In fairness, not all journalists. For reasons I don’t really understand, long COVID appears to have gone missing from The Discourse. I can understand why politicians don’t want to talk about the prospect of roughly one percent of vaccinated people (and I think this is a reasonable and conservative estimate) will suffer long-term, possibly permanent, disability: they want to pretend the Pandemic Is Over. And there are a bunch of Thinky Thought Leaders and Substack Bois who are psychologically invested in downplaying long-term illness. But for journalists, who supposedly want the ‘gotcha’, there’s a story here.
I guarantee if reporters try to pin down Fauci, Walensky, or, for that matter, Psaki and the White House on this issue, at worst, they’ll obviously squirm, and, at best, you’ll get an interesting–which is to say, politically explosive–answer. It’s not that hard to ask ‘what percentage of vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections will contract long COVID?’ They will try to dodge and weave, throw up chaff (‘well, you’re less likely to get it if you’re vaccinated’–true, but that’s not an answer). It will be obvious they’re dodging.
For context, most kids who contract polio don’t even have symptoms (around 75%), and 0.5% have paralysis, about one-third of which resolves after twelve months. I don’t want play the ‘which is worse, chronic fatigue and brain fog or partial paralysis?’ game because they’re both fucking awful in their own unique ways. But the key point is no one says, ‘polio, it’s just a stomach bug.’
While I think some of the estimates of long COVID reach complete absurdity, even a one percent rate would be really bad. And we do have the right to know what the estimates used by the U.S. government–and state and local governments too–are. Or more disconcertingly, if they’re even considering this at all (NIH is spending $1.15 billion on the problem over four years, so it’s hard to claim it doesn’t matter).
The journalists who push hard on this will get a good story. Yes, the issue is more important than the career prospects of journalists, but there is a story there, if they’re willing to chase it.
It matters for the rest of us.