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Omicron a dud sequel as COVID 'franchise' runs down

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 3 December 2021

The James Bond franchise is up to 25 movies. Fast and Furious will have 10 to its credit in 2023. The COVID-19 franchise is already looking tired after only 5 iterations, but its tires are still being pumped by "supporters" and "promoters".

By supporters and promoters I don't mean that anyone is in favour of COVID itself, but they are in love with the plot lines that have evolved around it and the benefits they reap from them. We're talking about governments, media, and pharmaceutical companies.

COVID-panic has been an election-winner for most governments that have tried it. New Zealand, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, have all returned the governments that "kept them safe", mostly by record margins. It also allows governments to avoid accountability under the cover of states of emergency, and obscures deterioration in delivery of government services.


Media feed their readers COVID-porn all day and every day. It boosts audiences, and creates a need for talking heads that can explain policies, positions, pharmaceuticals and disease statistics. It also helps to tribalise viewers, reinforcing brand stickiness, in a media landscape which is becoming more tribal and focussed on making key demographics more loyal.

So despite the fact that it is more contagious, but less deadly, than previous manifestations, Omicron has had to be hyped, and accessories added, just like with a Bond car. So this one has 32 modifications, just to the spike proteins.

There are signs that this will not be as effective as previous episodes in generating hysteria, as a number of health experts, including Chief Medical Officer, Nick Coatsworth, have said this might be a version of COVID we want to spread. "It could be that we want Omicron to spread around the world as quickly as possible".

The pharmaceutical industry has a lot riding on the success of the COVID franchise as they appear to be implementing a financial model you might call "Inoculation as a Service" (IAAS), where you acquire an annuity style income, and then capitalise it through the stock market and become as rich as Bill Gates. They're double-jabbing unicorns if they are lukcy. And like Bill Gates' Windows baby, the vaccines are far from perfect, and the blue screen of death is not uncommon amongst its recipients, although arguably less frequently than amongst those who have opted for alternative "operating systems", like natural immunity.

The imperfections are part of what creates the annuity income. Being first to market is what counts, even if leaky vaccines may in fact be leading to faster mutations. Mutations turbo-charge the economic model, creating a need for more, slightly modified, vaccines to be sold at a similar price-point, but embodying and earning an income from a lot of legacy capital.

Five of the major companies involved in COVID vaccine production in the West are Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca, Moderna, Pfizerand Novovax. The share price graphs of all five exhibit high volatility, and all time highs that coincide with COVID's arrival. One of them is currently making losses and has approvals only for Indonesia. For the others, the profits don't justify the current high valuations, which must all be driven by expectations of future, and increasing, profits.


So far the prices of all of them are holding up, which is the equivalent of the professional reviewers poll on Rotten Tomatoes, giving the sequel a 9 or 10 out of 10. Will the punters agree? There is a lot of money to be lost if the COVID franchise doesn't carry on.

While capitalism is the worst system for allocating resources, apart from all the others, it has an unfortunate feature in that it tends towards, if not monopoly, oligarchy. If the smaller fish are to make a living, then they have to swim with the larger fish, if not the largest fish.

So the longer the COVID franchise survives, the stronger the institutional inertia preventing a change from the "vaccine as a silver bullet" strategy to one relying more on innate and natural immunity as well as available therapies, like monoclonal antibodies.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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