February 26, 2021

GOOD ADVICE: Stop Worrying About Extremely Unlikely Covid Risks.

For the past year, there’s been too much spin, too much moralizing, and not enough in the way of clear explanation. People still wrongly fear that passing others on the street is a big danger because scientists and the press lump all risks together — substantial with astronomically unlikely.

Vaccine messaging is now playing up post-vaccination risks, with health authorities saying vaccinated people will have to continue take exactly the same precautions. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt found, many people took that recommendation so seriously that they’re questioning the point of getting the shots, or are refusing them.

In fact, having a dinner party with a few vaccinated friends would be reasonable, says Babak Javid, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco. Could someone transmit the disease — maybe? “I think the risks of that are so remotely low,” he says. He would go if invited.

It’s true that even 95% vaccine efficacy means a few people might still get the disease post-vaccination — and some might get a silent case and give it to someone else — but the vaccine is proving close to 100% effective at preventing the most severe and deadly cases. And as more people get vaccinated, incidence of the disease should plunge even lower. The risks will plunge with it. . . .

Javid was one of the very first proponents of masking, fighting for it back when it was unpopular with other public health leaders — but even he draws the line at making runners and cyclists or solitary walkers mask up. “In the context of the pandemic where there are literally hundreds of million cases worldwide, even rare events can happen,” he says. “So I am not going to say it is impossible. I think the risks of, you know, someone cycling past you and giving you COVID is minimal, to say the least.” . . .

Scientists and journalists may feel magnifying small risks is erring on the side of caution. But if freaking people out about small things is distracting from the risks that have led to most of the 500,000 deaths, then perhaps true caution would instead dictate erring as little as possible.

If your rules aren’t based on science, they’re arbitrary invasions of freedom.

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