 95 percent since January. Deaths have plunged, even though the economy is almost fully open.

When I asked Berenson to explain his beef with Israel’s vaccine record, he sent a link to a news story in Hebrew that, he said, reported “several hundred deaths and hospitalizations and thousands of infections in people who have received both doses.” I can’t read Hebrew, so I reached out to someone who can, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel. He replied by email: “This link actually shows that the vast majority of those who died were NOT vaccinated.” By Segal’s calculations, the vaccines have reduced the risk of death by more than 90 percent in the Israeli population. Segal also said that “numbers of infections only went down, and even more so among the age groups who were first to vaccinate.”

Berenson is wrong about all sorts of little things when it comes to Israel, but I want to emphasize how straightforward and obvious the big picture is here. Israel is a world leader in vaccinations. Its COVID-19 cases have plunged, and its economy is roaring back to life.

Berenson’s claim: Healthy people under 70 shouldn’t get a vaccine.

The reality: Outside of extremely rare cases, every adult should get a vaccine—and if it’s authorized for children, children should get it too.

I wanted to know where Berenson stood on the most important question: Who does he think should get a vaccine, and who does he think shouldn’t? This was the core of his answer:

For most healthy people under 50—and certainly under 35—the side effects from the shots are likely to be worse than a case of Covid. Over 70, sure. The grey zone is somewhere in the middle and probably depends on personal risk factors.

This response has two huge problems. First, although the disease clearly gets more severe with age, drawing a line at 70 is nonsensical. Those in their 50s and early 60s are three times more likely to die from this disease than a 40-something, and 400 times more likely to die than a teenager, according to the CDC.

Second, the suggestion that the vaccine’s side effects are worse than having COVID-19 is ludicrous. The vaccine can cause chills, fever, and other symptoms in the first few days. That’s just the immune system doing its job; severe illness from the vaccines is vanishingly rare. But severe illness in a pandemic is not rare. Based on data from COVID-NET, a surveillance network that captures hospitalizations across the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people under age 50 have likely gone to the hospital with COVID-19.* Several studies have indicated that at least one-third of hospitalized people suffer from long-term symptoms of COVID-19. (Guess what seems to alleviate the symptoms of some of these patients? Getting vaccinated.)

The idea that the vaccine is worse than the disease for the under-70 crowd falls apart utterly when we consider the “side effect” of death. Roughly 100,000 people under 65 have died of COVID-19. Meanwhile, out of more than 145 million vaccines administered in the U.S., a CDC review of clinical information found no evidence that they had caused any deaths. The current score in the competition between non-senior pandemic deaths and conclusive vaccine deaths is 100,000–0.

One hundred thousand to zero. That might be the most important statistic in this whole mess. Berenson doesn’t tweet blatantly falsifiable statements about the vaccines every day. For the most part, he peddles doubt, laced with confusing and expert-sounding jargon, which may seem compelling at first but can’t survive contact with expert opinion.https://e5f3e3373c78570cac90ed71cba75f2c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

To be honest, I initially had serious doubts about publishing this piece. The trap of exposing conspiracy theories is obvious: To demonstrate why a theory is wrong, you have to explain it and, in doing so, incur the risk that some people will be convinced by the very theory you’re trying to debunk. But that horse has left the barn. More than half of Republicans under the age of 50 say they simply won’t get a vaccine. Their hesitancy is being fanned by right-wing hacks, Fox News showboats, and vaccine skeptics like Alex Berenson. The case for the vaccines is built upon a firm foundation of scientific discovery, clinical-trial data, and real-world evidence. The case against the vaccines wobbles because it is built upon a steaming pile of bullshit.

By Derek Thompson


*This piece has been updated to clarify the number of people under age 50 who have likely been hospitalized with COVID-19. Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media, and is the author of the Work in Progress newsletter. He is the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.

2 thoughts on “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man

  1. Ray Bergmann says:

    In the article ‘The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man’ Derek Thompson claims that a larger number of deaths are caused by the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) or by COVID-19 (the disease) than by the administration of the genetic manipulation treatments. I wonder where his data is to confirm that hypothesis! Derek Thompson makes a lot of claims, linking to articles that make those claims but which don’t state which studies were examined to verify those claims.

    In May 2021 in the article ‘Reconciling estimates of global spread and infection fatality rates (IFRs) of COVID-19’ at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33768536/#affiliation-1 John P A Ionnidis, head of the Departments of Medicine, of Epidemiology and Population Health, of Biomedical Data Science, and of Statistics, and Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), Stanford University, Stanford, CA, (USA) attempted to synthesize the evidence of opposing camps which reach seemingly discrepant conclusions.

    The conclusion reached by John Ionnidis was “All systematic evaluations of seroprevalence data converge that SARS-CoV-2 infection is widely spread globally. Acknowledging residual uncertainties, the available evidence suggests average global IFR of ~0.15% and ~1.5-2.0 billion infections by February 2021 with substantial differences in IFR and in infection spread across continents, countries and locations.”

    Now if in May 2021 there are 1.5 to 2 billion infections and an infection fatality rate of 0.15% then the number of deaths from COVID-19 are between 2,250,000 and 3,000,000. This is for the whole world, so Derek Thompson’s 2019 figure of 100,000 people for people under 65 years of age must be comprehended in light of the fact that a much larger number of people who have died from COVID-19 are above 65 years of age. Also Derek Thompson wrote his article in April 2021, one month before Ionnidis’ landmark study, and so Thompson refers to the early figures from 2019.

    As to whether more people are dying from the injections than from the disease, it’s difficult to say. Certainly it can be said that natural immunity is better than vaccine immunity.

    The study at https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/pdfExtended/S2666-3791(21)00203-2 shows how robust natural immunity is, and Marty Makary, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, on 15 September 2021 wrote at https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/09/15/natural-immunity-vaccine-mandate/ that: more than 15 studies have demonstrated the power of immunity acquired by previously having the virus. A 700,000-person study from Israel two weeks ago (i.e. on 24 August 2021) found that those who had experienced prior infections were 27 times less likely to get a second symptomatic covid infection than those who were vaccinated. [https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1]

    This affirmed a June Cleveland Clinic study of health-care workers (who are often exposed to the virus), in which none who had previously tested positive for the coronavirus got reinfected.[https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176v3] The study authors concluded that “individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from covid-19 vaccination.” And in May, a Washington University study found that even a mild covid infection resulted in long-lasting immunity.[https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/good-news-mild-covid-19-induces-lasting-antibody-protection/]

    So, the emerging science suggests that natural immunity is as good as or better than vaccine-induced immunity. That’s why it’s so frustrating that the Biden administration has repeatedly argued that immunity conferred by vaccines is preferable to immunity caused by natural infection, as NIH director Francis Collins told Fox News host told Bret Baier a few weeks ago (i.e. 14 Aug 2021): That rigid adherence to an outdated theory is also reflected in President Biden’s recent announcement that large companies must require their employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing, regardless of whether they previously had the virus.[https://video.foxnews.com/v/6267860705001#sp=show-clips]

    (On 10 Sep 2021) on CNN [https://news.yahoo.com/fauci-lacks-firm-answer-covid-200300992.html], Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, hinted that the government may be rethinking its stance on natural immunity, saying, “I think that is something that we need to sit down and discuss seriously.” Some large medical centers, like Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., have already announced they will recognize natural immunity for their vaccine requirements. Some Republican governors have picked up on public frustration over how the scientific guidance is inconsistent with the data, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accusing the Biden administration of “not following science” by crafting its vaccine mandate without taking into consideration “infection-conferred immunity.”

    At [https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(21)00203-6/fulltext] is the 4 Jun 2021 research paper ‘SARS-CoV-2 elicits robust adaptive immune responses regardless of disease severity’ has a number of interesting conclusions (but they did not separate vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, so the conclusions would apply to both):

    We were able to detect SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies in all but one of the 203 individuals investigated, irrespectively of their disease severity and duration of symptoms. Antibody specificity was distributed across several SARS-CoV-2 antigens, and with coronavirus serological activity observed against SARS-CoV-1, MERS, HKU1, and OC43 human coronaviruses. Similar to previous studies [Robbiani DF, Gaebler C, Muecksch F, et al. Convergent antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in convalescent individuals. Nature. 2020; 584: 437-442], we confirmed the functionally neutralizing and ACE2 blocking capabilities of the SARS-CoV-2 spike and RBD specific antibodies. Noticeably, this infers the development of a robust humoral immune response within the vast majority of the COVID-19 recovered population. Furthermore, nearly all individuals also have SARS-CoV-2 specific IgA responses, clearly indicating functional rigorous class switching and antibody maturation. This presence of IgA is crucial for the immunological protection at mucosal barriers, and hence protection against future SARS-CoV-2 exposures.

    All serological and functional data collected show that both antibody levels and neutralization potency correlate significantly with the disease severity. This indicates that severe disease manifestation is not caused by a lack of adaptive immunity, which is in line with previous reports [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0897-1], [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0965-6]. Hence, we suggest that the prolonged disease course, and consequent larger exposure to virus experienced in hospitalized patients, may provide a timeframe in which enhanced antibody affinity maturation takes place, compared to shorter course mild infections. Of note the duration of illness, also impact the time from infection to sampling in this study as participants had to be completely free of symptoms prior to hospital visit. This time from infection detection to sample collection is a clear limitation of this study, because disease duration is heterogeneous within the cohort. In the setting of the first-wave of the pandemic, we could not allow individuals with e.g. ongoing cough to enter the hospital facilities. As COVID-19 has a very broad disease spectrum duration, some participants had to wait longer for their visit until the lingering acute symptoms had resolved completely. Alternatively, we would not have been able to report on a recovered cohort.

    Studies are conflicted on the degree to which cross-reactive immunity between different coronavirus develop during SARS-CoV-2 infections [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2349-y], [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0897-1], [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2380-z], [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-020-0362-x], [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciimmunol.abe0367]. The considerable diversity of antigen recognition independent of COVID-19 severity shown here, demonstrates that at least some immunological cross-recognition of several different coronavirus is developed during SARS-CoV-2 infections. This is in line with data on cross-reactivity in CD4+ T-cell epitopes between seasonal coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7574914/]. The cross-reactivity observed between SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS, may be due to conserved epitopes between these viruses, as prior infections with SARS-CoV-1 or MERS within our Denmark based cohort are highly unlikely. Such potential cross-reactivity could arise through either newly generated SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies reacting with conserved epitopes, or by reactivation of memory cells originally generated against seasonal coronaviruses. The increased antibody recognition between the cohort and the controls for the seasonal coronavirus strains HKU1 and OC43, while statistically significant, was much lower than that observed for the remaining coronavirus epitopes. This suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 negative controls may have prior exposure to these strains, increasing the overall background for these epitopes significantly. Importantly, the multiplex serological analyses we performed do not provide insight into the SARS-CoV-2 antibody response on a monoclonal antibody level. Here, further studies are needed to determine the possible protective and cross-reactive properties of single-antibody specificities.

    We functionally verified the antibody responses in all individuals, using two separate assays. The cell-based neutralization assays are at present the standard method for determining SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody potency. We additionally used the MSD novel coronavirus multiplex assay, recently reported by Johnson et al [https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1386653220303140?via%3Dihub] to determine the ACE2 blocking capability of individual serum antibodies. The significant correlation between the two assay readouts identifies the plate format ACE2 competition assay as a powerful, high-throughput, screening tool, with applications in both SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic neutralizing antibody development, and assessments of functional protective antibody induction post vaccination. An immense global effort is currently undertaken to develop, distribute and evaluate effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the majority of which are focused on inducing spike or RBD antigen specific immunity [https://internal-journal.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01880/full]. Here we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 spike specific, ACE2 blocking antibodies are found in the majority of infected individuals. Their extensive induction, even in short-term, asymptomatic infections, align with current vaccines designs inducing protective immunity based on spike antigens [https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577], [https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2035389], [https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32661-1/fulltext], [https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2026920], [https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00234-8/fulltext], [https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2034201], [https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2022483]. Nevertheless, the protective effect of antibodies elicited during natural infections, remains to be determined.

    We further report, with single-epitope resolution, a SARS-CoV-2 specific CD8+ T-cell response in 90% of the HLA-A2+ individuals analysed. This corresponds well with other studies reporting CD8+ T cell activation in 70%–100% of recovered patients using full protein overlapping peptide stimulation [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32979941/], [https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)30610-3]. The location of the top three immunogenic epitopes within separate proteins in the viral proteome additionally reinforces our conclusion that a broad immune response is generated towards SARS-CoV-2 in the general infected population. T-cell immunity to SARS-CoV-1 is known to persist for up to six years [https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521661606007352?via%3Dihub], [https://www.jimmunol.org/content/186/12/7264], underlining the importance of developing protective cell based immunity to SARS-CoV-2 if long term viral protection is to be obtained. As an important point, the most broadly recognized CD8+ T-cell epitope (S269-277) within our cohort (responses detected in 81% of HLA-A2+ individuals) is located in the spike antigen. Thus, such epitope specificity can clearly be used to assess CD8+ T-cell immunity in the evaluation of the vaccination efforts currently underway.

    Surprisingly, we found that the cumulative CD8+ T-cell response, across all epitopes, did not vary by disease severity in contrast to what we, and others [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41590-020-0782-6], observed with antibody levels. While the limited coverage of epitopes investigated here may influence this observation, recent evidence suggests that persistent viral replication in otherwise recovered patients may be linked to CD8+ T-cell response magnitude [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33530000/]. Despite the different observations with regard to immune responses and disease severity, we found overall significant relationships between humoral and T-cell based immunity, but all of modest strength. A possible explanation could be the synchronized waning of the magnitude of response for both immune parameters during the time from recovery to study enrolment.

    Of note, the use of dextramer staining is limited by inclusion of selected epitopes and HLA type only, and conclusions are consequently limited to the relative low epitope coverage. However, the advantages of the dextramer technology are superior sensitivity and a high degree of specificity. In the light of the relative low proteome coverage, the fact that only 10% of the investigated individuals did not have a detectable CD8+ T-cell response clearly indicate a strong cytotoxic T-cell component in the immune response towards SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, as our observations of breadth and magnitude in relation to the distribution of distinct SARS-CoV-2 antigens are similar to others [https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(21)00203-6/fulltext#back-bib0046], [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41590-020-0782-6] we conclude that the panel of dextramers applied here provide a new and sensitive representation of the general CD8+ T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2 that will be an important tool in assessing long-term immunity following primary infection or vaccination.

    In conclusion, we observed that disease severity is closely related to the potency and breadth of the antibody response towards SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, we identified the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as a target of adaptive immunity in >99% of the cohort, irrespective of COVID-19 symptom manifestation. Only two individuals (<2%) had neither antibodies with virus neutralization capacity, nor detectable CD8+ T-cell responses. Hence, we conclude that regardless of COVID-19 severity, a robust adaptive immune response towards SARS-CoV-2 is elicited during primary infections.

  2. Ray Bergmann says:

    In the article ‘The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man’ Derek Thompson supports the claim that that cloth and surgical masks can protect against the coronavirus.

    Scientific debate on this issue has been seriously undermined by the removal from many journals since 2016 of the arguments that facemasks don’t work.

    In 2015, Dr. Leonie Walker, Principal Researcher of the New Zealand Nurses Organization succinctly described- within a historical context – the inadequacies of facemasks, “Health care workers have long relied heavily on surgical masks to provide protection against influenza and other infections. Yet there are no convincing scientific data that support the effectiveness of masks for respiratory protection. The masks we use are not designed for such purposes, and when tested, they have proved to vary widely in filtration capability, allowing penetration of aerosol particles ranging from four to 90%.” [Robinson L. Unmasking the evidence. New Zealand Nurses Organization. May 2015. Available at: https://nznoblog.org.nz/2015/05/15/unmasking-the-evidence%5D

    In 2015 Dr. R. MacIntyre, a prolific investigator of face masks, forcefully stated that the historical reliance on theoretical assumptions for recommending PPEs should be replaced by rigorously acquired clinical data. She noted that most studies on face masks have been based on laboratory simulated tests which quite simply have limited clinical applicability as they cannot account for such human factors as compliance, coughing and talking.” [MacIntyre CR, Chughtai AA. Facemasks for the prevention of infection in healthcare and community settings. BMJ 2015; 350:h694.] (There are many similar articles at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?linkname=pubmed_pubmed&from_uid=25858901, all earlier than 2015-16.)

    In 2016 John Hardie, BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC pointed out that “Studies of recent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Ebola Crisis combined with those of seasonal influenza and drug resistant tuberculosis have promoted a better understanding of how respiratory diseases are transmitted. Concurrently, with this appreciation, there have been a number of clinical investigations into the efficacy of protective devices such as face masks.[https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/face-masks-dont-work-revealing-review/]

    In August 2016 responding to a question on the protection from facemasks the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety replied:
    • The filter material of surgical masks does not retain or filter out submicron particles;
    • Surgical masks are not designed to eliminate air leakage around the edges;
    • Surgical masks do not protect the wearer from inhaling small particles that can remain airborne for long periods of time. [Do surgical masks protect workers? OSH Answers Fact Sheets. Canadian Centre for Occupational health and Safety. Updated August 2016.]

    After 2016 discussion closed down on this topic as evidenced by the plethora of material produced in preparation for the plandemic and scientific debate positing an alternative viewpoint was closed down on this topic in some journals: Do face masks work? Here are 49 scientific studies that explain why they do; An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19; Effectiveness of Mask Wearing to Control Community Spread of SARS-CoV-2; Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis; Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US; An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19; Association Between K–12 School Mask Policies and School-Associated COVID-19 Outbreaks — Maricopa and Pima Counties, Arizona, July–August 2021 | MMWR.

    But some other journals refuse to follow the plandemic mandates: https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(21)00869-2/fulltext; https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/covid-wwksf/2021/05/wwksf-transmission-respiratory-aerosols.pdf?la=en; https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33215698/; https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0057100; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420971/pdf/bmjopen-2014-006577.pdf; https://www.meehanmd.com/articles/post/173679/an-evidence-based-scientific-analysis-of-why-masks-are-ineffective-unnecessary-and-harmful.

    Two opposing camps are presented, and you can choose the former or the latter. We are experiencing an interesting world-wide psy-op!

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