MEDIAWATCH: NZ Herald Poll On Pursuing ‘Elimination Til Vaccination’ Is Thin End Of ‘Learn To Live With It’ Wedge

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Yesterday’s Herald included the above polling figures, pertaining to what proportion of Kiwis want to do what about the virus from here on out. Forty six percent in favour of ongoing Elimination, 39% in favour of Elimination, until such time as we hit a seventy percent of the population vaccination rate, and thirteen percent wanting to ‘learn to live’ with Covid-19. Presumably not personally.

Now, this is interesting, because it suggests that the “learn to live with it” vote is a lot smaller than you’d be forgiven for thinking. But also that a huge quotient of effort which had formerly been going into trying to push that benighted position, will now go into attempting to sway as many people as possible from Elimination through to Elimination Til 70%.

Except here’s the thing. 70% is a completely arbitrary number. The only relevancy it has to New Zealand is that it’s come off Scott Morrison’s teleprompter … and from there somehow downloaded itself into certain right-wing brains as a talking point. I don’t even think it’s really supported by Australia’s modelling – much less our own domestically generated modelling for where Herd Immunity thresholds (or nearabouts, in a Delta environment especially) actually lie (a figure in the high 90% range).

The Australian model being embraced at the Federal level is also often misunderstood. It’s not built on ‘live with the virus’ in a lasseiz-faire sense once the population is 70% or even 80% vaccinated – instead, it’s built on using contact tracing and ring-fencing of outbreaks so they can’t grow to overwhelming size and break-through infect significant numbers of vaccinated people.

Therefore, as I understand it, the Doherty Institute’s model is effectively built around having virus presence in the community already at a functionally near-eliminated level to begin with – so that contact tracing and containment can actually be done within the ‘breathing space’ thusly provided.

The trouble with this is obvious, and doesn’t even require looking at NSW to see. We had one case of Delta … which then became very swiftly, half way to a thousand cases of Delta. Including via ‘breakthrough infections’. All within a matter of days.

It’s just simply not viable to contact-trace that scale of spread even with most of the population vaccinated; so effectively you’re left hoping that any and all outbreaks become very small ones by the time they’re detected and can be fully ringfenced .. without “elimination”.

So what are we seeing here instead?

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Simple. The beginning maneuvers of an effort to affix an end to Elimination to a pretty swiftly attained goal – 70% vaccination; no doubt to be followed-up with a repeated bombardment of claims that this was ‘always’ what the plan was ‘supposed to be’.

The same interests which were pushing for “learn to live with the virus” and “COME ON, OPEN UP THE TRAVEL BUBBLE! YESTERDAY!” are very concerned about how popular Elimination has proven, and shall continue to prove on into the future.

So they are going to do exactly what they did with both of those (especially the Travel Bubble incessant whining demands) – try and manufacture an entirely artificial groundswell of support for changing course from something which actually works and has a broad consensus of Kiwis behind it … to something that’ll prove a near stick of ACME Dynamite held fizzing in all of our collective hand.

A hand which, of course, shall be found to be the Government of the day’s, rather than the greasy palm of whichever shrill voices attempted to cajole them into it. Because that’s how these sorts of things work, apparently.

Now, as it happens, we’ve been both down this road and around this block, before.

To utilize a case-study in miniature, the Herald about a year ago this week ran a piece declaring that Auckland was “divided” over our then (second) Lockdown to deal with the August cluster.

It was a curious choice of phrasing and of framing. Why?

Well, here’s what I wrote at the time –

“So here’s something strange.

The Herald reports that Auckland is seriously “divided” over the extension of Level 3 lockdown last week. You might be forgiven for thinking that this meant somewhere around a fifty fifty split of opinion on the matter.

Here’s the actual split:

75% of Aucklanders thought that the extension of lockdown was “appropriate”. This was made up of 56% who were simply fine with the extension – and a further 19% who wanted the lockdown to go longer.

Meanwhile, that 25% of opponents was made up of 14% for a shorter lockdown, and 9% for the lockdown shouldn’t have been initiated at all.

That’s three-to-one support for the lockdown. And yet somehow this is a serious degree of “division”.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders overall supported the most recent Lockdown by a ratio of more than four to one – 62% in favour of the lockdown we had, 19% in favour of an even further extended lockdown, 10% for a shorter lockdown, and only 6% for no lockdown at all.

Technically a 3-1 majority for Lockdown means “divided” , sure – as does a 4-1 majority.

But it sure does sound rather different when you phrase it like that, frame it like that, rather than OVERWHELMING MAJORITY SUPPORTS THE GOVERNMENT’S COVID-19 MANAGEMENT”

I’m frankly almost surprised, in this light, that they didn’t try and present yesterday’s polling as showing New Zealand was “divided” over whether to persist with the Elimination strategy. They probably – prudently – sensed that they’d be playing to the 13% with that one if they had.

However, I suspect that with time – there’ll be a steady shifting of emphases. Things shall go from talking about x percentage of New Zealanders supporting Elimination until y percentage of vaccination (or other arbitrary measure – including a date, perhaps), through to simply speaking of x percentage of New Zealanders wanting to ‘open up’ and abandon Elimination once y percentage of vaccinations is hit. And never mind whether it’s an epidemiologically sound number or other such considerations.

A shrill, staccato drum-beat shall crescendo out across the airwaves, the newspaper column-inches, etc. etc. demanding not a debate, but a defeat – and an entirely unnecessary one – for our successful (thus far, and subject to current exigencies) Elimination Strategy.

No doubt considerably emboldened by Victoria seemingly joining New South Wales in edging toward throwing up hands in semi-surrender on that front (and never mind those other Australian states that have declared their resolute intent to do the opposite, having successfully eliminated Delta themselves already – to the point the Australian Federal Government is now threatening to withhold funding from them if they don’t get with Morrison’s programme of enforced reopening).

We are going to be escalatingly bombarded with mask-wearing hot-air from self-appointed experts expressing their boredness at having to stay at home vacuuming their Ferrari when they could be sunning it up in the tropics somewhere.

Will it make any difference? Maybe. After all, ‘manufactured consent’ is something our media has become quite adroit at over the years – albeit often through simply applying direct pressure on the Government rather than, as has more traditionally been the case, influencing the people at large out there in the polis to do so.

But I think that it may play out more like the situation perhaps around a year and a half ago – wherein the voices that were so eager to sneer at taking something allegedly no more serious than the flu, quietly shut up as time passed on and more and more reports came in from friends and whanau overseas as to what conditions over there really were like in reality.

If you’ve noticed, we’re also being buttered with a steady diet of material pertaining to “Life Normal Returns” stories from elsewhere in the world – occasionally, to be fair and sure, with small-print rejoinders about how yes, there is a rather notable death-rate ‘tax’ attached to this eminently faux ‘normalcy’.

We are eminently lucky here in New Zealand – and by ‘lucky’, I also mean we chose well (broadly speaking).

Even though we are currently in Lockdown, we have been remarkably successful with our ongoing Covid-19 control measures precisely because we have resolutely committed to Elimination in the past.

This has afforded us something which other countries most dearly lack – i) perspective, and ii) the ability to choose.

We’ve been able to take a more measured approach, seeing what other countries are doing and how things are going for them – the perspective; something which requires time in order to be useful, to see how things properly play out. And then choose what we are going to do, coloured by those experiments undertaken at the cost of other countries and contexts elsewhere on the globe.

Attempting to mad-dash toward the elimination of Elimination simply because Australia’s doing it, or because Boris Johnson’s declared his umpteenth “Freedom Day” amidst “bodies pile[d] high” – that is not taking advantage of our prospective situation. And given that various countries like Israel and Iceland with relatively high vaccination rates have then had to move back toward more intrusive and restrictive measures due to unforeseen developments with the virus … I again state it plainly that there is little to be gained and much to be placed at risk by ‘go hard go early’ as applies rolling back (rather than rolling out) our protections.

Going off the past year and a half’s dominant experience – we can easily afford to take more time, ensure that what we’re doing really is the right course of action … and right for US rather than certain members of the commentariat or overseas climes that long to see us fail precisely because it’ll make them feel more vindicated in never having really tried at all to begin with.

We can’t easily afford to do anything else.

Keep that in mind the next time you see a columnist filling up their inches with shoveyness about how we ought be more like New South Wales or wherever.

You might live longer.

22 COMMENTS

  1. 70% vaccination rate.
    It sounds quite good until you realize that it means out of every 10 people you meet, three might not be vaccinated.
    Take that further – 30 out of a hundred, 300 out of a thousand, etc.
    Doesn’t sound quite so impressive then, does it?
    And what if the non-vaccinated hordes are concentrated in particular areas, or along particular age, racial or cultural lines?
    Makes it sound even less impressive.
    Scientists and epidemiologists have constantly told us from the first outbreak that a vaccination rate of around 90% would be necessary to eliminate the capacity of the virus to spread among the general population.
    So Scott Morrison apparently dreams up a figure that makes his woeful handling of the situation look not so woeful.
    It is good that we watch what he says and does because it gives us in New Zealand a heads-up on what we should NOT do.

    • Its actually worse than that. The 90% figure was based on a vaccine the actually stops you getting it and passing it on. No current vaccine does that.

  2. The so called wealthy right wing businesses owner with a backup media, wanting us to carry on as normal, slowly influencing the general population over time to accept living with the virus once we are vaccinated, is only half of this story. The wealthy right wingers are not the only ones with any emotional intelligence. Auckland our largest city is filled people who are in their second lockdown and are sick of it. I don’t live in Auckland but have a family member there. I feel privileged I don’t have to lockdown as they do. There will come a time the general population in Auckland will wear themselves down after successive lockdowns. They won’t need to be manipulated and worn down by anyone else. We know 70% vaccinated won’t cut it. We’ll need 90% and regular booster shots and that will be hard to attain with all the anti vac fuckwits around. The virus will get through our defences again only a fool would think otherwise. We either live in total isolation from everyone including Australia where half our families are, or we have lockdown every five minutes, or after we are fully vaccinated we accept living with the virus.

    • When all those that want to be vaccinated are ‘vaccinated’, then you could consider worrying about those not keen on these ‘vaccines’; It’d be a bigger clusterfuck if all Kiwis wanted the ‘vaccines’ NOW/ASAP.

      Those not keen on these ‘vaccines’, break down into a few distinct groups, and like the fact that NOT ALL white boomers males are misogynistic wealthy landlords and rapists, not all those worried about these ‘vaccines’ are fuckwits, as you so kindly claim.

      • Kevin. I think those anti vacc anything, and those hesitant with this vaccine are two different groups but together are a larger group maybe way over 10% This will make the vaccination targets hard to achieve. I take your point we haven’t vaccinated those who want it yet. In my opinion those who are hesitant to get vaccinated should be worked on starting now. Those who are anti vacc anything are dangerous ignorant fuckwits who are only surviving on this earth because of the herd immunity generated from the rest of us. I understand these people are from all parts of our society. I don’t know what motivates them to think this way. Maybe fear of something alien being injected into their bodies. This is 2021 not 1621. We live in more enlightened times don’t we.

    • New View, the problem is the anti choice fuckwits. Next they’ll be calling themselves pro life.
      It’s plain to see, for those paying attention how quickly the lefties are prone to authoritarianism.
      Shilling for the same establishment that has lied us into nation crumbling and perpetual war.
      Decolonize your mind.

      • Off White. I’m not anti choice and don’t mind which way we jump. I’m saying if we want our freedom long term we will have to live with the virus. I’m older and have been vaccinated. I’m lucky.

  3. Yes, totally agree, you only have to see the totally vacuous TVNZ news team promoting “A Freedom Day just like Australia” that we are being softened up by their vested interests (advertisers et al) to see the light.

  4. Language. Communication. Discourse. Power. Manufactured consent. A commendable piece CAR.

    Contrarians, right leaning Libertarians of the death-cult type, those on the left cautious of state control, and conspiracy nutters (who don’t really count, do they) might say it can work both ways and ‘manufactured consent’ simply be the echo of the dominant narrative, elimination.

    But looking at what has happened /is happening elsewhere I think you’ve got it right.

  5. If not 70% then when? At some point we need to get out of this destructive cycle. We don’t have the luxury of time, we are in fact running out of borrowed money.

    A counter to the above – let’s capitalise on Jacinda Adern’s unparalleled ability to communicate to galvanise the team of five million once more to reach an agreed target within a set time frame and then throw everything at getting there on the basis that the goal will be a return to life without lockdowns. Commit to a massive investment into ICU, spend the money to pay nurses fairly, hire more doctors, make it ridiculously easy for medical people to come to NZ with their families.

    It’ll mean taking money from elsewhere but if ever there was a time to be able to do that, it’s now.

    To continue on the path that we are on today is not viable. We will not be able pay for the cost of further lockdowns. People died before COVID and they continue to die afterwards. We can mitigate the risk as we do in other areas of life but we can’t prevent all death.

    We have to learn to live with it – no one has been able to find a viable, sustainable and long term alternative.

  6. Shut down the borders indefinitely! Everyone has had long enough to get home over the past 18 months.

    Elimination is the best and only strategy worth pursuing. Why? That will make whatever goods & services we provide more valuable to the rest of the world after it turns to shite which will be very soon.

    Jab the nutters or stick them on a volcanic island in the pacific somewhere? Raoul maybe?

    • Your arguements are normally thoughtful but you are wrong to say people have had time to get back . MIQ is a hurdle that many cannot work with to get a room to tie in with the limited planes coming from all over. It is not as easy as you seem to think.
      Sooner or later we will need to open the borders so let’s plan for the worst and hope for the best.

  7. An important message.
    Deserves to be disseminated but suggest its word count be edited down by at least 50% for better effect in the age of two sentence memes.

  8. The 70% vaccination rate is indeed arbitrary. Instead the government has a *duty* to provide a vaccines to all citizens if they want them. Those refusing can take their chances.

    Once the vaccination program is complete there is no longer a justification for lockdowns and we must indeed learn to live with it. Because just as our wildlife was forced to the edge of extinction because a rat jumped off a ship, isolationism is a failed evolutionary strategy. It WILL get in eventually and we won’t be able to stop it. Ardern scared the public spitless over the vaccine in order to get reelected so now she’s got to talk it all down again.

    As for the rising number of ‘cases’ overseas, there’s a bit more to it than you might realize at first glance:

    The definition of a ‘case’ is someone who presents themselves at a medical facility (dead or alive) and tests positive for the virus. The dead are those who died WITH the virus but not necessarily OF the virus. (Coroners do a test on the bodies and tick the relevant box, but the cause of the fatality could have been a car crash, a shooting or old age.)
    Now consider that the virus has been on the march for more than 18 months now, so a significant proportion of the global population will have already been infected and suffered minor or zero symptoms. In addition I think those who have been vaccinated will return a positive test because the PCR test checks for the presence of antibodies. UK tests on the general population show that a very high proportion (over 70%) produce a positive test: It’s gone through the population and most people have already had it and are now just fine. So now nearly ALL subsequent deaths or hospitalizations will be recorded as ‘cases’ thus making the statistics meaningless. The only way to examine the real effect of the China Virus is to look at the ‘excess deaths’ statistics and that can only be done retrospectively.

    Take a look at the Aussie statistics. You’ll see that those dying are near the end of their life anyway. Many were already in hospital with terminal conditions and more than one were in dementia wards.
    https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-case-numbers-and-statistics#cases-and-deaths-by-age-and-sex

    • “Once the vaccination program is complete there is no longer a justification for lockdowns and we must indeed learn to live with it”.

      Correct Andrew. The devil’s in the detail. And the details entail both the public health response – most certainly mask wearing for a while yet and mandatory use of the tracer app – and walking the political highwire as Adern and her team try to hang on to support won in the last election.

      • Bozo did you know the government has yet to use the app for tracing? It seems it’s pretty useless.

        I don’t want mandatory masks or tracing – both are an infringement on civil liberties and neither are proven to be effective.

  9. The lack of factual understanding around the vaccine in this country is appalling.

    Firstly, the vaccine gradually loses effectiveness and is pretty much useless after 6.6 months. This is why Israel no longer considers those who were double jabbed with Pfizer nTc to be UNVACCINATED after 6 months, at which point they must have a third jab. This can easily be verified online lest anyone think I’m a rumor spreading anti-vaxxer.

    That means by the time we open borders, all those people who are currently double jabbed will be pretty much back to their starting point. Those in the frontline are already vulnerable.
    Bloomfield says we aren’t looking at boosters (and before you all start demanding them check out the death rate for all causes for Israel since the start of the year, and then look up the statistics for the 3rd booster shot…a disturbing correlation there although obvious cause and effect aren’t established).

    So the 70% thing is bullshit, as much as 60% or 99% vaccination. Never gonna happen no matter how hard you all might want it.

    Secondly, in the comments there is an expectation that vaccination protects from transmission. There was a perfectly good study done that demonstrated the viral load carried by vaccinated vs unvaccinated is the same. Said another way, a vaccinated person is equally likely to transmit the virus to others as an unvaccinated person.

    What is concerning is that the authorities have not publically disclosed this, in particular to those who work with vulnerable people and got vaccinated to protect them. They are a walking risk and most are completely oblivious having swallowed the repeated claims around transmission which have not been updated since this study was released at the end of July!

    Quote: “We find no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated individuals to those who have vaccine “breakthrough” infections. Furthermore, individuals with vaccine breakthrough infections frequently test positive with viral loads consistent with the ability to shed infectious viruses.”
    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.31.21261387v1

    I am confident those in control will figure it out in the end. This is still the best place in the world to be right now.

  10. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER CHRISTMAS ?

    1.It would appears the ability to keep forking out 4 billion a month for more lockdowns will not be fiscally viable indefinitely .
    2. As soon as all those people who want a vaccine have got one, potentially around Christmas , then I believe we will see the borders being loosened and Covid present in the community next year .

    3.Even at 80% vaccination it would still leave around 1,100,000 million “deliberately unvaccinated citizens vulnerable . The gobal mortality rate stands at 2% which would still mean around 22,000 dead.
    4.A better health system and new antivirals may reduce the number to 1% but there are two problems,

    a) NZ has the 2nd lowest number of intensive care beds in the OECD around 400 , with covid patients taking beds for up to 20 days , don’t bank on the care being there if you are unvaccinated . Oz has 2x the intensive care beds compared to NZ and NSW is already a train wreck .Cases due to peak at 4000 per day in 2 months and already patients being turned away from full hospitals at 1000 cases a day .

    b) The overloading of the health system will impact on normal health services , Emergency depts/ elective surgery postponement / colon screening programs/cancer diagnostics/surgery and so on . I predict a serious public backlash to the unvaccinated in the new year,impacting the vaccinated who can’t get suitable care.

    5. If the Govt can eliminate delta till everyone who wants protection has got it then , they will have done a world class the job , and should still rate highly in the polls.

    6.Those who deliberately didn’t vaccinate should not impact on Labours popularity as they were offered protection but refused . On your head be it .

    7.I’m personally in favour of fortress NZ/ indefinite elimination , and recoil from the concerted right wing media effort to fabricate false public support for opening up the borders too early . .Greedy , selfabsorbed, and callous .

    However at some point after Christmas I suspect the game will change .If you are looking to have a vax, well done , for the 1,000,000 who don’t want one , good luck , in my estimations you will need it .As Chris Finlayson said on RNZ Sun Morn ” People have the right to be stupid but I have no empathy for the consequences .”

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