We’ve been told that vaccines are our ticket out of repeated Covid lockdowns. That’s what the world is gambling on, not to mention financial markets – in particular – betting on it.
The lockdowns may or may not deal with Covid-19 waves, but they don’t stop another wave from coming back. Vaccines are supposed to do that. They are expected to make Covid-19 a thing of the past – and return the world to normality.
But what if they don’t? What if vaccines won’t unlock the globe?
Well, so far, evidence from Israel is encouraging. Two doses of the Pfizer vaccines were found to be effective.
The trouble now is, what does effective really mean? Does it mean the end of lockdowns? Or do lockdowns continue because vaccines don’t eradicate the illness, they just dampen it?
That debate is raging in the media now. But I’m worried about events on a tiny island.
You see, we now have what you might call scant evidence that the battle between Covid-19 and vaccines is not looking so good.
It’s far from convincing, complete or decisive proof of anything, yet. But it is concerning and worth keeping an eye on.
What followed was an analysis of Seychelles, where there are high levels of vaccination, like those which Australian politicians claim will allow them to open up:
The nation with the highest per cent of vaccinations in the world is seeing a Covid-19 surge.
Read that again.
And the island nation in question is implementing lockdown-like restrictions.
I then went “on the record” that this was a sign of things to come.
Since then, well, let’s just say Seychelles turned out to be a warning for the rest of the world. And it didn’t take long for things to get completely bizarre in Israel either.
The words “high vaccination rate,” “record Covid” and “reimpose lockdown” have been combined in a rather large number of news headlines ever since.
Gibraltar and Ireland are the current showcases, but only the recent ones.
The Irish Times explained on 21 October that, “Waterford city district has State’s highest rate of Covid-19 infections” but “County also has highest rate of vaccination take-up in the Republic”.
Since then, in anticipation of what was to come next, I have been singing the old Abba song about how vaccinations lose the battle against Covid restrictions…
My, my – at Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender
Oh, yeah – and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself
Waterford, I was defeated, you won the war
Waterford, promise to jab you forevermore
Waterford, couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterford, knowing my fate is to be with you
Finally facing my Waterford
After ignoring the evidence from places like Seychelles, and presuming that vaccinations would allow an end to lockdown restrictions, the rest of Ireland is now facing its Waterford.
“Ireland Reimposes Some Virus Restrictions as Cases Surge,” reports Bloomberg. And the word “some” is the key here with “Covid passes to be required at cinemas, theaters, not at gyms”. This is odd given you can exercise outside.
“If the number of Covid infections and hospitalizations continues to grow at the rate we are currently seeing, no health system anywhere in the world would be able to cope,” Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said.
The thing is, they don’t continue to grow, as the UK’s professor Neil Ferguson now knows… They eventually peak. And so, making policy decisions on some sort of never-ending exponential rise is just plain stupid.
Of course, Ireland is far from alone. The list of nations abandoning their vaccine enabled post-Covid lifestyle is getting very long. Some countries barely lasted weeks before the reintroduction of restrictions.
Indeed, what’s fascinating is not how many nations are forced to abandon their reopening despite vaccinations, given how normal that now is, but that politicians continue to pursue the strategy of getting vaccinated in order to end lockdowns.
If it didn’t work for Seychelles, Israel, Denmark, Singapore, Ireland, etc., etc., it seems rather unscientific to presume it’ll work at all.
Remember, we’re focusing on lockdown policies and economic disruptions here, not health. That was my key question back in May. Whether the vaccines would help us escape the disruptions of lockdown policies.
So far, the vaccines seem to have done the opposite. Vaccine mandates have triggered the Great Resignation, as it’s being called, for example. Outcomes have included more disruption to the economy, thousands more deaths at the NHS than usual (but not from Covid), and severe economic losses while government handouts expire.
But what I was really getting at back in May was whether the stock market and the economy would turn down once we realise that vaccines are not a way out of the pandemic. Would we get another crash as markets realise the pandemic policies are here to stay for longer.
So far, stock markets don’t seem to care much. And economies, as measured by GDP, are withstanding trouble remarkably well too.
The problems are popping up elsewhere – inflation, shortages, supply chain disruption, commodity prices bouncing around all over the place and more.
But this may be about to change dramatically as inflation begins to compete with emergency economic policy. If central bankers tighten monetary policy just when the pandemic gets a hold of the world’s lockdown fanatics…
So, which matters more to central banks? Can governments impose another round of lockdown economic guarantees without the central bankers helping to finance it? Or will central bankers tighten? More on that will follow soon, if a reader gets back to me on publishing his question.
Of course, we have also managed to escape lockdowns since vaccination became widespread. But I went on a narrow boat holiday after the UK’s first wave, so I don’t think the absence of lockdowns for a short time proves anything. The question is whether lockdowns come back at all. If they do, the vaccines won’t stop them.
But if the vaccines don’t work well enough to stop you from getting Covid, from passing it on, nor from having to impose lockdowns, then they’re not very good, are they?
The new focus seems to be on locking down the unvaccinated. And that seems to be a mightily high-risk strategy to me. If the pandemic worsens despite such a lockdown, what would that reveal…?
Perhaps not much given what we know about Gibraltar. The Evening Standard points out that “Christmas cancelled in Gibraltar – the ‘most vaccinated’ place in the world” which has a vaccination rate around 140% (thanks to the Spanish workforce getting jabbed). Despite this, cases are rising exponentially on “The Rock”.
So, while we now know that even 140% vaccination rates don’t prevent pandemic restrictions, the big question remains the same: when will this reality finally hit markets?
Oh, there’s one thing I don’t understand. Perhaps you can help…
We now know that the vaccines don’t have enough of an effect on transmission to prevent pandemic lockdown policies from coming back. But they are supposed to make us significantly less likely to catch Covid in the first place.
And, given that you need to catch Covid in order to transmit it… well, I’m a little baffled by the combination…
Editor, Fortune & Freedom