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Masks as Inadvertent Variolation

Yesterday’s post on the effectiveness of masks reminded me of something I had taken notes on over a year ago: masks as variolation. The insight wasn’t original to me, but alas, I don’t recall where I first saw it.

Variolation, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the process of generating immunity to a virus by exposing people to small amounts of the virus. It was invented for (and named after) smallpox (variola). The process, however, can be applied to other viruses. I wonder if wearing a so-so mask within a population carrying SARS-CoV-2 would allow the inhalation of enough virus to cause antibody generation via a mild or even asymptomatic infection, but not enough to cause a full-bore and possibly severe symptomatic case.

This isn’t where I saw it, but an article in the New England Journal of Medicine from late 2020 makes precisely this point. In my article on masks I was talking about the aggregate effectiveness of masks, which depends on how many viruses you inhale through the filtration medium–and how many viruses are squirted out through jets at the edges of your mask when you exhale. No mask is perfect. A lot of them are worthless, but quite a few are effective enough to reduce viral load by some percentage, which obviously varies by the type of mask and how it’s worn.

Which brings me to my pet peeve, which is pertinent here: The media never talks about COVID-19 deaths. They only talk about cases, which can include mild or asymptomatic infections–or, in truth, false positives on the fluky PCR test. What the media absolutely will not talk about is natural immunity, that is, immunity conferred by an actual infection with the pathogen. We know such infections happen. We have no idea how prevalent they are. My hunch is that many or most of these new cases are not cases as generally understood (a sick person!) but positive tests from people who have had an infection and threw it off, perhaps thinking it was a cold or without even knowing they’d had anything at all.

I’ve seen studies indicating that natural immunity is stronger and longer-lasting than vaccination immunity. This post on The Blaze mentions some of them. What this means is that the “exploding case count” the pornpushers are screaming about could well be a count of positive-test people who now have natural immunity and will probably never contract the disease again.

How could this be? Simple: The vaccine gives you a quantity of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which teaches your immune system to recognize the virus by its spikes. An actual COVID-19 infection teaches your immune system about the whole damned virus, spikes and everything else.

Obviously, nobody wants to catch the disease, since the panic industry has pushed what I call “mask-it or casket” porn, typically just-so stories of some guy who claims the vaccine is fake and then dies of COVID the next day. The vaccine is not fake; Carol and I got it as soon as we were eligible. (I do wonder whether we would test positive under PCR. It might be worth the cost of the tests to find out.) What I’m talking about is that huge unknown: how prevalent natural immunity is–and how we came to get it.

Masks don’t protect you completely (as the government seems to imply) but they protect you some–and maybe enough to generate that natural immunity without suffering from the disease itself. That’s variolation.

As several of my friends have found, even mentioning “natural immunity” on Twitter or Facebook will get you banned, most likely because natural immunity argues against all the panic, and argues in favor of our hitting a degree of herd immunity (also a ban-attractor) soon or even already. Remember: A case is a positive test, symptoms or no symptoms. It’s very rare to contract the disease again after you’ve had it and thrown it off. It’s much more common to contract it after vaccination. (We’re ready for that, though given the prevalence of comment harpies, I’ll share details only with people I trust, and then one-on-one.)

Now, this notion of masks as variolation is just speculation. I bring it up because it exposes a huge gap in the coverage of COVID-19 that we’re getting from conventional online sources, who are censoring all mention of natural immunity and its related topics. It’s also why I keep my own instance of WordPress on my own hosting service rather than an account on the WordPress site. I don’t talk about controversial topics very often, but when I do, I don’t want the conversation to be suppressed.


  1. James P Fuerstenberg says:

    good article with actual data which was posted on the GT list yesterday

    1. Nice item; thanks. I’ll bookmark it.

      Arizona numbers as given in the article are instructive: Out of 3,236,943 fully vaccinated people, 1,759 were diagnosed with COVID-19. That’s .00054 of the vaccinated population. I’d say the vaccines have been pretty damned effective.

      Given those tiny numbers, I suspect that Arizona’s breakthrough cases are immunocompromised people, and perhaps people who for whatever reason are seriously deficient in zinc and (especially) vitamin D. They may also be older, diabetic, or overweight. Or all of the above.

  2. Olli says:

    There has been so much monkey business around masks here in Finland. Vaccination OK, masks… not so sure.

  3. Bob says:

    “As several of my friends have found, even mentioning “natural immunity” on Twitter or Facebook will get you banned, most likely because natural immunity argues against all the panic” The panic has been very good to the left and it lead in no small part so their taking control of the national government in the 2020 election. Here in California, the Democrats are on the horns of a dilemma. They want to continue the panic but people are sick of it and it puts Gavin Newsom in danger of the recall. So far they have leaned to embracing panic.

  4. James R Strickland says:

    Last I read, natural immunity from getting covid 19 lasts about 90 days. So there’s some, but not much. I know people who’ve already had it and been sick, but not hospitalized twice, as determined by their doctors. The second time around, one of them had a low level cytokine storm and had to take steroids to breathe comfortably.

  5. James R Strickland says:

    sick comma, but not hospitalized, comma. Sheesh. 🙂

  6. James P Fuerstenberg says:

    and one more study…a Danish study found masks pretty ineffective.

  7. Alan Sandercock says:

    I’ll listen to the experts and including this doctor. I’m using a well fitting N95 mask.

    1. I listen to the experts too. And gosh, they disagree with yours! At least he didn’t say “settled science.” Science is never settled.

      I find this page full of links to studies pretty convincing:

      Note especially the charts that plot mask mandate timing against surge timing. We had that issue in Arizona: At a time when the government said that mask compliance was 90%, we had a huge surge in cases and deaths. If 90% mask compliance can’t stop a surge, then I have no choice but to conclude that masks don’t work. The science is in. If you can explain that mismatch between mask mandate timing and surge timing, I’ll hear it. I’m pretty sure you can’t. I can’t either, except to include that masks don’t work.

      Now. You’re using the only kind of mask that might conceivably work…a little. If worn perfectly. Good for you. Are there enough N95 masks for everybody? No? Then for an entirely different reason, even N95 masks don’t work. It’s not about one person wearing an effective mask perfectly. It’s about everyone wearing an effective mask perfectly. All the time. What chances?

      I’ve noticed that governments, retailers, and other organizations pay no attention whatsoever to what type of mask you’re wearing, nor how you’re wearing it. If you’ve got a mask on, you’re good. This attitude on the part of government and large organizations does not inspire confidence in the effectiveness of masking. It sounds more like mask theater to me, where the whole point is to be seen wearing a mask. Period.

      I got my shots. I take zinc and a zinc ionophore every morning with breakfast. I don’t take part in crowd scenes. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to catch this thing. And it has nothing to do with masks.

  8. Amy says:

    Re: vaccines and PCR tests…I have data which might be relevant. I got my Moderna vax in March and April. A few weeks ago, as part of a weekend trip I took, I had to get actually tested for COVID both before the trip (2 days prior) and after (5 days following). I did a Rapid PCR test via MedNOW clinic in Aurora both times. Result: both negative. No false positive as a result of the vax.

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