Fauci: Yes, your risk of infecting someone after you're vaccinated is very small -- but there's a risk

He’s taking another beating from righties today over this clip. It’s not because what he says is wrong. There is in fact a tiny risk of infection among vaccinated people and thus presumably an even tinier risk that they’ll pass the virus on to another person.

It’s a matter of emphasis. Instead of saying “the risk is very, very, very low but it exists,” it should be “the risk exists but it’s very, very, very low.” Practically nonexistent, in fact.

“This is a formula to keep a mask mandate, closures, and lockdowns forever,” writes Tim Carney of the Examiner about this clip. “At this point, it’s irresponsible for Biden to allow Fauci on the air.”

It’s not a formula for eternal precautions in theory. Even Fauci says he’s willing to relax restrictions when we get the national daily case count down to a few thousand per day. But in practice, the vigilance may be eternal. What if we never get to a few thousand per day because there are too many vaccine refuseniks in the population, providing dry tinder for the virus for the rest of this year?

Ben Shapiro made a nice point this morning, one I’m keen to hear the CDC address:

How can the risk of transmission by a vaccinated person be high enough that they should stay out of bars and restaurants as a precaution but low enough that they don’t need to isolate even when they know for a fact that they’ve been in contact with someone with the virus recently? That doesn’t compute.

Two of America’s most famous data nerds, Nate Silver and David Shor, are also getting exasperated with the absurd degree of risk aversion evinced by some lefties:

You’re much more likely to kill someone in a car accident than you are to infect them fatally with the coronavirus after you’ve been vaccinated. Democrats’ piss-poor assessment of COVID risk isn’t a pure matter of being bad at probability, though. The two parties’ respective emotional investments in taking precautions has been polarized politically for a year now, ever since Trump became the champion of the idea that we should reopen the economy and accept whatever risks come with a return to normalcy. That led Dems towards the “lockdown forever” camp, with the result a year later that they’re still freaking out theatrically when fully vaccinated Ted Cruz decides that he’s not going to wear a mask around the Capitol anymore. That’s not a matter of them not being able to calculate risk, it’s a matter of them wanting to signal how much more they care about pandemic safety than Republicans do even if it means going to ridiculous lengths to avoid risk in order to do it.

As for Fauci, the evidence that he’s doing more harm than good by being overcautious seems clear enough:

A majority of Republicans distrust him “somewhat” while a plurality distrust him a lot. And Republicans are the group that most needs persuading on the vaccine since they’re among the most vax-resistant cohorts in the U.S. If you’re trying to sell a product, you don’t use a pitchman whom your target audience is predisposed to dislike and distrust. Team Biden should find a medical expert who’s perceived by Republicans as more neutral instead of sending out Fauci week after week to do the hard sell through sheer repetition.

That said, my pal Karl made a fair point about Fauci and Republican vax skepticism: “People can (correctly) rag on Fauci’s messaging, but the right just might want to get it into their heads that the vaccine resisters are people who have been ignoring Fauci for almost a year.” Indeed. It’s hard to argue that Fauci is discouraging righties from getting their shots via his excessive caution given that they tuned him out long ago. And while Fauci’s a convenient conservative scapegoat for vaccine skepticism because he’s an expert and pro-lockdown, there are plenty of anti-vax messages circulating on the right that have nothing to do with him. For instance, why is this garbage running in the Murdoch-owned right-wing New York Post?

Six paragraphs into the story the Post finally gets around to noting that the woman who had a bad reaction to the AZ vaccine has also had allergic reactions to penicillin and a medication called Stemetil, which makes her frightening experience basically meaningless for Post readers. The AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t even available in the U.S. yet so there’s no public interest at the moment in warning New Yorkers about some hypothetical risk from it. (By focusing on a product that isn’t on the market here, the Post seems to be implying that all of the vaccines are untrustworthy.) But this has been par for the course for the Post lately, running sensational scoops about fringy cases in which vaccinated people have gotten infected after their dose and in one case even gone to the hospital. This same newspaper routinely runs op-eds (good op-eds, let me stress) by righty authors like Karol Markowicz scolding America’s scientific bureaucracy for putting people off the vaccine by being risk-averse to an insane, stifling degree. If the Post wants to wag its finger and public-health experts for being overcautious in its opinion section then its news section should lay off publishing what amounts to anti-vaccine propaganda by highlighting outlier cases which the public has already been told to expect.