Zika, Polio, Covid Responses

David R. Kotok

A number of readers responded to our March 24, 2022, commentary, “Zika, Polio, Covid!” (https://www.cumber.com/market-commentary/zika-polio-covid). We appreciate readers’ thoughtful responses and thank all who chose to reply. We’ve included selected notes below:


Dennis wrote,


David, just read this article and it makes me think about Rotary and the work it has done trying to eradicate polio. [Readers, please see https://www.rotary.org/en/our-causes/ending-polio for details regarding this initiative. Rotary is part of a broader coalition partnering to wipe out polio globally. See “Global coalition seeks $4.8 billion for polio eradication initiative,” https://www.statnews.com/2022/04/26/global-coalition-seeks-4-8-billion-for-polio-eradication-initiative/.]



Frank replied,


When you combine the self-destructive desires of humans with their desires to destroy each other as well, it becomes clear that Harari's statement in Sapiens that humans are the most dangerous and lethal species to ever inhabit the earth is essentially gospel. Anti-vaxxers and liars are in the forefront. I hope you have the ear of at least some legislators.


Susan added smallpox to the list of viral concerns,


Excellent summary and documentation of Zika, Covid; but must add “smallpox” to the list. It was NEARLY eradicated (1977) from the earth by a massive WHO vaccination program — except ONE village in Pakistan said, “No!” (New Yorker a few years ago).
So our CDC and the Russians each have vials ‘in case’ the virus becomes virulent again. Here in NJ, we — of a certain age — all HAD to have smallpox vaccine before kindergarten; that regulation might be gone now. I know adults who don’t know the scar on their arms is from a smallpox vaccination.

I think smallpox must still be considered a massive biological threat. That said, we simply cannot comprehend the massive outcry if one of the preventable ‘childhood’ diseases becomes virulent in our poorly educated population; no one eats crow anymore, so mainly children will suffer. [See “The Demon in the Freezer,” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1999/07/12/the-demon-in-the-freezer.]


Marty wrote,


Having practiced internal medicine for 44 years and [having] witness[ed] measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, influenza with horrible outcomes, it is hard to believe how anyone could be antivax. Quoting Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”


Mike voiced a different perspective,


Not one word about border security and these viral threats? Don't you think there is more threat from tens of thousands of unscreened, unvaccinated folks from around the globe crossing our southern border than some fringe anti-vaxxers spewing nonsense? Not a very thoughtful piece getting at real threat in my opinion.


In answer to Mike, we offer two thoughts. First, we doubt that the border is a decisive issue with regard to Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes, or polio (although people from other places do enter the US through the southern border, it’s worth noting that the number of polio cases in Mexico has been stable since 1990 at zero), or Covid, which is already here in the US and has infected millions of In-country people. Worse than infection is 1 million dead. And the large and serious number of Long Covid cases in the US is between 7 million and 23 million Americans; that number is continually rising. Note all that Long Covid happened within the last year and a half.


Let’s compare that number with 40 years of cumulative results about the border that Mike is so upset about. Below is an excerpt from a full academic study on this issue, from the Center for American Progress.


Today, 10.2 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in communities across the United States. On average, they have lived in this country for 16 years and are parents, grandparents, and siblings to another 10.2 million family members. At the same time, it has been nearly 40 years since Congress has meaningfully reformed the U.S. immigration system, leaving a generation of individuals and their families vulnerable. Poll after poll has illustrated that the vast majority of Americans support putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship.


Here’s the link to the full study: “Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth,” https://americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/EconLegalization-report.pdf?_ga=2.172693604.611997309.1650889482-1077252072.1650889482.


Yes, Mike, it would be nice if the Congress would do an immigration reform bill after 40 years of talking about an issue but doing nothing about it. But the gap between the Long Covid population and the total cumulative undocumented immigrants is huge.


Let me also note that you criticized the writing about viral spread and focused on the anti-vax issue instead. The Long Covid Initiative now has developed statistical estimates that about half or more of the Long Covid disability cases are preventable with the vaccinations that are already available in America. So anti-vax is essentially responsible for millions of disabled persons.


For more on Long Covid, see:


(1) “Pandemics disable people — the history lesson that policymakers ignore,” https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00414-x


(2) “Long Covid Impact on Adult Americans: Early Indicators Estimating Prevalence and Cost,” https://solvecfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Long_Covid_Impact_Paper.pdf.


(3) “Solve Long Covid Initiative Press Event: Long Covid Impact on U.S. Adults,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrVsUGcPo6g


(4) For the second year in a row, Covid was far and away the leading cause of death for police officers in the United States, and Long Covid was a growing percentage of that figure. “Covid-19 was the leading cause of death among U.S. police officers in 2021, a report says,” https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/12/us/police-officer-deaths-covid.html. Here’s one officer’s perspective following a life-and-death battle with Covid: “What an Unvaccinated Sergeant Who Nearly Died of Covid Wants You to Know,” https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/26/nyregion/police-vaccine-nj.html.