randombio.com | Science Dies in Unblogginess | Believe All Science | Follow The Science
Monday, June 28, 2021 | Science commentary / book review

Does vaccine hesitancy increase the probability of a new mutant strain or decrease it?

The problem of cancer drug resistance may give us a clue

T he counterintuitive thing is the fact that cancer evolves.

As we all know, evolution happens when selective pressure exists. When a person is given antibiotics, bacteria will evolve resistance to it because those without the mutation will not survive. The same happens to cancer cells: the cells that are susceptible to, say, PARP inhibitors, die off and the cancer becomes resistant to the drug. The treatment makes the cancer incurable and the patient dies. An interesting book discusses in great detail how cancer researchers try to get around this problem.

One argument on vaccines is that unless we completely eliminate SARS-CoV-2 by vaccinating everybody right now, it will mutate, as RNA viruses including coronaviruses are wont to do, and become resistant to the current crop of vaccines. The other argument is that using vaccines or antiviral drugs against the virus places selective pressure on the virus and will increase the rate at which mutations enter the population.

Both these arguments are valid, even though one is being promoted and the other is being censored, so the question becomes: which is more likely to create a harmful mutation? If we vaccinated everyone, it would put enormous selective pressure on the virus. If it could be done faster than the virus can mutate, any new mutants would have difficulty spreading and the virus might disappear. If not, it would become resistant to the vaccine and 2020 would become an eternal Groundhog Year.

If, on the other hand, no one got vaccinated, the virus would be with us forever, but it would be endemic and the population would adapt to it, and it could mutate, most likely becoming less pathogenic, but maybe not. This is the dilemma.

To solve it, we would need epidemiological models to tell us which scenario is less risky. And that is what's so depressing: a case could be made that it was our epidemiological models that got us into this mess in the first place.

Well, you might say: no matter, no matter, we'll run the models and do the opposite of whatever they say. That's one solution, but in fact the whole argument is based on three false premises: one, that we can vaccinate the entire population of the globe, including those living on isolated islands and in under­ground bunkers; two, that we can predict what the virus will do, and three, that we have some way of getting the true answer, with all the uncertainties clearly stated, past the politicians and the scientist-bureaucrats who, we've discovered, happily mislead the public to trick us into doing what they want.

june 28 2021, 6:04 am

Related Articles

Strange things started happening to me after I got vaccinated
I finally got around to getting a Covid vaccine. Now forks are sticking to my head, drones crash around me, and I can no longer get Wi-Fi

Here's what we know about the N501Y mutation in SARS-CoV-2 (updated Jan 02, 2021)
We're living in an age when a single nucleotide change can throw a continent into a state of utter panic

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise

book reviews