top of page
  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Dane County's Hidden Breakthroughs, Pt 4

This post took a little longer to put together, but I trust the wait will have been worth it.

RECAP: Recently, a private citizen provided Dane Undivided with approximately 500 pages of internal PHMDC Data Team meeting minutes from 2020 and 2021. This exposé series focuses on one of the most troubling themes uncovered in those documents: the reluctance of PHMDC to communicate openly and transparently to citizens the reality of a rising number of COVID breakthrough cases in Dane County.

Part 1: Establishes PHMDC's pattern of silence on breakthroughs beginning in February 2021.

Part 2: Focuses on July 21, 2021, minutes and the PHMDC Data Team's private but growing concern over exponential growth in breakthroughs.

Part 3: Shows that, even with breakthroughs burgeoning in July 2021 and PHMDC finally addressing the issue publicly, damage control trumped real honesty with the public.

Part 4, below, hones in on meeting minutes from August 3rd, 2021, in which the PHMDC Data Team confronts two new important tranches of information relative to Dane County breakthroughs--all while trying hard not to consider the very real possibility of waning vaccine efficacy.

Ready? Let's roll...

August 3, 2021

Breakthrough cases (BTs) are front and center for the PHMDC Data Team, with two distinct but related topics of discussion:

1) Days between full vaccination and positive tests/BTs

2) BTs by pharmaceutical brand

Days from Full Vaccination to Breakthrough

A new data table plainly shows that the number of Dane County BTs rises higher as time extends out from full vaccination. Because, the data table is blurry in the screenshot of the meeting minutes, I've reproduced it below. I've made only non-substantive changes to header text and an existing note at bottom in order to facilitate comprehension:

Digging into these findings, the Data Team first notes that the "[h]ighest proportion [of breakthroughs is] now in the group that was vaccinated a long time ago" and that "[m]ost people in our county were vaccinated a long time ago." Indeed, in examining the table, we see that the single highest number of BTs, 195, occurs 90+ days out from full vaccination. Moreover, 170, or 60.5%, of those 195 BTs have surfaced between July 1st and August 3rd.

Combined with the months-long pattern of exponential growth in BTs among confirmed cases, this new information should at least suggest that the team is witnessing waning vaccine efficacy in real time. Now add the additional comments that the team is "not seeing clusters in [longterm care facilities]," that Dane County BTs are not limited to a "majority older population" and that the median age among the BTs "differs by only a few years." These data clues should be raising big red flags for the Data Team--flags that merit full investigation. Yet, its members remain deeply hesitant to consider the most obvious possibility: "We don't think this represents waning immunity."

These inconvenient trends must have some explanation, though. The team immediately returns to a prospect discussed in July:

We don't have a vax status for people being tested. Could we do a match between WIR [Wisconsin Immunization Registry] and WEDSS [Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System] to see if all of a sudden huge amounts of vaccinated people were testing. [sic] (Emphasis mine)

In other words, they're still wondering if a bunch vaccinated people are somehow driving a bunch of false positives among the tested and skewing the BT count higher than it actually is. They then add, "There is also so much other respiratory stuff going on prompting testing."

Let's examine that last claim for just a moment. A quick look at screen 2 of the PHMDC COVID Dashboard reveals that Dane County's big case peaks for the 2020-21 respiratory illness season had already plummeted by late February.

BTs, however, began to multiply at the end of respiratory illness season as the weather grew warmer and overall Dane County COVID cases bottomed out. Shouldn't the PHMDC Data Team have been concerned by that trend alone? Shouldn't they already have been asking themselves whether decreased vaccine efficacy might actually be occurring and, if it was, how it might impact a county that was, by the agency's reckoning, already 67.7% vaccinated by August 1st? And didn't the public have a right to know that the possibility of waning efficacy existed so that people could make fully informed decisions relative to COVID vaccination?

The whole situation is niggling at the team, as evidenced by this question: "Does waning immunity affect infection or severe outcomes[?]" As hard as they're trying to minimize the big, grey behemoth in the room, they can't help but glance furtively in its direction. They're clearly wondering if they're going to have to revise even further their already shifting narrative concerning the almighty COVID vaccines.

And then it gets even more interesting...

Dane County Breakthroughs by Pharmaceutical Brand

The team transitions into a discussion about a call the previous day with some folks from Moderna, who "were very interested in real world data." Thanks to PHMDC Epidemiologist Crystal Gibson, it seems like they got some. Gibson relays the following data:

  • 11% of our people have J&J, 27% of breakthroughs

  • 34% have Moderna, 20.8% of breakthroughs

  • 54.9% have Pfizer, 51.7% of breakthroughs

Let's be clear about what's reported here: 11% J&J + 34% Moderna + 54.9% Pfizer = essentially 100% of vaccinated Dane County residents (referred to as "our people"). And all three vaccine manufacturers are implicated in a pool of 508 Dane County BTs that's been continuing to expand rapidly since February.

What should the PHMDC Data Team have understood in assessing these percentages among a population that was already 67.7% vaccinated?

First and foremost that what they are currently seeing in identified cases represents only a LOWER BOUND for actual BT rates among Dane County's vaccinated population. How can I be sure? Well...

REMEMBER: It took months to get 67.7% of Dane County residents fully jabbed. In early August, most of those individuals still believed they were either completely or at least strongly COVID-protected. They didn't know then what we know now--that an initial vaccine series is pretty much worthless after 6 months. And they sure didn't have any clue about the unfolding BT patterns...because neither the PHMDC Data Team nor any other official source was openly or honestly sharing that information with the public. Thus, it's safe to assume that most vaccinated people wouldn't have sought out COVID testing during the period from February through July. So, again, the identified BTs and BT patterns that the Data Team has been discussing for months now--including exponential growth among confirmed cases--almost certainly UNDERREPRESENT what was occurring more broadly within Dane County's total vaccinated population.

As professional epidemiologists and analysts, the PHMDC Data Team should therefore have responsibly assumed that:

  • A significant but unknown number of additional breakthroughs not identified through testing was occurring among the county's vaccinated population; and

  • All three COVID pharmaceuticals were exhibiting failure at a greater rate than identified BTs would indicate...and those failure rates were almost certainly rising.

Further discussion between the team members ensues:

"J&J had lower efficacy, so the breakthroughs there are expected," the team notes.

Expected by whom, exactly...?

While they certainly didn't advertise the fact to the public, the Data Team had indeed expected a small rate of vaccine failure for all of the COVID therapeutics, particularly in the face of variants. February meeting minutes reveal this reality. But subsequent minutes further reveal that exponential growth in BTs from February onward surprised the Data Team. They definitely didn't expect to observe an alarming 44% BTs among confirmed cases in late July, when the weather was warm and cases at low ebb. So, this discussion point is nonsense, designed to pawn off some of PHMDC's own professional responsibility onto J&J after the fact.

Certainly, the people who received the J&J shot weren't expecting failure, or they wouldn't have subjected themselves to it. That fact doesn't stop the Data Team from shunting more of their own professional responsibility onto unsuspecting J&J vaccinees who chose what the team now deems an "inferior" shot: "Confounders: greater likelihood of some populations choosing select shots because they were less able to take off work" or "didn't have time for side effects and [a] second dose." Oh, "[a]nd young people," who, I guess, are tacked on at the end, here, because the Data Team sees them as too unconcerned or on-the-go or flighty--or something--to get a two-shot series. Say...isn't that age-ism?

The team's discussion is now careening quickly toward moral failure...

...because at no point did anyone at PHMDC waltz out of their data bubble or vaccine cheerleading program to say to the public: "Hey, umm, those J&J shots...? We don't believe they're as effective. We'd advise you to choose something else." Quite the opposite, in fact. As an example, check out this charming little PHMDC blog post from Mar 3, 2021, in which readers are told they should "take the vaccine they're offered" and that "the best vaccine is the one you can get as soon as possible," all while touting the one-shot J&J vaccine as simple and convenient, just in case anyone should worry that they weren't vaccinated enough with that brand. So, while the Data Team busily works to preserve its own dignity, it turns out they're essentially blaming people for following PHMDC's own propaganda. (Of course, it's now abundantly clear that none of the vaccines were worth a dee-doodle. They may fail at different rates, but they all fail.)

"Numbers are small," the team states next. Cold comfort if you've been paying attention. The numbers are largely beside the point. It's the exponential growth in BTs that's been unfolding for months that's at issue, along with the new discovery that Dane County BTs have climbed higher as time out from full vaccination has increased. Moreover, the team has to at least suspect that the vaccinated are currently vastly underrepresented in the testing pool, and that there are more BTs out there already than they can identify.

There's one final question: "Pfizer for LTCFs and 65+...would we see more breakthroughs expected here..."

The Data Team is spitballing again, trying to explain what they're seeing. But they've already said, early in the meeting minutes, that they're not seeing clusters of cases in LTCFs at this point. The problem can't be relegated to any convenient boxes.

The team once again had a responsibility, at this point, to inform the public of what they were seeing, so that people could make fully informed decisions regarding vaccination. Yet, as had become accepted practice, all of the material discussed in this August 3rd meeting remained for internal consumption only. And PHMDC's vaccine band played on...

In Part 3, I provided proof that once PHMDC finally began to communicate with the public about BTs in late July, they worked to cloak the truth, minimize real risks, and preserve the "Vaccines Save" narrative. Next time, I'll examine even more closely PHMDC's dishonest PR around BTs.

Stay tuned for Pt 5...

Recent Posts


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page