How should we treat medical risks? Whom can we trust to help us? Why should our medical history be secret? Is big pharma evil? Is Dr. Google any less knowledgeable than your personal doctor? I voice my thoughts about this and more below.
I vaccinated against COVID19. My second vaccination date was Feb 14 2021. After the second vaccination, I was sick for three days. Nothing big. Just slept all day long for three days. Anna had second vaccination a couple of weeks before me. After the vaccination, she has some heart issues which we try to understand. Mainly hypertension. This is a relatively small price to pay compared to people who had a hard case of the disease. Yet it is much worse than simply being safe and healthy.
When we take a vaccine we undertake a relatively high risk of minor side effects. Not taking a vaccine we undertake a relatively minor risk of huge issues, up to death. Is it worthwhile to take the vaccine? Which considerations can be used?
Worst case scenario
The easiest approach is the worst-case scenario analysis. By worst-case scenario, I mean the worst scenario with a probability above 1%. If there is a chance of Kawasaki syndrome at 1 per million rates, it can be safely discarded.
In the case of the disease, there is a small chance of disability and death. Even if we ignore it, there is a larger chance of spending several months in hospital in extremely depressing conditions often with some minor debilitating condition after the disease, for example, loss of taste.
For the vaccination, the likely side-effect is being sick with headache and fever at home for three days. Not so bad.
Vaccination is a clear winner.
Most likely scenario
The next way to compare risks, is addressing the most likely scenario. In the case of the disease, the most likely scenario is spending three days in bed with a very high temperature and aching body and recover after a week. In the case of vaccination, the likely scenario is a small local pain in the area of the vaccination.
Now, both Anna and I experienced harder side effects, but the chances for that were very low. And some of my friends were totally asymptomatic with the real disease. To be honest, the first round of vaccination had zero side effects. Probably this is one of the reasons I felt so calm taking the second round of vaccination. Would I do that again, understanding the risks? Definitely! The chances of any side-effects were low.
Anna and I are not just individuals, we are also parents and community members. We have a responsibility not only for ourselves but also for others that might get affected. Vaccination reduces the chances of us being contagious and unwilling causing suffering to others.
It is clear that for the country and medical establishment this criterion is very important. But for us, it is also important on a personal level. We love to be team players. It is important for us to feel that we have a positive influence on others. Even if the chances and risks were less favorable, we would probably still take the risks for the sake of our loved ones.
Noone to be trusted
We should actually trust the big companies as they are scrutinized more than everybody else.
Big pharma companies have strong and clear interests. They are likely to lie within the error margins. For the companies like Pfizer, manipulating 3% is not a big deal. Bigger manipulation could be dangerous in presence of a strong regulator. Russian and Chinese companies have a bigger margin for manipulations.
To be honest, nobody can be truly trusted. Big companies manipulate data for profit only as much as the regulators (governments) allow. Governments can hide huge secrets to give their citizens and big companies some added benefits. But the big governments stiff fear the free press, which can uncover any coverups. The press will be biased, but its bias will be towards negative phenomena like corruption scandals as scandals generate more responses.
The least trusted factors are social media influencers and our friends with anecdotal stories. These stories can skew statistics any way they like. It is best to simply ignore them as noise.
What are the actual numbers?
From large-scale tests, it is clear that the efficiency of the leading company vaccines is somewhere above 90%. Even if the companies claim above 95% efficiency, a small margin of mistake should be allowed. Vaccinations of entire countries roughly follow the same patterns. It is also clear that if the death from vaccination occurs it is very rare. And then the numbers get murky.
The vaccine was tested on 30000 or 50000 volunteers. So effects as rare as 1:100000 will not happen. The testing was not done on pregnant ladies and teenagers, but the new variants of the disease require the application of the vaccine on these new groups.
Moreover, new variants of the disease make the vaccine less effective. How much protection will it offer six months from now? How much will our immune system remember six months from now? What about a year?
Also, if the side-effects are not very clear, how likely are we to miss them. Suppose for example (not that it happens) that there is a 1:1000 chance of a stroke after vaccination, but that the average chance of a stroke in the same group is 1:5000. Moreover, suppose the chances of surviving a stroke are 90%. Will that small detail be reported or misattributed as unrelated to vaccination? I do not know…
Projecting historical data
The current vaccine was developed and delivered within a year. It could not pass the test of time. What about the other, historical vaccines? How did they perform?
Historically vaccines have been very effective. They successfully protected us from many terrible menaces, including for example Polio. But the record is not perfect.
There were some stories of vaccine containers stored in suboptimal conditions and contaminated. These samples of vaccines got infected with various parasitic agents and led to several death cases.
The most terrible story I could find happened with cats. An entire population of vaccinated cats was exterminated. The scientific description is not very informative:
There is a concern about the induction of antigen-dependent enhancement (ADE) and other adverse effects derived from vaccination or natural re-exposure. ADE is a phenomenon that occurs when non-neutralizing antibodies against proteins of a virus enhance virus entry to host cells, also enhancing virus infectivity. ADE has been already observed in cats vaccinated against a species-specific coronavirus (feline infectious peritonitis coronavirus) . In the case of SARS, antibody-dependent enhancement and other adverse effects induced by vaccination in animal models have raised some concern.
Is it enough to be concerned? Not really. The vast majority of experiments and vaccinations did not exhibit any ADE. The adverse effects are extremely rare.
Dr Google vs medical doctors
Honestly, I think there is much more information on google than in any specific doctor’s notebook. The thing is … you need to be well-educated to judge the available information properly. If you have no experience with medical trials as a doctor, a pharmacist, or a medical equipment developer (this is my category), you are quite likely to misjudge the findings.
Whom can we trust? Which protocols are just “best practices”, and which protocols must be followed in any case? Which studies are sufficiently large, and which researchers have no hidden agenda?
To be honest, I understand which level of education is absolutely necessary, but I do not understand which level of education is sufficient. Your local medical practitioner might be almost as misguided as you. Some doctors even advocate against vaccination. They are a small and dangerous minority, yet not all of their arguments can be easily ignored.
If each of us decides for himself, it is anarchy, deadly anarchy. Yet the doctors are often too fast to decide, and then equally fast to change their mind. This is not something regular folks, including prominent politicians are comfortable with.
Did President Trump kill thousands of Americans by negligence?
During Trump’s presidency, the largest death toll from COVID19 was in US. The massive public events were extremely powerful corona greenhouses. Possibly this should include “black lives matter” demonstrations, as well as republican rallies to support Trump.
Not enacting any nation-wide policies and not ensuring enough medical equipment to save American lives was even more dangerous. Combined with suspicion towards the medical community and big pharma, the common prejudice multiplied COVID19 cases. Many Americans were hospitalized well after the time window for effective medical intervention.
And this is negligence above anything else. The data was available. The best minds in the world offered sound solutions for slowing down the spread of the disease.
Chinese mobilized their health worker nation-wide to deal with the Wuhan crisis. Israelis paid a premium for the vaccines to get the best vaccine on the market well before everybody else. New Zealanders closed their country for foreign tourists. What did the United States do to stop the spread of the disease? Too little too late.
Why did I vaccinate?
I vaccinated because it is my responsibility as a father and as a member of the community before everything else. I do not want someone’s suffering on my conscience. Next, I trust the big pharma to supply the best solution they can find with supporting scientific evidence both to outrun the competition and to avoid regulatory mayhem. Finally, I prefer a large chance of small suffering over a small chance of huge suffering. Otherwise, I would not buy life insurance… You are free to decide like me, or otherwise. Whatever you decide, I urge you to think about your parents and your kids before taking the next step.