BUCK: If you’re just joining, welcome. We have breaking news for you. This is not a quiet news day at all, friend. Dow getting crushed, down 900 points today. Stock market showing the economic worries people have right now. The travel industry on edge because the breaking news I have for you, in just the last few minutes.
The U.S. is banning some travel from South Africa and seven other countries as of Monday. That’s right. Travel bans under Biden going back into effect here after a long lull. Remember we had travel bans under Trump. Now we have U.S. to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting on Monday. We’ve got someone who can certainly shed some light on what’s going on here with all this. This is all response to the omicron variant of covid-19 that has many people concerned.
Alex Berenson is with us now. Please subscribe to his Substack for his research of covid-19. And also, Pandemia his book is out soon. Alex, thanks for being here.
BERENSON: Yes, Buck, thanks for having me. Let me quickly mention Pandemia because I know we’ll get to all this stuff and before we know it it’s going to come up.
BUCK: Go for it.
BERENSON: Pandemia will be out on Tuesday, I know both you and Clay are required to speak to me about it next week. But it’s going to be out Tuesday. You can download the audible audio book now. And you can get it on Amazon for delivery Tuesday. And so far I think it will be interesting to people even if you followed this pretty closely, I think it hopefully puts it all in context and sort of gives you an idea of where we are right now. So that’s Pandemia. But, yeah, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
BUCK: Let’s start with the breaking news, Alex. We haven’t had a chance to coordinate or say anything to each other about this because it just came up in the last few minutes. Travel ban from eight nations. A US travel ban. There’s also I think a couple dozen other countries that have —
BUCK: Yeah, European countries that have a travel ban about South Africa and other places. First of all, what do they think this is going to do? What’s going on here? People are going to be saying what the heck?
BERENSON: So this is very interesting, and there’s two possibilities. Possibility one this is actually — this is actually dangerous, right? And I would say, based on what they’re saying, there are a lot of mutations here. It clearly can be given to and transmitted from vaccinated people. We already know that about this strain. And if you look at the case count in South Africa, it’s interesting because case counts typically spike pretty quickly with coronavirus. This is a whole new level of speed. It looks like a wall. That’s how vertical the case count has been in the last week. Doesn’t look like a mountain, it looks like a wall, like straight up and down.
So there may be real concern about this. At the same time what I would say, I don’t think they have any idea whether or not this is actually more dangerous to people. None of the variants have really proven more dangerous. The delta variant is more transmissible. But there’s not that much evidence in the end that it’s actually more dangerous to people who get it. There’s a back and forth about it. If it’s more dangerous it’s marginally more dangerous.
I would also say there’s no evidence that vaccinating people against this new variant will do them any good, as compared to vaccinating them against earlier variants. So, in other words, we already know vaccine efficacy has waned in general and that’s why they’re pushing boosters. With this variant, which has so many different changes in its genome and looks different when they model it, it may even be, vaccination may even be less useful.
So the cynic in me says this is just an effort to sort of try to panic people. It’s another way to try to get people vaccinated when vaccinations are clearly stalled all over the United States, where people don’t want the booster, where there’s increasing resistance to the mandate. What are we going to do? We’re going to talk up this new variant and scare people. So that’s one possibility.
The other possibility is there is actually something to be frightened of. I don’t think we know yet. I think either possibility is bad, though, honestly because either, once again, we can’t trust the public health authorities or they’re telling us something we should really be scared of.
BUCK: We’re speaking to Alex Berenson, author of Pandemia which comes out on Tuesday, his book on this pandemic. I already have my copy. I’m reading it this week, folks.
Alex, I gotta ask here, what is the plan? I played Fauci audio earlier in the show today where he says we don’t know how long the boosters are going to last. And so if we’ve got to get them for years — that was his word — years, that’s what we’re going to do. “The pandemic of the unvaccinated” became a very sort of moralizing line here from people where it wasn’t just please get the vaccine; it was you’re a bad person if you don’t, because you’re going to then create all these variants. To this I just want to say, well, is the plan really to get everyone around the world, not only vaccinated — and I mean everybody — but to get them vaccinated in perpetuity in a schedule that would stop the variant? Because that seems completely impossible. What is the plan?
BERENSON: You’ve got me what the plan is. Before this thing today — and I don’t want to say it’s nonsense, because this does appear to be a real variant — and you know we’ve been talking for months. And I’ve said to you there’s going to be a spike in cases in the fall and the winter in the U.S. Look at what’s happening in Europe. It’s going to happen here.
All these people were telling you that this is over are wrong. I think you can probably find those clips of me saying that to you, that I don’t like to make predictions but that one seemed pretty clear. I was actually starting to look past the winter and saying to myself, is it possible that both medically and politically things will look better in three or four months. And the reason is not because of vaccines, because the vaccines are clearly, at best, a stop gap, at best and probably even less than that. But because of this new drug which has sort of very promising results in this clinical trial that Pfizer conducted. And then combine that with, as you sale, I think people are just, people are sick of it, they’re sick of all of it and they don’t want boosters.
There may be a small fraction of older people who are happy enough to line up for this over and over again. But I think both working age people, much less parents thinking that their kids are not going to want to get boosters every three or four, five months. They’re going to think it’s insane.
So my feeling was, okay, we’re going to have these therapeutics, these drugs that are going to help attack the virus directly. And at the same time the Supreme Court is likely to strike down this mandate. It will expire or it will be struck down without ever even taking effect. And ultimately the Democrats are going to have to basically declare victory and go home. That will happen at some point in the winter or the spring. You know, unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening in Europe.
In Europe, they’re talking about going back into lockdown. They’re talking about vaccine mandates that would include a third dose, you will be considered unvaccinated if you don’t get a booster shot. And so the Democrats are more like European —
BUCK: Can I jump in here because there’s something important here. Fauci said this again. Do we even know how long the boosters — we assume they give you another six months. Do we know that’s true?
BERENSON: No, we don’t know that’s true. In Israel, they may have knocked cases down to close to zero, but that’s over three months. They started in August. An Israeli said a couple of days ago that we’re worried that the boosters are waning. We’re starting to see a slight uptick in infections. And, again, this is only three months. And they may have some data showing that we’ve seen some people now who have gotten a third dose who are having problems again.
Here’s the other thing I’ll say about the boosters. And I think this has sort of gone unremarked. There’s not a single piece of clinical trial data in the world showing a three-dose regimen versus a placebo. So in other words, the initial tests were of people getting two doses and then some people got a placebo. They got nothing. Then the companies went on and they took the people who had gotten two doses and they gave some of them a placebo and some of them a third dose. They never tested this in any trials the way it’s being used right now.
Now, when the public health authorities say, oh, there’s — they’re starting to lie about this, too — they’re starting to say there’s other vaccines where you need a booster; this is just what we always expected; we just didn’t say it at the time. That’s a total lie. They have never even tested this in the most basic way. So, yeah, the idea that they’re doing this and they’re not even promising, the smarter ones, they’re not going to ask you to do it again in four to six months, is insane.
BUCK: Alex Berenson, author of Pandemia, which comes out next week. What do they really think is supposed to happen? What is Fauci’s next move? Because it seems to me like now they’re sitting around, they’ve got to tell everybody, it’s just a matter of time before you’re not fully vaccinated until — right now he says you’re technically considered vaccinated until you get a booster. They’ll change that, too. Everyone’s going to have to get a booster.
I’m somebody who, for example, I’m not getting a booster. There are people out there saying, sorry, I’ve had enough of this personally and I’m not going to do it. So I encouraged my parents to and they went because they’re at higher risk because of their age. They got the booster. I told them to. That’s fine. What’s the plan? They want kids to get the shot now. They keep talking about evading immunity, Alex, with this new omicron. I see that phrase all over the place. They’re concerned about evading immunity. Then what are we doing?
BERENSON: What are we doing? That’s a good question. Why would we encourage people to get boosted against a variant that the booster and the vaccines don’t work very well against? And I don’t know the answer to that.
I’m increasingly troubled by all of this. It seems to be completely off the rails. And I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I want to believe that they just got themselves into a position they just don’t know how to get themselves out of. The decisions they’re making are just inexplicable.
And there’s a lot of people like you. There’s people like me who have not gotten vaccinated who are not going to get vaccinated. And I think there’s a lot more people like you who said, you know, I did this. I tried it. They said it would get back to normal and nothing has changed. And people are still dying from SARS CoV-2 and infections are rocketing around, and now a new travel ban. I’m not putting my body at risk again for this. I’ve done my part.
BUCK: What is the best data, Alex? We hear less about breakthrough infection now. They’re telling you to get boosters because clearly the protectiveness wanes. It’s like you’re not allowed to talk about it. How much does it wane? Do we have any real sense if you got the shot in April, how protected are you now, from just infection, not from hospitalization or death? We know that seems to be better.
BERENSON: I think you’re at zero protection. Zero protection at this point from infection and transmission after six months, six, seven months. That’s what it looks like. There’s data from Sweden on that, data from Israel on that and data from UK on that, and it all points that way.
BUCK: They might eventually have to admit then, look. If it were 20, 30 percent protection, a lot of people would say that’s miles and miles away from what we were told when we were told we had to get this. And isn’t it the point of, seems that those that are not high risk vaccinated. There’s only two benefits of it. Right? The not high risk population. It would be stopping the spread. If you get everyone vaccinated, maybe you stop variants because you stamp out the whole virus.
The second one, every person I’ve talked to says it’s completely impossible on a global scale and insane. But first one now, it seems how is that supposed to be — why should a 25-year-old get the shot if they can still get it and spread it?
BERENSON: They shouldn’t. They shouldn’t. You can make the argument, and they tried to scare people with this about Delta. Younger healthy people are getting sick and dying from this in a way they weren’t before. The truth is you actually don’t see that in the data. Maybe people in their 50s and 60s who are sort of on the margins.
Again, if they have zero protection from infection and transmission, they’re somewhat more protected against severe outcome. And here’s what I wrote — we don’t even know how long that lasts. We don’t because we haven’t been doing this that long. And there’s considerable evidence, a good paper out of Sweden, again showing that protection against severe disease and death declines pretty fast post six months.
So what we know about the booster in general is that it increases your antibodies. It’s not clear how long to get your antibodies pumped up you’re temporarily protected again. But to be really protected over the long term, the way natural immunity protects you, you need to have T and B cell immunity. Your immune system actually has to go through some long-term changes that help it respond to this virus if you see it again five or 10 years later. And there’s no evidence that even a third dose or fourth dose, fifth dose does any of that. Anybody who says otherwise is lying. I know we’ve got to go.
BUCK: We’ve got to have you back on Tuesday with the book, but go real quick, 20 seconds.
BERENSON: Real quick. Somebody said to me, a really smart infectious disease guy, in every case — not just for coronavirus — immunity generated by natural infection is better than vaccination. And that’s what we’re seeing with this too.
BUCK: Alex Berenson, book Pandemia. Alex, thanks for being here. We’ll talk to you next week.
BERENSON: Thanks, Buck.