As we progress on the pandemic learning curve, with immunology, or at least versions of it occupying centre stage. It is becoming clear that science studies provide supporters of science with better arguments to combat critics, by showing that the strength of scientific conclusions arises because credible experts use comprehensive bodies of evidence to arrive at consensus judgments about whether a theory should be retained or rejected in favour of a new one. It is, however, difficult to feel completely secure in judgements, when data sets continue to evolve and capture periods of focus.
These consensus judgments are what have enabled the astounding levels of success that have revolutionised our lives for the better. It is the preponderance of evidence that is relevant in making such judgments, not one, or even a few results.
So, commentators pointing to this or that result to argue that (their current claims) they have falsified the scientific consensus, are making a meaningless statement. What they need to do is produce a preponderance of evidence in support of their case, and in most cases they have not done so.
This is where we introduce an old term, ‘variolation’, a process to enhance immune resistance before vaccination and used to describe the practice of infecting people with low doses of smallpox, which dates to 1000 BC in India. Exposure would generally induce a mild form of the disease, which would prevent the person from being re-infected. i.e. the use of tissues or fluids containing a virus that has lost its virulence, was used to induce the immune response and therefore to create immunity without causing the disease.
Introduced, because a perspective paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that mask wearing reduces total viral load enough to match a long-standing theory of viral pathogenesis, which holds that the severity of disease is proportionate to the viral inoculum received.
Masks correctly worn reduce viral load, but also potentially facilitate an immune response (due to some viral ingress), which whilst asymptomatic in outcome, induces resistance.
The typical rate of asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 was estimated to be 40% by the CDC in mid-July, but asymptomatic infection rates are reported to be higher than 80% in settings with universal facial masking, which provides observational evidence for this hypothesis. i.e. by masks reducing the viral inoculum, it would also increase the proportion of infected people who remain asymptomatic and capable of building immune resilience.
Combine this with prior recommendations in regard to lifestyle, and nutrient optimisation, and your capability of managing risk has just been enhanced – perhaps without the need for vaccination (or at least will help until a safe/effective vaccine is available).
John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher, political economist, and civil servant regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy is known for this quote:
“there is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence.”
Finding that limit, and not encroaching, is necessary for the “good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism”.
Whilst recognising that politicians have a challenging time, as do we all, the delivery of positive actions beyond hygiene, deserves more airtime – if we are to maintain a progressive level of social adaptation and public health management. As well as maintain our trust in science and government.