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Horowitz: The problematic variant is the CURRENT Pfizer-Delta variant, not Omicron

Op-ed
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Consider the fact that more people have died under the current COVID variant with mass vaccination than in 2020 before vaccination, yet the medical and government establishment is worried about a potential new variant predominating that appears to be mild. At the same time, establishment leaders are suggesting the vaccine won’t work for it, yet are demanding we get more of the same vaccine that has already failed for the current, more deadly variant. How’s that for science?

There is simply no evidence that this new variant is worse than the current one, and most initial signals indicate it’s less virulent. According to CNBC, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the South African physician who first identified the Omicron variant, says patients who’ve been diagnosed with the new strain show only “mild symptoms.” “No one here in South Africa is known to have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant, nor is anyone here believed to have fallen seriously ill with it,” said Coetzee, who is the head of the South African Medical Association.

Sethomo Lelatisitswe, the Botswanan assistant health minister, told Parliament this week that of the 15 known cases in his country – the first one to detect Omicron – just three had mild symptoms, while the rest had none. Eleven of the cases were vaccinated, while those unvaccinated did not show symptoms, and none of them needed oxygen support.

Of the 59 cases identified in Europe, all of them were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, just like the case discovered in California. Incidentally, nearly all of the cases seem to be among the vaccinated. Even Japan appears to have eased its travel restrictions after seeing that this variant appears to be mild.

The cruel irony is that the panic over the mildest variant appears to come at a time when there are record hospitalizations among highly vaccinated northern states in the U.S. and much of continental Europe. Why would public health officials focus on a random new variant that would probably portend good news if it predominated Delta, when the current iteration is what is killing so many people?

Clearly, the leaders want to distract from the existing failure of the vaccines against the current variant and sow fear about something new and unknown rather than own up to the fiasco and forge new policies to better treat people for Delta.

In reality, Delta appeared to start more like a bad cold when the U.K. got an earlier wave of it than other countries. Similar to what we are seeing now with Omicron, one would expect more contagious strains to become less virulent, following the laws of micro-evolution and the pathogen’s drive to survive more without incapacitating the host. But something peculiar seemed to happen right around the six-month marker of mass vaccination, when it began to leak. On some level, Delta appeared to get worse. In the U.S. we have had more deaths this year than before the vaccine, and continental Europe appears to be following in that trajectory. Even some Asian countries that barely tasted death from COVID in the previous variant experienced some degree of catastrophe this go-around. What gives?

New research from INSERM — the prestigious national research center of France — as well as Aix Marseille University might shed light on the mystery of Delta, demonstrating why Delta is a much bigger problem than Omicron and why the vaccines are the problem, not the solution. Using molecular modeling, researchers found that there is increased risk for antibody dependent disease enhancement (ADE) from vaccine-generated antibodies with the Delta variant more than with the original one. Typically, there are neutralizing antibodies and enhancing antibodies. The former kill the virus while the latter bind to the virus but sometimes run the risk of a Trojan horse effect, where they serve as a conduit for the virus to more easily flow into the cells and make the virus more aggressive. As it relates to the original Wuhan strain, they found no problem of ADE, but for Delta there was a serious concern.

“As the NTD [N-terminal domain] is also targeted by neutralizing antibodies, our data suggest that the balance between neutralizing and facilitating antibodies in vaccinated individuals is in favor of neutralization for the original Wuhan/D614G strain,” wrote the French researchers in a letter published in the Journal of Infection. “However, in the case of the Delta variant, neutralizing antibodies have a decreased affinity for the spike protein, whereas facilitating antibodies display a strikingly increased affinity. Thus, ADE may be a concern for people receiving vaccines based on the original Wuhan strain spike sequence (either mRNA or viral vectors).”

The authors conclude quite bluntly: “Inasmuch as neutralizing antibodies overwhelm facilitating antibodies, ADE is not a concern. However, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants may tip the scales in favor of infection enhancement. Our structural and modeling data suggest that it might be indeed the case for Delta variants” (emphasis added).

Thus, the outcome, according to the authors, would look something like this:

Six months ago, we could have dismissed this hypothesis as one of the many speculative scientific theories that thousands of scientists are promulgating about the virus on a daily basis. But the reality of the virus being worse in so many universally vaccinated countries than before anyone was ever vaccinated lends a lot of credence to this theory. If this theory is correct, then Delta wouldn’t have been materially worse than other strains if not for the mass vaccination with leaky Trojan horse antibodies.

Remember, on page 52 of the FDA's "Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for an Unapproved Product Review Memorandum," it states that there appears to be no concern of ADE in the short run (during the original strain), but "risk of vaccine-enhanced disease over time, potentially associated with waning immunity, remains unknown and needs to be evaluated further in ongoing clinical trials and in observational studies that could be conducted following authorization and/or licensure."

Now consider where we are a year later, with most of the world suffering the worst spread ever – tracking closely with the growth of countries’ vaccination curves.

And the rest is history.

The lesson here is that it’s not any one variant that is a problem in a vacuum. The only reason for panic is the concern of the ability of mass vaccination with a leaky, narrow-spectrum, non-sterilizing vaccine to expose any mild variant to evolutionary pressure that will make it stronger. The vaccine is the problem, not the solution. Delta should not have been worse than a previous variant and, in fact, should have been less virulent. But it might have gotten worse because of vaccine-mediated viral enhancement caused by suboptimal evolutionary pressure with a leaky, narrow-spectrum vaccine.

Which brings us to Omicron. We now see that this is clearly starting out as very mild, along the lines of the typical principle that in order for a virus to become more transmissible, it ratchets down its virulence. If that is the case, we should be praying for Omicron to box out Delta. As Dr. Coetzee said, "If, as some evidence suggests, Omicron turns out to be a fast-spreading virus with mostly mild symptoms for the majority of the people who catch it, that would be a useful step on the road to herd immunity."

However, if this variant in the coming weeks takes a sudden turn for the worse, we will know clearly that the vaccine unnaturally made it more virulent. Hopefully, Omicron is less prone to ADE than Delta. But either way, the reality of the past year has shown that fighting the virus with the current vaccines is akin to pouring gasoline instead of water on a fire.
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