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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Vaccine Mandates and Boosters—What Does It All Mean?

On Thursday, President Biden announced a number of new policies to fight Covid-19. Chief among them: More vaccine mandates are coming. Now, businesses that employ over 100 workers will have to require those employees to be vaccinated, or to produce a negative Covid test every week. Biden also doubled down on his decision to offer booster shots to fully vaccinated Americans, a move that’s faced some pushback from world health leaders and from other countries that have been unable to fully vaccinate their own citizens.

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk with WIRED senior writer Maryn McKenna about the ethics of vaccine boosters. Then, Adam Rogers joins us to break down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate announcements.

Show Notes

Read Maryn’s story about the US authorizing vaccine booster shots. Read Adam’s story about how to do vaccine mandates the right way. And his story about the data on ivermectin. He also wrote about the ethics of treating vaccinated patients first. Read Angela Watercutter’s story about the trailer for the new Matrix movie.


Adam recommends the show Motherland: Fort Salem. Lauren recommends the trailer for the new Matrix movie. Mike recommends the Netflix show On the Verge.

Maryn McKenna can be found on Twitter @marynmck. Adam Rogers is @jetjocko. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

MC: Lauren, how is your post-Covid summer going?

LG: I didn't think we're really post Covid, Mike, but I guess it's been OK all things considered.

MC: Yeah, it hasn't exactly worked out the way that we all planned, but we're going to talk about that today and the gradual return to normal.

LG: All right. Well normal can't get here soon enough.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor here at WIRED.

LG: And I'm Lauren Goode, I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

MC: We are also joined this week by WIRED's senior writer, Maryn McKenna. Maryn, welcome back to the show.

Maryn McKenna: Thanks folks.

MC: Of course. You are WIRED's public health reporter. So our listeners may be able to guess that we are talking about vaccines this week. In the second half of the show, we're going to talk to WIRED senior correspondent, Adam Rogers, about the latest news on vaccine mandates. But first, we have Maryn with us to talk about booster shots.

Last month, the White House announced that the US would offer a third shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to any American who already received two doses. There was some backlash to that announcement. Researchers and policy makers around the world have pushed back, accusing the US, a wealthy country of prioritizing itself over other countries whose citizens still haven't been able to get even one shot. Now Maryn, you recently wrote a story about this for WIRED, and of course the debate continues. So let's start with the Biden administration, this booster shot plan. What's their reasoning here?

MM: Well, I think people would actually like to know that because it isn't entirely clear. So part of what made that announcement in August so complicated for people is that the White House task force and the president just up and announced that we were going to get boosters getting in front of the health agencies who were supposed to make that decision. That was announced with a particular date, September 20th, you're going to get a dose, in advance of the advisory committee that tells the FDA whether something should be authorized, the FDA then usually blesses that, and in advance of the CDC's advisory committee which usually goes through the evidence and make sure that things are safe and effective after which the CDC blesses that decision.

None of that has happened yet, and there have actually been meetings of those committees since the announcement. And they've actually pushed off discussion of boosters in what's taken to be a demonstration by people in the know that these committees are not going to allow themselves to be pushed around. So to start with, this is internally controversial in the United States, and it's also externally controversial. The Director General of the World Health Organization has been practically begging the United States and other western economies to not ahead with boosters on the contention that it uses up doses in highly vaccinated populations that are needed in the developing world where Africa, for instance has only about two percent of its resonance vaccinated. So all of this has been tricky.

LG: So there are obviously a lot of geopolitical issues to unpack here. I'm also curious about the physiological implications or requirements for a booster shots, like what has the research shown so far about weighting efficacy if in fact that's what's happening and how similar or different is that from other booster shots many of us have gotten throughout our lives?

MM: So it's really great that you brought up the comparison to other vaccines because in other vaccines, particularly the vaccines we get as kids, we get booster shots routinely. Things like hepatitis B and Rotavirus and diphtheria and polio, all of those vaccines that we get, we get multiple versions of that shot. One, two, three, sometimes four, sometimes a fifth before kids going to school.

So the idea of a booster is not something foreign, and we probably should have anticipated that in the case of the Covid vaccines, that we'd have to be doing the viral equivalent of setting up the ball and volleyball to spike it over the net, right? The question here is not so much that boosters are inappropriate because they work perfectly well in the context of other vaccines, it's more kind of the promises we made to ourselves for what these vaccines were going to do.

It's good to remember that in the clinical trials that ended last December, December 2020, and caused the vaccines to be approved, well technically authorized though one of them has since been approved, what they were tested against was whether they prevented serious illness, hospitalization, and death. And they still do that really, really well. Not necessarily quite as well as showed up in the trials, because those were sort of perfect conditions, they were about 95 percent protective in that. But still the real world efficacy of these vaccines is still up in the high 80s to 90 percent as tested in healthcare workers who were in a really stressful, really challenging environment where they're exposed to lots of virus.

The challenge is that we do see some studies that show waning, efficacy, less protectiveness against getting an infection. Now in somebody who's fully vaccinated an infection might be quite mild or might kind of put you in bed for a couple of days the way the flu might, but it's not taking you to the hospital and it's not killing you. But we did such a good job of telling people that these vaccines were just going to be unbelievably protective. That that sense that breakthrough infections are happening and that some people are getting sick and that protection against infection might be going down into maybe 60 percent has really unsettled people. And that's really what's behind the call for boosters. It's not that fully vaccinated people are getting sick and dying, it's that fully vaccinated people are getting sick.

MC: So that brings up like a really interesting ethical argument because you could give somebody a booster shot to keep them from feeling bad, or you can give somebody a vaccination shot to keep them from having to go to the hospital and possibly be put on a ventilator and possibly die. And it does feel like this is a time in human history when global thinking really should prevail. I think that's the argument that the World Health Organization and that other governments are making.

MM: Exactly. And initially the World Health Organization asked that rich countries, not just the United States, other countries are moving ahead on boosters as well, Israel, Russia, Germany has advanced the idea, France has advanced the idea. The WHO asked first that countries hold off on boosters until at least the end of September. Just a day or two ago, they asked that that moratorium be extended really until the end of the year to make sure that there's the maximum available amount of vaccine distributed to low and middle income countries to boost their vaccination rates.

Now the White House, which is still going after the booster shots for Americans idea has pushed back on this as a false choice. They say we can expend plenty of vaccine in the United States and still honor our commitments to the developing world. But the question is really whether the commitments that we've made are enough. And the second question is really, if we even put aside our ethical obligation to the rest of the planet, do boosters really do what we most meant it to do in the United States?

If we've got, I've lost track of the most recent numbers, but let's say 180 million people in the United States who have gotten to some degree of vaccination, does improving their protection actually get us safer as a society or should we be spending those doses trying to get them into people who haven't been vaccinated yet for whatever reason? The people who are packing out hospitals at this point are almost all unvaccinated.

If we spent those booster shots getting those people protected, we could increase protection across the country, reduce the strain on the healthcare system, reduce the occurrence of other infections that are happening in the healthcare system as a result of people being super stressed in their jobs there, and keep people from having to be life-flighted across a dozen states because of there aren't any hospital beds nearby.

LG: So if the US were to "give it's supplies to poor countries" right, and effectively divert the shipments to people who need it, how does that actually work?

MM: So I think when we hear about this proposal to donate supplies, we get this mental vision of those heavy duty laboratory coolers that we all heard of that keeps things at minus a million degrees, right, to keep the vaccine viable. I don't think anyone is suggesting that someone goes into the cooler in your local Walgreens or academic medical center and takes out the boxes and puts them on FedEx and sends them to Africa. That's not what's going on.

But what is going on is that in advance and in preparation for what we're doing now, the US government and other affluent governments made advanced purchase commitments to various companies so that as the boxes are coming off the manufacturing line, because factories have only a certain amount of capacity and so they are manufacturing stuff, every week, every month and so forth that some of those boxes, instead of coming to the United States go somewhere else instead. That it's those advance commitments and even larger advanced commitments than the white house has agreed to, which I think is 600 million doses, which is kind of a drop in the ocean, that those get donated or sold at a reduced cost where they are needed more.

MC: So starting on September 20th, people will begin to become eligible to receive their booster shot if they've gotten a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. I know there's some dispute about when people will become eligible, so if you could tell us about that and also what about people who got the Johnson & Johnson shot?

MM: So it's actually a lot more complicated than that because the only vaccine, the only manufacturer who's actually gone up so far with data that would potentially justify boosters is Pfizer. But a fair number of people in the United States, of course didn't get Pfizer they got Moderna, the other messenger RNA vaccine, or the J&J vaccine, which is a different vaccine platform entirely.

It actually isn't clear that on September 20th, as the white house requested that people will be able to just march up somewhere and get a Pfizer vaccine. The White House said eight months, Pfizer said they'd like to do it at six months, the government of Israel has been proposing doing it at five months for their people and we don't have any data yet to know first what the appropriate dose would be for Moderna. Moderna Has actually suggested that their booster dose ought to be smaller than the original dose that you got, or for the two doses that you got.

And we don't have any data about whether you can cross the streams. If you were a Moderna vaccinate, can you just march up and get Pfizer or should you actually wait for the Moderna formula? Remember they're not exactly correct. In those initial vaccine series, they were spaced at different times. I think Pfizer was 21 days apart, Moderna was 28 days apart, which indicates that even though they're the same platform, they work in slightly different ways.

The short version of this is that there are still a lot of questions to be answered. And so for healthy people who are only really seeking to boost their protection against infection, all of this might in the end have to wait a while, which is complicated because the white house did put that marker down. I should say that none of this has to do with people who are immunocompromised.

Everyone agrees at this point, including those advisory committees, that they should be allowed to go and get a third shot, which people are referring to not as a booster, but sort of just like part of the initial series, because it's super clear that they don't make adequate antibody to protect themselves and they need a third shot in order to be at the place where the rest of us are with two, unless you got Johnson & Johnson, which is more complicated yet because that vaccine was approved months later than the other two. And there just isn't that much data yet to say, really, what is the right thing to do for Johnson & Johnson at this point?

MC: Well, thank you Maryn for breaking that down for us and thanks for coming back on the show.

MM: Thanks for having me.

MC: We're going to take a break right now and then when we come back, we're going to talk more about vaccines with Maryn's colleague, Adam Rogers.


MC: As we touched on earlier, vaccine boosters could be helpful, but what really keeps the virus from spreading is getting more people vaccinated. Actually making that happen is the tricky part. A number of government entities and private businesses have started mandating that workers prove they're vaccinated if they want to continue having a job. And I should note that we're taping this on Thursday, September 9th.

So earlier today, President Biden announced that his administration is going to require all federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated. Moves like these are controversial of course, but ultimately vaccine mandates work for stopping the spread. Mandates just have to be implemented fairly to avoid sidelining people who are already marginalized. So we had Maryn on the first half and she couldn't stick around. So for the second half, we're bringing on WIRED's senior correspondent, Adam Rogers. Welcome back to the show, Adam.

Adam Rogers: Thank you. Always nice.

MC: You wrote a story for WIRED about vaccine mandates and you just watched Biden's speech. So tell us, why are you and Joe trying to take away my freedom?

AR: It's funny, you said at the top that the mandates are controversial. And this isn't an example of a specific kind of political schism, not between red and blue, Republican and Democrat, I think, but between the people who write about and cover politics and the people who actually live in the world, because in fact, measures like mandates and the other kinds of things that we have tried to do to control the spread of Covid-19 are really popular.

If you poll people on it just kind of generically, it's like in the seventies of people saying, yes, we want there to be more rules, we want there to be masks, we want there to be masks in schools, we want them to be vaccine mandates, we want more people to get vaccinated. People want all that because the Covid-19 pandemic is a massive global tragedy and it has been horrible for everyone.

So, I hesitate a little bit to turn these kinds of things into political horse race stories as the people who cover politics and the president will do because that's their role in this to talk about the political implications. Politically, it is very difficult for the president to do anything because there's political opposition to it. To be a little more serious about it, just in terms of whether a man it takes away people's freedoms. There is a potent argument, I think and it's one that researchers made to me when I wrote about this.

It says that in fact, it is the people who are not vaccinated, who are in some sense, threatening the freedom of people who are in their ability to go about their daily lives in a safer way that gets past the conditions that we've all been living in for the pandemic, especially because Covid-19 in particular, preferentially affects both in morbidity and mortality in sickness and in death, communities of color and communities at lower socioeconomic status. And it has since the beginning of the pandemic. So those are the communities that have gotten hit the hardest, those are the ones who get hit the hardest if there's not widespread vaccination, widespread masking, widespread ventilation, all the public health measures that we've been trying to take in this country. And so there's a threat to those communities as well. It has to be taken into account.

LG: There are also threats to kids who are too young to be vaccinated and we're already seeing as kids go back to school stories of Covid spreading rapidly throughout schools in younger grades. Adam, it feels like we've moved a little bit, or we're starting to have a little bit from the carrot phase to the stick phase. When it comes to vaccines, we talked to you on this podcast before about the psychology of incentives and rewards to get vaccinated. But these mandates are the ones that Joe Biden talked about today, it's a little bit different. It's not like, Hey, here's a hundred bucks for a free drink if you get vaccinated, it's new must get vaccinated to maintain your job or to just reenter society? How do you think ultimately, this approach is going to be received?

AR: It will be received like all the public health efforts, both successful and unsuccessful, the United States has try to put into place in the past year and a half differently by different communities. In a place where vaccination rates were already very high this won't be as much of a problem because people will think, well, I did this by choice internationally. I was just reading this morning about vaccination rates, for example, in European countries, that we're running behind the United States and now in most cases running far ahead and they don't have the same kind of political opposition.

There's not the same sort of anti-vaccine movement that they're in Portugal let's say that there is here in Germany, even though there is anti-vax sentiment there as there is in the United States. The carrot and the stick are not zero sum. You don't only have carrots or only have sticks, right? The point isn't to force people to do stuff they don't want to do, though that may happen here in some cases. The point is to get people vaccinated to make the pandemic or at least be something that isn't overwhelming hospitals. So to do that, you have different communities that have different reasons that they haven't been vaccinated yet.

One reason might be the structural and logistical reasons. If you don't have paid time off, you can't risk having two days out of work if you're the one of the rare people who gets significant side effects from getting a shot. Those go away and they're usually not severe, you don't feel good for a day, but if you miss work for it and you can't afford to miss work because you'll lose your job, you don't go get vaccinated potentially.

That's a group of folks so you can fix that problem. If you're somebody who lives really far away from a vaccination site, you can fix that problem. And those are sort of in the carrot vein, right? You can make it easier for people. If you're told that there's a vaccine mandate, if you work at a place that employs 65,000 Americans or something, if you say you can't come to work without being vaccinated, but then that place doesn't give you a place to get vaccinated, that's not right, right?

So you make it possible for people, you make it easy for the people for whom it's been hard. If you look at these polling numbers, they are fascinating to me, even in the group of people who say, "Absolutely there is nothing that can make me get vaccinated." And that's what? 15 percent, 20 percent, if you ask people the question in various polls. Even in that group, there's a subgroup in the cross tabs. It's like the only thing that could ever possibly make me get vaccinated is if I was forced to, well welcome aboard.

Now you're being forced to, because you want to move through society as casually as you did in 2019. Once you get to the group that is politically or philosophically, opposed to vaccines, that's where the tension is. That's where where heads will butt here. And so now the question is, OK, well, because this is America you can maintain that political and philosophical opposition, but don't expect to share the same privileges in society as other people do, because we have societal priorities and privileges now that are trying to be enforced. That is why they are, as you say, Mike, taking away one's freedoms.

MC: Right. You don't have to take a shower, but you're going to be sitting on the roof of the bus if you don't take a shower.

AR: Yeah. And these are the same kinds of questions you don't know politically to swing all the way back around to where we started when I said, I didn't want to do this to get political about it. These are the same kinds of political schisms or issues that culturally, the country has been dealing with at least for the last five years, but really for 10 or 15, 20 since 9/11, maybe it's appropriate to be thinking about this week where the idea is what freedoms do people have, better freedoms of the freedoms individually, freedom from getting messed with versus freedom to do stuff, to be part of a society that has some shared priorities, where sometimes your ability to do whatever you want has to be subordinated to the safety of everyone around you.

We don't let people around swinging a metal baseball bat, and that's not a terrible analogy here because Covid-19 is a pernicious disease that kills some of the people who get it and it spreads asymptomatically so you cannot tell within a couple of days whether you have it and are giving it to other people without knowing about it. Because of that the world around us has to take some measures to keep us all safe. And in some parts of our country right now, more people than not agree to that, it's part of the deal that we all make to live together in close quarters, right? But in some parts they don't, and those are the parts of the country right now where the ICUs are full and the death rates are high and Lauren, as you said, the epidemiologic load, the burden is now shifting to populations that can't get vaccinated like kids so far, because that's still not approved in the United States.

LG: So when will kids under 12 be able to get the shot and will these school mandates expand to include students once that happens?

AR: Yeah, very good question. At least one of the vaccine makers, if not all of them are working on the complicated and large scale trials for kids to figure out what the appropriate dosages are and what the kind of safety measures are and all of the things that you want drug companies and public health people to be doing before you say people should go take a drug as they have done for people 12 and up for these drugs. Vaccines are extraordinarily safe especially when compared to the risks of getting or giving Covid-19.

The last that I read, it was looking like end of the year, potentially into early 2022 before those approvals came, I do think that the mandates for public schools, as there are mandates for all kinds of other vaccinations before you can go to a school are on the way now. The Pfizer vaccine switched from being an emergency use authorization, which was an emergency approval to being the full fledged version of that. The legal questions probably were not material but a lot of places like the large school districts wanting to avoid even the possibility of a challenge and so that now has gone away. So I think more and more schools and school districts will start to have that.

MC: One piece of the federal policy that came out this week is that tests are going to be much cheaper and much more accessible in more areas. Why is it important to have both proliferation of vaccines and proliferation of cheap and available testing?

AR: That's a super important point especially because a lot of the people who've been now in the commentary and also public health and politically even have been coming down on both sides of the testing component of what president Biden announced today, because the idea is to make it much more easier to get these sort of rapid testing, home testing versions. And the reason that that is important is that it helps you epidemiologically with controlling who has and who doesn't. You can tell before you go to a place or do a thing, whether you have it or if you aren't sure you've been exposed, whether you have it you don't want to spread it asymptomatically. A lot of the vaccine mandates, not all of them anymore, but a lot of the vaccine mandates you either have to show you've been vaccinated or you have to get these tests.

So you want that to be as easy as possible, more than weekly. So that's good that those are going to get cheaper and more common. That was you remember, I mean, it's hard because time has gotten so messed up, but you might remember at the beginning of the pandemic, that was part of the problem was it in the United States, one of the most well-funded and best organized public health apparatuses in the world in the United States, couldn't get its act together on testing. That was the very first thing that we messed up, was not being able to get tests out there and why in a widespread way, and that continued. There are parts of the world where I've seen this described, as people are swimming in free Covid tests, they just, any place you go they throw a test at you and they send them home for schools.

And this is the sort of thing that I'm continually astonished. I think many of us who've been covering the pandemic continually astonishes us what didn't happen in are very civilized and very wealthy country. The fact that now that there's not a shortage of personal protective equipment, for example, the fact that boxes of 195 masks didn't turn up at the doors of every address in the country, for example, is pretty weird. We could have done that. The fact that boxes of Covid tests and how to use them didn't show up at every house in the country for free is sort of surprising. We could have done that. We didn't do it. And some of that was political and some of it was bureaucratic and competence early on that continued and some of it is just this thing that maybe governments don't know how to do that stuff anymore.

Some of it is that the public health is the responsibility of states in the United States, not the federal government. So the federal government, the dynamic of how those two entities sort of operate with each other makes things slower and more confusing sometimes. But still, we could have done something and we haven't yet and it's been almost two years. I think that's part of also what is behind some of the support to the extent that there is for vaccine mandates is there is this feeling of enough with this. We have to do something and the kind of political dilly-dallying about it gets in the way of it. It's making sure that the problem doesn't get fixed and people are dying.

LG: So we have to ask you, you wrote a story about ivermectin this week and how the same drug trial that showed promising results were an SSRI or an antidepressant drug show that ivermectin, which is everyone's been talking about it, basically does nothing to help people with mild Covid cases. And at the end of this story, you write much of the US response to pandemic has been exactly this backward, responsive to misinformation, rather than getting out in front of it. And this has been going on for long enough that the pandemic itself has changed. But we do have real information on what does work, right, which is the vaccines. So why do you think people have been so inclined to look for these "workforce" solutions as you call them, but may not be as inclined to just get the fast, cheap, easy thing, which is the vaccine

AR: Well, I don't know. Figure it out. I'm not smart enough to figure that one out. No, OK so some hypotheses. To some extent, your affiliation, who you are, how you define yourself as an American citizen has gotten tied up in the way that you respond to science broadly and to the science of Covid-19 specifically. It is I think reasonable in fact, to have some concerns over what transnational pharmaceutical companies say to you.

I have them. I'm confident having read the studies that the vaccines perform as I have written and as others such as Maryn has written as other places. They work, they're safe, they're effective. But I think people long for a simpler solution and one that fits their cultural affiliation as well. So that happened with hydroxychloroquine last year. The idea that there would be this simple, cheap, easy medication that seemed to show some early promise, and it was taken up by some political leadership in the country and technological leadership, candidly as well, because in early days, a lot of folks in Silicon Valley were supportive of it as well.

A lot of the same stuff happened with ivermectin. Ivermectin is a very effective anti-parasitic often used to treat in humans things like river blindness, like parasite worm diseases. They're also veterinary formulations and in this country, as it got more and more scarce, even though doctors were writing off-label prescriptions for ivermectin into their patients, the prescriptions went up like 20 fold in August. And when people couldn't get it, some number of them, some probably small number sought out the veterinary formulations which were too high a dose and that can make you sick when you take it. That was that FDA tweet you're not a horse, you're not a cow thing. That was what that was all about.

But so what people are looking for there, some of that comes out of that. I've been thinking about this part a lot, actually, the do your own researchers. That thing of like you have to do your own research and people get told that without I think a clear understanding of what research actually is.

It starts to be well, you're going to go on Google and you'll look at YouTube and you'll read stuff. And then you'll make a determination based on who you trust, which journal articles to read and which ones not to, or which ones to believe. And that's not obvious, even for professionals. People with PhDs have to make decisions. And they're not always right about which journal articles they think are right and there's back and forth of criticism.

The development of scientific consensus is a cultural one for sure, but it's not obvious. Some of the people who DM'd me and emailed after that ivermectin story came out, they'll say that they'd talked to their own doctor, they talk to their own physician who was willing to prescribe them ivermectin. So clearly that means it works much more than any giant randomized, double blind controlled study, obviously, right, because people tend to believe their own experiences or how they perceive their own experiences more than something at a remove.

But that's exactly what science is supposed to do. It's supposed to clear out the biases and the affiliations and the things that you don't understand and give you a clearer look. There's another study coming up a large trial that's going to include ivermectin again, to try to look at a different dosage, probably to try to finally say, OK, there were some early indications that ivermectin might help. But it turns out it probably doesn't and that's where the FDA has come down that's where the American Medical Association has come down. That's where a lot of the researchers that I've talked to have come down, probably doesn't help. Probably doesn't help. Don't do that.

Go get vaccinated and we'll try to find another drugs for people who have mild cases anywhere because of their breakthrough or because they didn't get vaccinated whatever reason or because they're in countries that can't afford vaccines yet. There should be those drugs too, but probably not this one. And that requires a real reset of people's thinking if they thought, oh the ivermectin is out there. I don't need to get vaccinated. Well know that it turns out what we understand right now, what scientists understand now, yeah you do. You do.

MC: Unless you're a horse worm.

AR: Yeah, I know, it's a bad time for horse worm.

MC: I think it's a good time for horse worms because everybody's going out, all the humans are going and out eating the worst of worm.

AR: I'm really thinking of all of the different communities and people, how they found their affiliations, that group of people who have been most resistant to things like vaccines and wearing masks, which are so far the two things that work the best. Even the mask science is getting pretty good. And even I was kind of skeptical of that a year and a half ago. Even the science of that is like, no, it's a good idea and I wear them when I'm out all the time too still I'm vaccinated.

But even the people who are most opposed to these things, these are folks who in many cases have been lied to by leaders they trusted. Just straight ahead. And that's a kind of victimization. That's terrible, because they've been told things that are wrong by people who they believed and sometimes those were good faith errors, but a lot of times they weren't. And in some extreme cases, they're outright grift. There are people who were trying to sell them something.

I wrote a story about whether it would be ethical to triage people who haven't been vaccinated in an ICU or an ER, behind people who have been vaccinated. Whether you can make a clinical decision if you weren't vaccinated, you don't get the same care of that somebody who is vaccinated. Almost every ethicist and researcher agrees that's not ethical. It wouldn't be ethical, that you treat people who need to be treated. Part of the point that people were making to me, there's the people who aren't vaccinated they aren't undeserving, there's an error. They made a decision that even if it seems fairly clear was not the right decision in many, many cases, most cases they're still deserving of care.

MC: All right, well, we've run out of time for this segment, but Adam, I'm mandating that you stick around for recommendations.


MC: All right, welcome back everyone. This is the third part of the show where we go through our recommendations for things that our listeners might enjoy, books, movies, television shows, podcasts, gadgets on the Gadget Lab. Adam, you are first. What is your recommendation?

AR: I have another way down the Carousel streaming show. This is a show that's about to go into its third season, but the first two seasons of it they aired on a channel called Freeform. They're now available on Hulu. It's a show called Motherland: Fort Salem. It's set in the present day, but in an alternate United States, where in the early days of the American colonies instead of persecuting, which is who are real and who do real magic, the which has made a deal to become the American military.

So this show is set in it's a magic school, that sort of Harry Potter trope, but the magic school is the military academy for combat, which is in the present day who are fighting a magical terrorist threat, and also learning to get along with each other and they all come from disparate backgrounds. So one of the women comes from a longtime military family that goes all the way back and the other one is born to muggles, but has medical healing powers and they have to learn to get along and it is some wild, amazingly good fantasy world building, some of the best I've seen on television in years.

MC: Wow. What's it called again?

AR: Motherland: Fort Salem.

MC: Awesome. Lauren, what's your recommendation.

LG: A good show has everything. It really does.

MM: It super does.

LG: Yeah. Witches, muggles, wow. My recommendation is the trailer for The Matrix. I mean, come on, have you not watched it yet? All right. I'll be honest. Earlier today, I was slacking with our friend Boone here, who produces the show. I've been heads down, or I should say maybe heads up, testing these new dystopian Facebook camera glasses and so I was like paying more attention to that today and doing something like, oh, I just been watching the Matrix trailer on repeat. And I said, "What, what?" And of course immediately went and watched it and you want to talk about this thing having everything. It's got Keanu, it's got a kitten, it's got Doogie Howser, it's got red pills and blue pills, it's got Carrie-Anne Moss. I mean, you have to check out this trailer. I am so excited for one of the majors comes out in December.

AR: It's real good. I'm pretty sure that the cat is the deja vu cat. It's the one from the matrix that when Neo sees the cat and says, "Oh, deja vu." And they say, wait, deja vu, that means they mess with the matrix again, we got to do something. I'm pretty sure that's the deja vu cat. At least I think I've seen that before.

LG: Ooh. Also I have to say there are tones of John Wick in this trailer too. Like Keanu definitely has this John Wick look, he's got a scruffy beard, he's got longish hair, he's wearing all black. There are some action scenes I mean, basically if you didn't know it was the matrix, you might think it was John Wick 4, which I would also be OK with. So I'm here for it. I'm here for it. And of course we have the trailer on WIRED's website. So Angela Watercutter wrote about it for us. Go to bar.com and check that out. Mike, what's your recommendation. Sorry. I just got so excited about Keanu that I forgot I was supposed to ask you, what's your recommendation?

MC: OK. So I have something that is not fantasy related, does not have Keanu Reeves in it, but it is a television show …

LG: All right. It's been a great podcast.

AR: Sorry I'm not following. What was that?

LG: Thanks so much for listening.

AR: My headphones skipped out a little bit.

LG: Yeah. What was that? Doesn't have Keanu in it?

MC: OK. So work with me for a minute here.


MC: It's a TV show, it just came out on Netflix, it's called On The Verge and it's kind of a bizarre show, but it's also very human. It's a story about four women who are all in their mid to late forties, early fifties, living in Los Angeles, a obviously pre pandemic Los Angeles. Some of them have children who are teenagers, who are a little bit younger. All of them are in some stage of being unlucky or about to find themselves being unlucky in love. And it was created by Julie Delpy, the French actor and writer director, and she plays one of the women. The other people on the show are Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Jones, and Alexia Landeau. It's wonderful to see all of these women doing these roles and like having really complicated and like having a lot of fun playing the characters.

I just picked it up as a luck because I will pretty much watch anything that Julie Delpy is involved in, whether she's starring in it or whether she's written and directed it. She has kind of a hearted take on things. So I just dove right into it and it turns out that I think that's one of the best things that she's done as a creator and as a writer and director.

So if you're looking for something that is not violent and not Keanu and not military witches, then I could definitely recommend this one. On The Verge on Netflix.

AR: It's a nod to Pedro Almodóvar, right?

MC: Yeah. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Yeah, exactly.

LG: Yes.

MC: When I saw it, I thought maybe it was like an adaptation of the Almodóvar movie, but it's not. It's quite good.


AR: Awesome.

MC: All right. That is our show for this week. Adam, thank you again for joining us as always.

AR: It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

LG: Thanks, Adam. That was great.

MC: And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter, just check the show notes. This show is produced by Boone Ashworth. Please get vaccinated and also please come back next week, there is an Apple announcement on Tuesday of next week so we will be talking about Apple products on next week's show.

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