Surveys have shown a continual decrease in enthusiasm for receiving what eventually pops out the Covid-19 vaccine pipeline. Only about half of Americans now say they would definitely get the vaccine if it were available now, down from almost three-fourths in May. The greatest concern: Potential side effects.
Vaccines can be wonderful things, and if you know your diseases the successful campaign to wipe out smallpox must truly outweigh such technological advances as the Apollo program — unless you have moon rock fetish. Vaccines have saved an estimated 23.3 million deaths worldwide over the last decade, according to the CDC. Polio has almost disappeared worldwide through vaccination campaigns, although that program was paused by a shifting of resources to, yes, Covid-19. I waged a long battle against the “vaccines cause autism people” and have paid a terrible price in my profession for doing so.
But vaccines aren’t always safe and safety is especially important compared to treatments. Treatments are used to alleviate an illness that already exists (or is presumed to). Some like chemotherapy are literally poisons but delivered in hopes they will do more good than harm. Conversely, vaccines are given in the full knowledge that the recipient will probably never be exposed to people with the germ in question. Therefore, as a preventive measure vaccines require a much higher standard of safety and efficacy.
And while, to employ dueling clichés, a stitch in time may save nine; it’s also true that vaccine haste makes, well, not waste but injury and death. Thus the very name of the Trump Administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program, “Operation Warp Speed,” is disconcerting. We’re not racing a Federation starship to save an earth colony from a Romulan attack. Rather hype aside, with Covid-19 is a disease overwhelmingly of those already near death, as even “Dr. Lockdown” Neil Ferguson has admitted. The economic damage is unprecedented for any disease, but that’s self-inflicted.
The danger of a hasty vaccine is hardly hypothetical. In 1976, after being warned that the death of a single soldier from influenza might portend a new “Spanish flu” – considered the worst pandemic in modern history – then-President Gerald Ford ordered his own “warp speed” program, overseen by the CDC. This even as the World Health Organization adopted a “wait and see” policy. “Due to the urgency of creating new immunizations for a novel virus, the government used an attenuated ‘live virus’ for the vaccine instead of an inactivated or ‘killed’ form, increasing the probability of adverse side effects among susceptible groups of people receiving the vaccination,” according to Discover magazine.
After 45 million injections the program ground to a halt when it was realized that too many recipients (that is, significantly higher than background rate) developed a rare and often permanent form of paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome. Some died. Yet beyond that one soldier there were no flu deaths and even as the vaccine program progressed the CDC was quite aware of that. (Showing how times have changed, the CDC director lost his job over his ineptitude.)
Just three years ago the Philippines shut down a dengue fever vaccination program after it was associated with “hundreds” of excess deaths. There were accusations of approval with “undue haste” and indeed some dengue experts had warned that the vaccine should only be given to those who had previously been infected. They were ignored. But note that while Ford’s science advisors put him on the spot, dengue has been endemic in the Philippines forever and the death rate is much lower than the worst infectious disease, tuberculosis. (Which also happens to be vastly worse there than Covid-19.) Vector-borne diseases at any rate are best controlled through eradication of breeding grounds. But, naturally, pharmaceutical companies may disagree.
Mind, both of these vaccines still did pass their allocated human clinical trials just as several Covid-19 vaccines are now chugging along in Phase III (two have been paused fully or partially for investigation of possible serious adverse reactions.) The side effects of the flu and dengue fever vaccines apparently weren’t clear until the general vaccination programs began. Sixty thousand people (the number in one current U.S. coronavirus Phase III trial) just can’t be representative of the 330 million unique individuals that comprise the country – each with his or her unique genome and individual age and health characteristics.
More clinical trials with larger numbers of people can help mitigate the problem, but that takes time. And money. And still, no amount of clinical trials can reveal particularly rare (and perhaps dangerous) side effects. So when the good Dr. Fauci speaks of the availability of a “safe and effective” vaccine, he means (and should say) “as indicated by clinical trials.”
Ideally you would slowly “roll out” a vaccine into the general population. Hysteria, unfortunately, works against that. In the event, how could you do that with Covid-19? Well, some countries may “volunteer” their citizens as we have seen already with a potential coronavirus vaccine. That’s not fair to the “volunteers,” but at least it does the rest of the world a favor.
Another way is to use no government methods of persuasion and just let those most worried about the disease be self-made guinea pigs. The problem with that is it may or may not slow the rollout. It may not because, and it’s amazing how many people and even government leaders don’t seem to realize it, you can’t just brew up a batch of hundreds of millions of vaccines like you can fill a hundred million bottles of bottled water (probably from a tap). That’s even tougher if the vaccine requires multiple doses, as the first Covid-19 vaccine may well necessitate. Then there’s transportation, storage, and injections. In less-efficient countries, it could take a year between first dose and last dose even presuming complete public compliance.
So yes, we could probably let people designate themselves as guinea pigs. Problem is, the guinea pigs may not be representative of the general population. Specifically here, persons most at risk are the elderly and those with one or more preexisting conditions like obesity and diabetes. It’s possible that they would have more (or even fewer) adverse reactions to a vaccine than healthier and younger people.
Okay, then modify the volunteer program so we have people from all ages (babies would be problematic) and various states of health. That hardly satisfies the politicians who have vowed to jab every one of their citizens overnight, but remember they probably won’t be able to do that anyway. They will need successive batches.
Now that leaves us with yet another Covid conundrum. In fact, perhaps the conundrum. From early on, coronavirus deaths have been measured not by causation but by association. The overwhelming majority of deaths may have been caused by those morbidities (perhaps over 90% according to evaluations) but since decedents tested positive for coronavirus that’s how they were classified. Indeed, many alleged fatalities weren’t tested at all; they don’t need to be according to written CDC and WHO protocols. Some health agencies, including England’s, even count people who had the coronavirus, recovered, then later died of something else. Anything else. Welcome to the strange world of coronavirus-counting.
We have thus been primed to accept association in place of causation. And we’re already seeing it being played out with a different vaccine, that for flu. The media is filled with reports on South Koreans who have died after receiving one of the vaccines made by seven different companies, 59 at this writing.
Mind that unlike with coronavirus we’re told that these just happened to occur after the injections and therefore there’s no evidence for cause and effect, there is panic nonetheless. In fact, while South Korea’s program is continuing its somewhat near neighbor Singapore has halted injections of the two different vaccines it has in common with those used in South Korea. It’s hard for people to unlearn what’s been drilled into their heads regarding Covid-19 since March; that even if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s still coronavirus.
So yes, for some reason this year South Koreans and Singaporeans are worried it’s the flu shot that’s causing every death that follows regardless of any pattern and if South Koreans are thinking that, expect problems in other countries regarding this year’s flu shots. By nation, South Korea and Singapore have two of the highest IQ ratings in the world – the existence of K-pop notwithstanding. And more to the point of this article, expect this problem even more when we eventually get that Covid-19 vaccination.
Even the click-hungry MSM may join in by that point, though so far exaggerating the pandemic has served them so well. “Tragic Story: ‘My Child Died Just a Month after Receiving Covid Jab!” The question is: Will people told that association with “presence of coronavirus infection means death by coronavirus” make the logical transition to “presence of coronavirus vaccination means death by coronavirus vaccination?”
You don’t need a crystal ball to see this one coming straight at us.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, word will eventually trickle down to the masses that because we’re in such a hurry to get any vaccine, the first one introduced in the U.S. could be as low as 50% effective, because that’s the standard set by the FDA. And wait, it gets worse. That only means effective in preventing infections. “None of the trials currently under way are designed to detect a reduction in any serious outcome such as hospital admissions, use of intensive care, or deaths. Nor are the vaccines being studied to determine whether they can interrupt transmission of the virus,” as Peter Doshi wrote in the October 21 British Medical Journal.
“Hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 are simply too uncommon in the population being studied for an effective vaccine to demonstrate statistically significant differences” in a clinical trial,” said Doshi, the drug development specialist at the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy. “The same is true of its ability to save lives or prevent transmission: the trials are not designed to find out.” So theoretically for whatever risk there is, on the reward side there may be nothing.
Yet the polls show that people directly tie vaccine efficacy to willingness to receive the shot, a reasonable position. It’s not just that less reward is tied to risk aversion; there are those insisting that anything less than full protection means that masking and the euphemistic “social-distancing” will have to continue. Which essentially means forever.
You can’t bottle up information like that forever and in fact the mainstream media like CNN have picked up on Doshi’s article.
Or in a middle possibility, protection may not be essentially permanent as with the MMR vaccine but may require boosters. Perhaps annually. That, too, will not please the public although one would hope that subsequent vaccines would improve upon the first in coverage and reduced injections. It would still remain that if we “blow it” the first time around, we may not have a second opportunity. As the saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.”
Authoritarian governments can use various means plus ongoing terror campaigns to try to strong-arm people to get vaccinated. But more democratic nations may have serious problems. Any way you look, vaccines are no magic bullet. Understanding the real threat, or lack thereof, is the closest to Harry Potter we’re going to get.
Said Dr. David S. Jones, PhD, professor of the culture of medicine at Harvard University to AAMC News, “The basic history lesson when it comes to vaccines and immunization is that there always has been a risk and there always will be a risk.”
But risk can be mitigated and it can be proportional to the threat. We cannot let panic or the terrible damage inflicted on numerous populations by unwise lockdown efforts change this strategy.