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Podcast 144: Dr. Nicholas Christakis on COVID Vaccines, Booster Shots & What's Next with Pandemic

By Will Ahmed

Podcast 144: Dr. Nicholas Christakis on COVID Vaccines, Booster Shots & What's Next with Pandemic

Yale coronavirus expert Dr. Nicholas Christakis returns for a discussion on the COVID vaccines, booster shots, and where we are headed as a society now that we are a year and a half into the pandemic.

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This is Dr. Nicholas Christakis’ third appearance on the WHOOP podcast. He is a uniquely qualified subject matter expert on COVID. Dr. Christakis is a physician, a sociologist, and a scientist. He is also the author of the outstanding book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live. Stay healthy and stay in the green!  

Dr. Nicholas Christakis COVID Booster Podcast Quotes & Highlights

2:58 - End of the Beginning. ”I would say we are not at the beginning of the end of this pandemic, but we are approaching the end of the beginning. The virus is continuing to whip its way through the human population … Eventually, very few people will escape this. Virtually everyone will either be infected or be vaccinated. And when that finally happens, then we will finally put the epidemic part of the pandemic behind us.” 5:30 - Mortality. “As many as a million Americans will die. That is a catastrophically large loss of life.” Nicholas also adds that the economic impact will likely total in the trillions, citing a study by Larry Summers and David Cutler suggesting that COVID will likely cost the United States $16 trillion in economic damage. 8:04 - Vaccination. “Unless you're a hermit that lives in the mountains or you're exceedingly lucky, given the new variants that have come out and the infectiousness of the new variants of the virus, you will either be infected with a virus or you will get vaccinated. Those are your choices.” 12:20 - Spread of Misinformation. “Over the last 20 years with the onset of the internet, we've invented a set of tools which have enriched our lives and created great wealth, but have also harmed us. [It has] made people divide up into echo chambers. It's become possible for every person to surround themselves only with like-minded individuals because these tools make it so easy. I think that has contributed to a kind of information polarization, which means that many people have plainly false ideas about the vaccine.” 17:26 - Booster Shots. “The fact that people's antibody levels are declining is normal and expected. It's not the reason we are giving people boosters. The reason we give people boosters is first because it might further stimulate the immune response and really equip you with an even stronger level of immunity.” 19:54 - New Shots for New Variants. “In the coming years, as coronavirus settles in and circulates among us forever, becoming what is known as endemic, most of us will need to get booster shots for new variants.” 22:12 - Vaccine-Induced Immunity. “There are diseases for which vaccine-induced immunity, outperforms natural infection. Human Papilloma Virus is an example. Tetanus is an example. … And it turns out coronavirus is such an example where you get a superhuman immunity from the vaccine that outperforms the immunity conferred by natural infection.” 28:29 - Comparisons to Chicken Pox. “What’s likely to happen with [COVID] is that it's likely to be a virus that circulates among us. You'll be exposed to it as a child, you'll have a mild illness, as we know is typical. You will therefore have acquired some immunity. And if you're re-exposed in the future as an adult, you will fight off the infection, maybe with no symptoms or mild symptoms, like chicken pox.” 31:43 - Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Response. “You need to think about us fighting the virus as having layers of defense. School closure is one layer of defense. Quarantine is another layer of defense. Testing is another layer of defense. Border closure is a layer of defense. Gathering bans is a layer of defense. Public hygiene procedures or hand washing is a layer of defense. Each of these is a layer of defense. You can think of these layers as being very good, but not perfect. They have little holes in them, like a piece of Swiss cheese. And if the virus hits the piece of Swiss cheese and hits a solid part, it bounces back. But if it gets a hole, it gets through this layer and into the next it keeps going. … If you have two or three layers of Swiss cheese, by the time you get to the third layer, the holes won't line up. So a virus trying to get through a stack of three pieces of Swiss cheese is not going to be able to see through the stack and get all the way to the other side.” 40:08 - COVID Denial. “Denial is an ancient handmaiden to plague. It's always been inconvenient for citizens and for leaders to accept that their city is being attacked by a plague. We have accounts of this going back thousands of years.” 46:00 - Rise of Distrust in Experts. “There's a kind of ascendant deep suspicion of expertise in our society right now, preceding the virus, partly because people began to think that the experts had it in for us. … Science has become very politicized on the right and on the left, each political camp has different inconvenient truths they would rather ignore. … We had all these problems when the virus struck us. I think that paved the way for the virus to harm us more and paved the way for us to willingly deny what was clearly a serious threat to our society.” 54:28 - Origins of the Outbreak. Nicholas says the first case of coronavirus was likely earlier than initially thought, sometime between late October or early November of 2019. 56:55 - Concern Over New Variants. “The thing that keeps me up at night is the potential emergence of new strains of the virus that evade the vaccine, which we have not yet seen in any material way. If that were to happen, we might be back at square one, back at the beginning of a pathogen that evades the vaccine. Then we'd have to kind of hunker down again for six months while we wait for the pharmaceutical companies to invent wholly new vaccines, new kinds of boosters if you will, against these variants.”   Check out Dr. Christakis’ first and second appearances on the WHOOP Podcast.