Kink educator, community organizer, and activist.
Thank you for the reminder to explain and not scold—I shall strive to do so.
I'd caution you against spending too much time diving down infinite crank rabbit holes: true believers will always find some new detail or theory for you to rebut. At some point, if someone is committed to denying the clear scientific consensus, there's no point trying to get through to them.
At a high level, we have a pretty deep understanding of how covid vaccines work and how they perform over time, and there's absolutely nothing in there to suggest that, unlike every other vaccine ever, covid vaccines display the bizarre transition from positive protection to negative protection that you're asking about.
Vaccine effectiveness declines over time because (in large part) antibody levels wane over time. That's very well understood and in no way unique to covid vaccines.
Protection has shifted from protection against infection to infection against severe outcomes because of antigenic drift: the vaccines are most closely targeted to the ancestral strain. That match is most important for antibody protection: since antibodies are critical to protection against infection, the vaccines produce significantly less protection against infection as the virus drifts further from the ancestral type. T cell immunity is less affected by antigenic drift, so their protection against severe disease isn't as attenuated.
ADE is a real thing, and it was a concern early on. In particular, there was a feline coronavirus vaccine some years ago that triggered ADE, so there was concern that covid might have similar issues. But we've seen no sign of that.
Original antigenic sin is also a real thing, but wouldn't produce the effect you're asking about.
Two pieces of advice:
To a greater or lesser extent, I think that's true for many of us here. Which is a good thing in some ways, but can make it challenging to fully understand and engage with people who are more hive-oriented.
The key thing is that it's low-commitment / low-guilt. I was inspired to start it by a friend who started a book club during the pandemic, fell catastrophically behind on the reading, and ultimately ended up ghosting her own book club.
I've noticed that book clubs tend to become machines for making people feel guilty / overloaded, so I tried hard to avoid that. We do a book every 2 - 3 months, and the default expectation is that people won't attend unless that specific book is interesting to them.
Shortly before the discussion, I send out a summary of the book (which was my motivation for writing this), so that people can attend and participate without needing to finish (or even start) the book.
It's still a fairly new endeavor, but it seems to be working so far.
As a side note, I run a thing that's like a book club but different and we're talking about The Righteous Mind on Saturday 1/22. We have room for a few more thoughtful people—feel free to message me if you're interested.
Vaccine-required zones seem unworkable to me: ours is a highly connected society and it's common for a single household to have members who have jobs / school separated by many miles. Self-sufficiency is completely impossible in the modern world—the closest example is probably North Korea, but that's probably not a model we want to pursue.
There are also immense transaction costs here: there's no area where everyone wants (or doesn't want) to be vaccinated, so implementing this would require massive migration, with immense costs.
It seems to me you've hit on one of the most interesting and challenging things about Covid policy (at both a government and a household level): many of the usual libertarian-ish solutions don't work here, because of the difficulty of keeping one person's choices from impacting everyone around them.
I'm afraid I only have time for a short, partial response today. Short version: Covid surveillance is hard, and there's lots of noise in the data. But there are lots of smart people working hard on this, and in the aggregate we actually have a pretty good idea what's going on.
I'll address one of the questions you asked specifically:
So where are these numbers for variant spread coming from? Maybe hospitals do have special genetic tests and reliably do those? But then isn't there going to be a pretty strong bias based on the fact that these are only for people who are getting hospitalized?
In Washington, much of the variant prevalence data comes from UW, which sequences a subset of the samples they receive. This is a bit complicated: some samples are fully sequenced, and some are tested for S-Gene Target Failure, which is a faster, easier test that is a fairly good (but not perfect) proxy for Omicron vs Delta. The UW sequencing is a good but not perfect sample of what's actually happening in Washington. For details on this project, the person to follow is Pavitra Roychoudhury. Details vary, but there are multiple other institutions with largely similar programs.
More general answer: you're asking good questions. They are all important, and they're obvious to any smart person who thinks about the issue for a moment. Although I don't have time to answer them all, I assure you that the smart people working on Covid have thought of every single one of your questions, and have good answers to every single one. Many of the answers are in Zvi's excellent series of Omicron updates.
Thank you. This helped me think more clearly about something we do often.
Zvi's Omicron summary is probably your best source of information:
Omicron probably milder than Delta (~50%) so baseline IFR likely ~0.3% unless hospitals overload, lower for vaccinated or reinfected.
Good questions—thank you for starting this conversation.
Your assumptions about testing seem reasonable, and hopefully we'll have confirmatory data soon.
I have with great regret stopped using microCOVID. A factor of 2 - 3 x risk multiplier seems reasonable, but I no longer entirely trust their transmission model. It's probably still more or less valid, but Omicron is a very different disease. There's some interesting data about it preferring the upper respiratory tract to the lungs, and about how Omicron particles behave differently in aerosols, that make me worry that transmission patterns may have changed in ways that are more complicated than a simple multiplier.
I'm hoping to see more data soon (and especially hoping that the microCOVID team will update for Omicron, although that seems somewhat in question).