Saturday, June 29, 2019
Seven Skinny Cows: Why didn't the government do anything?
Mr Ed became the Wilders' go-to guy to run and fetch. Whether it be small creature comforts or information, Mr Ed seemed to be able to find anything.
Mr Ed, for his part, basked in being in the presence of wealth. He did not think he would like “rich people”. He hadn’t been exposed to very many. He saw that he had been hasty in his judgments. John and Sam were as comfortable as a pair of old shoes.
He might have reached a different conclusion if he had encountered John while he was a high-powered executive working seventy hours a week. After work, there were times when John barely had enough psychic energy left to be civil to his family much less random, old guys who liked the sound of their own voice.
Sam helped John reframe the time they spent with Ed. It was an investment in the future. If Mr Ed liked you, then the rest of the community liked you by default.
And they needed Ed or somebody like him. They were confined to the house. Ed always had time to pop over. He even found himself a patio chair that he parked in a sunny, protected spot the mandatory distance away from the deck.
Ed could leave items and the Wilders could pick them up after Ed left. Exchanges could not go the other way until after the quarantine was lifted. Ed was in no hurry.
“I don’t know if you know this” he started out after clearing his throat, “but I used to run the radio show before Peppermint Patty.”
John wondered if he detected a bit of professional jeolousy.
“I am thinking of getting back into it.” Ed continued. “The one question I keep hearing is ‘Why didn’t the government do something?’ “
“In talking to you all, I picked up on the fact that Mrs Wilder used to work in medical research.” Ed said. He may have been sharper than he first appeared.
“I would like to be able to tell the folks of Kates Store what happened in language they can understand.” Ed said. “Can you help me out?”
Samantha slowly nodded her head. She had worked in cancer research but everybody’s attention had been pulled to the Ebola crisis. She had followed the story as raptly as any of the scientists in her community.
“You know they had a vaccine that worked?” Sam said. “At least, it worked in the Congo.”
Mr Ed nodded his head. "That's what folks are saying. Why couldn't we get that?"
“By my figuring, there were two big problems with that vaccine.” Sam said. “The production could not scale up as quickly as we needed. We needed a vaccine based on recombinant technology. Recombinant technology is where yeast or other easy-to-farm microbes are genetically modified so their cell walls have the same patterns of proteins that the virus does. Then Anheuser-Busch or Coors could have been pressed into service and we could have produced vaccine by the oil-tanker load.”
“The other main problem is that Ebola is an RNA based virus like the HIV that causes AIDS. It mutates quickly. Over the course of twenty thousand victims it changed 3% of its protein sequences. It was a moving target.” Sam said.
"That caused the government to change direction. They cut loose funding for medical teams to develop new vaccines, not wanting to understand how long it takes to move from concept to approved product."
“There were other problems. According to early trial data and numerical simulations, the best US recombinant vaccines had a five percent fatality rate when administered and only conferred 95% immunity.” Sam said.
“The politicians puked. They refused to start production when ten percent of the population was going to die anyway.” Sam said.
“So you are saying the government could have done something but they hemmed-and-hawed until it was too late.” Ed said.
“The government did do something. They threw mountains of money at the problem. I am pretty sure the military got immunized with the 95% vaccine. They were pretty pissed off cowboys, though, because they could not get it for their families after the shit hit the fan.”
“Oh, and another problem is that it took two shots, a primer and a booster and the shots needed to be at least three weeks apart.” Sam said. “Things came unglued way faster than anybody anticipated.”
“It was a case of trying to shut the barn door after the horse ran away...and the barn was on fire.” Sam said.
“So we had a vaccine...” Ed asked.
“We had a half dozen vaccines in trial.” Sam said. “Think back a year ago. If somebody came up to you and suggested that you get two shots for a disease that was not officially recognized as being in North America and they told you there was a one-in-twenty chance the shots would kill you, would you vote for that person?”
Ed grumbled a little bit. “No. I woulda said they were crazy.”
“That is the downside of a democracy.” Sam said. “China is busy vaccinating their population with 90% vaccine. That is how effective the preliminary trials showed their vaccine to be before they pulled the trigger and went production.
"Their population was not given a choice. Everybody is getting vaccinated. They are going to lose at least 10% of their population. That is assuming that the virus does not mutate, which we know that it will.” Sam said.
“They lost us and India and most of Europe as customers and their economy is going to collapse. They are going to lose a minimum of 10% of their population and I suspect their government is still going to have to deal with a revolution.” Sam said.
“You know, I like to leave people with a ray of hope.” Ed said. “You said there is a vaccine out there...a kind of yeast that even a home beer brewer could reproduce.”
Sam had to admit ignorance. “Maybe. There was once. They made enough to vaccinate the military and most of the D.C. Beltway.”
“I don’t know if that strain escaped to the wild or how to get a sample of it. But in the strictly technical sense, yes, everything you said is true.” Sam said.
“Just out of curiosity,” Ed said “where did they make that vaccine?”
“That was confidential, but if I were a betting woman I would bet on Ames, Iowa. That is where the research team that was out-front was located.” Sam said.
“People being people, do you suppose any of those folks might have taken a sample home, just in case?” Ed mused.