WHO deletes tweet about COVID-19 immunity — A few thoughts.

in #coronavirus2 years ago (edited)


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In cased you missed it, the World Health Organization deleted a misleading tweet about COVID-19 immunity.

Rather than drawing conclusions about the characteristics of a new virus on the basis of a tweet being deleted, I would strongly encourage people to read the actual scientific brief, which has not been retracted, and evaluate what it actually says.

Here's a key excerpt:

"WHO continues to review the evidence on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Most of these studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the virus. However, some of these people have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood, suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery. As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans."

I understand that people are distrustful of the WHO (for good reasons), and obviously we should all be hoping that the presence of COVID-19 antibodies can be shown with a high degree of confidence to confer long-term immunity, even in cases where the person was asymptomatic. All I ask is that people stop sounding so certain of themselves when they talk about COVID-19 immunity — if for no other reason, it's possible that your "certain about immunity" comments will not age well and may be used against you in the future.

This may be a huge challenge, but we all have to learn to become more comfortable with uncertainty on this specific question, and probably also in general (in light of the many uncertainties in our world). In this case, it's important regardless of your political leanings because governments are enacting, and being pressured to enact, a wide range of policies (e.g. immunity passports) on the basis of beliefs about immunity that may (or may not) turn out to be false.

To be clear, most experts agree that antibodies will confer immunity, and that it will likely be possible to develop an effective vaccine, but nobody can be certain about how long the immunity will last or how effective the vaccine will be. There's already evidence that the virus has mutated significantly, and this may (or may not) impact efforts to achieve widespread immunity.

I will no doubt be accused of "fearmongering" or pushing some globalist conspiracy for posting this, but the truth is that I am still trying to figure out what I think about all the different policy responses and their impacts, and in situations like these I care much, much more about the scientific method and rational civil discourse than politics or some narrow ideology.

To be extra super clear, I'm not shouting "shut everything down," and I'm not shouting "reopen everything." The only thing I'm shouting is "please be rational and reasonable and intellectually honest, because we need those qualities now more than ever and they are in short supply."


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Some people still do not realize that it is almost impossible to erase something you put on the internet. All it takes is one copy.