Modeling The Pandemic: Efficacy

I’ve had a vision of writing a magisterial series to clarify everything about the mathematics of the pandemic, but it looks more like I will, hit-or-miss, do one issue at a time.

I’ve worked with mathematical models for chemical reactions. The math is identical to that of a pandemic – coupled differential equations describing the transformation of one set of things into other things. In the case of the pandemic that transformation is

susceptible people -> infected people -> immune or dead people

Sets of coupled differential equations have become popular for such things since we have gotten enormous computing power. Solving them isn’t easy to do by hand. Epidemiology (and chemical kinetics) grew up with simpler equations to model their processes. And those simpler equations can be good for some things!

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Who Are The Unvaccinated?

I’ve wanted to understand the breakdown of the unvaccinated. How many are hard-core antivax and how many just haven’t gotten around to it for some reason? And who is in each category?

Here’s a source whose data I trust, but they’ve arranged the data in a particularly unhelpful way for my question.

They define a wait and see group, who want to “wait until it has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting vaccinated and a definitely not group. The wait-and-sees are 12% of American adults, and the definitely-not 13%. The wait-and-sees have been decreasing, but the definitely-not have stayed at 13%.

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If NATO Hadn’t Expanded

A Swedish fighter-bomber that might have been. Source

There’s an ongoing argument about NATO expansion after the fall of the Soviet Union. Within the western political science community, there have been a number of sub-arguments, including whether Russia was promised that NATO would not expand. That has more or less been settled: Although some statements were made to that effect, they were not official commitments.

More broadly, arguments about NATO expansion tend to assume that if NATO hadn’t expanded, Europe would look about the same as it does now, but Russia would be less aggressive, and more accommodations would be possible.

Having co-chaired a NATO Advanced Research Workshop in Estonia and spent some time working with Estonians on a major environmental cleanup, I’ve recognized that there were many paths that could have been taken by the many actors involved, which could lead to quite different outcomes.

Would the newly independent countries trust Mother Russia? Could Mother Russia keep her hands off them? It would not be a single big decision, but a series of small ones.

At the Duck of Minerva, I’ve written a counterfactual in which NATO doesn’t expand. I’ve based it on events that have actually happened, although in different historical order. The outcome is different than has been assumed. It was fun to write and I think will be enjoyable to read.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

The Pandemic Will End

Sometimes I think the pandemic will never end, but I remind myself that it will.

Numbers are headed up again in the US and skyrocketing in other countries. A Yankee – Red Sox game was postponed because of 19 positive tests within the Yankee organization. One wonders what the vaccination status is of the Yankee organization.

This is how the pandemic will end.

People who are not vaccinated will become sick and die. Those who recover will be immune to the disease. Either way, they will be removed from the susceptible pool. People are being vaccinated every day. They are removed from the susceptible pool after the appropriate number of shots and waiting period. The numbers of the susceptible decrease every day.

The alarmist takes that immunity will wear off and that variants will get around immunity are wildly overblown. I have seen no evidence for either of those and good arguments that our multiple-barrier immune systems react well to the vaccines and infection, except for small numbers of people with weakened immune systems. Every day that passes argues that immunity is not wearing off. If we eventually find a decrease, we can deal with it from a base of immunized people.

As the numbers of susceptible people decrease, we can concentrate attention and vaccines on hot spots or boosters if we learn that they are necessary. At some point, we will even quench the hot spots.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not clear when we’ll get there. My estimate is that it will be five years before the world is back to something close to pre-pandemic normal. It will be uneven for different places, as the pandemic has been all along.

We recently passed four million recorded deaths from COVID across the world. The total is undoubtedly higher and will go higher still.

We must speed up vaccinating people. The longer the pandemic goes, the higher will be the death count. And pretending we are back to normal now delays the end.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

Chinese Nuclear Silos

[Disclosure: Jeffrey Lewis has been a friend for years, and we have consulted each other on many things. Our political views are similar, but he has a punchier way of expressing them.]

There’s a lot that can be said about the discovery of 120 silos for nuclear missiles and the current state of relations with China, but I don’t have time right now, so a few highlights only.

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