Covid-19 vaccine: why be afraid?

This post: circa 1,400 words, estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Laughing at anti-vaxers

The Guardian ran an article today, entitled, ‘Covid-19 vaccines: why are some people hesitant? (part one) – podcast‘, and shared it on Facebook.

Some of the comments, one in particular, annoyed me a tad!

I rather doubt they had even listened to the pod cast before commenting. It’s actually an interesting talk. It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, and was pro-vaccine, but was balanced in that it explained valid reasons some people might have, often due to past and indeed present unethical trials and dodgy practises by big pharmaceutical companies.

e.g. CDC on the Tuskegee Study, were scientists intentionally infected hundreds of Africans with syphilis and watched them die of it, while looking for cures.

e.g. Guardian (2020), Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to criminal charges related to US opioid crisis
“OxyContin maker admits to actions aimed at boosting opioid prescriptions, including conspiring to defraud officials and offering illegal kickbacks.”

(There are several recent cases in a similar vein, against all the major companies, several of whom are household names).

Brodie’s notes version: Take the Covid-19 vaccine if you want, if you are at high risk, but (ignoring anti-vaxers) there are reasons to be hesitant about this vaccine.

 

Anyway, Matt Hewitt’s pithy comment was, Because they lack an education.

 

 

Well, I have an education, and I understand essential coating basics of this vaccine, and yet I still do not implicitly trust it. His statement therefore is puerile and vacuous.


Studies show it’s safe

Not arguing my own header. However, while the underlying research behind this type of mRNA vaccine has been going on (largely without success) since SARS, it is still essentially untested for this virus. There has not been – cannot have been – longitudinal studies of its affects.

Added to this, if there are unpleasant problems down the line, well – apparently* – the companies are being protected from prosecution and class actions – while making billions in profits. Rather raises trust issues, for me at any rate.

There are a number of other reasonable concerns, including effectiveness. Not simply the dubious nature of the limited trials (which normally take over a decade, even allowing for red tape), but the evolving nature of the virus. It is mutating roughly twice a month, something coronavirus do normally, hence regular flu jabs.

“Mutated” and “new strain” in virology terms tends to mean a small change in the viral code (a typo essentially) that can make Covid milder, or simply different, or – as is the case in the South of England now, a more effective strain**. The whole world is pinning their hopes on a vaccine for the “old” Covid, this new and more virulent strain may just ignore the vaccine. So, “I’ve had, my Covid jab, I’m safe, now.” Probably, but maybe not, it’s not how it works, sorry.

I don’t have flu jabs myself, after an unpleasant reaction, but I’m fine with my family having it. Same with the MMR jab. It’s about trust. Not arguing how bad Covid can be (I’m in the high risk band myself), but at the same time, for most people, you are talking about a virus so “deadly” that you have to be tested to see if you even have it, as most people have little or no symptoms. The other 10%, or the 3% that die are the problem, obviously.

The trials appear to have been extensive (if shatter shot) and involved tens of thousands of participants. All good. Applying it across hundreds of millions, billions of people, well, it’s statistically probable that side-effects will happens, even if it’s only a tiny risk.

Ironically for me, being housebound, I would be most likely to cast Covid-19 when going for the vaccine, or having hospital treatment. I’d take it if my consultants insisted, but otherwise, I would prefer to avoid it. Spiderman having his DNA changed by a spider is fantasy, a (wild) virus being able to switch one or more gene sets on or off is reality and can cause significant health issues. (It is also the basic of CRISPR).

I’m not a conspiracy nut, but I am paranoid, and particularly distrust big business.

“Sir, 3% of trial participants experienced gas bloating and explosive wind. None were in the placebo group.”

“Correlation is not causation, and we need this vaccine to pass. Leave the farting out of the report, but monitor it. Perhaps a footnote under side-effects, mention a suspected case of flatulence to cover us legally.”

“Understood.”


You can’t put a cost on a life!

Actually, you can! Governments, hospitals, NHS trusts and pharmaceutical companies do it all the time. Balancing budgets and profits, the great unwashed masses take second place, sorry. Not having a go at the NHS here, they have kept me alive for the past 20 years against several odds, but it’s naive to ignore the reality. If a greedy drug company decides to put 3 or 4 figure price tab per daily shot of a life-extending, life-enhancing medicine and it pushes the budget, even in the UK you can find yourself without, unless you can raise the money yourself.

(There are plenty of examples, from cancer and thyroid-related drugs to mental health ones. Most recently the proposed withdrawal of a lithium drug for bi-polar, raised from £4 to £48 a pack. It’s all about the money.)

Therefore, the vaccine isn’t about saving lives, it’s about getting the world back to ‘normal’. It’s about the constant lockdowns (now up to tier 4) and furloughs having a crippling and deleterious effect on the economy and on government revenue. In short, ‘Big Business’ is bleeding money and want this sorted.

The NHS and medicare around the world are also reeling, but that’s a different argument.

It’s a callous way of looking at it, but on a spreadsheet basis, if a load of old people die, it saves the governments paying their pensions, saves the NHS a fortune on all the expensive treatment old folk need. (I’m old folk too, so we are clear). QED, the vaccine is about saving businesses, not people, it’s about money first, people second. A cynical view to be sure, but it’s how the world is run.

Just as an aside, it always struck me that WHO, the CDC and governments around the world were not looking at Covid and saying “end times”, they were looking at MERS-CoV and saying “If this mutates badly, we could be in trouble.” I prefer to think of this vaccine as a global test run for if there’s a much deadlier and more contagious pandemic.

By the way, acknowledging mRNA research is advancing rapidly, and the Nature article (linked above) is dated to 2018, in among all the comments of its potential, and encouraging results from studies (with animals), it does caution that human trials are more complex (different proteins involved) and concludes, “two recent clinical reports have led to more tempered expectations. … and the side effects were not trivial”.


Corona?

Just so you understand this better, Covid-19, SARS-CoV2 is not “THE” coronavirus, it’s “a” coronavirus.

The common cold is a corona virus. There is no cure for the common cold. Fatality rate, negligible.
Influenza is a corona virus. A new strain emerges each winter, needing a new vaccine. Fatality rate, low.
SARS is/was is a corona virus. There was no cure for this. Fatality rate, 10%
MERS-CoV is a corona virus. There was no cure for this. Fatality rate, 35% or greater.

e.g. Coronaviruses


Additional links

See also: ‘Another Decade, Another Coronavirus‘ (Jan 2020)

*e.g. The Independent, ‘Coronavirus vaccine: Pfizer given protection from legal action‘ (behind paywall)

*e.g Jurist.org: UK government grants Pfizer civil legal indemnity for COVID-19 vaccine

“The new regulation, Regulation 345 of the Human Medicines Regulations of 2012, prohibits civil liability against Pfizer or healthcare professionals distributing the vaccine for any damage that arises through use of the vaccine “in accordance” with its recommended use. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will, however, be scheduled alongside other vaccines subject to the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme, which authorizes one-time payments of £120,000 for individuals who have been disabled in the rare case that a vaccine produces highly damaging side effects to patients. Such scheduling should allow claimants to still receive damages in the very unlikely event that they suffer serious side effects from the vaccine.”

** e.g. Guardian (Dec 2020): Cases of new Covid variant are ‘all around the UK’, say scientists


Addenda

After writing this yesterday I spent a short time looking into the new strain of Covid-19, notably in the UK.

These interest me a bit more, as it’s something I postulated, the possibly of something like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV2 merging. I read it is extremely unlikely due to protein differences, but improbably is not the same as impossible. As I also noted in a previous post, reports of MERS-CoV numbers have since ceased worldwide with the advert of Covid-19. This is unlikely, suggesting one is masking the other. (Noting that the number of cases worldwide for MERS were only in 4 figures anyway as it’s not very infectious.)

ITV News: Covid: Here’s where samples of new virus strain have been found across UK

Dr Barrett said 23 mutations of the virus were detected “all at once”, which is rare, suggesting it did not happen by coincidence.

He said: “It suggests that something happened – we don’t know what that something is, that produced this variant, and it doesn’t happen that often because we haven’t seen it before.

“I think the conjunction of very rapid spread and a lot of mutations makes this less and less likely to be just a coincidence.”

I’m no expert but his comments suggests two things. Either someone is intentionally editing the virus, bioengineering it to be stronger, probably using CRISPR, or it has merged with another compatible coronavirus. In human terms, it would be like your child being born with violet eyes, green hair, webbed fingers and an extra thumb on each hand. The child would still be fully recognisably human, still have its parents’ features, but otherwise be unnaturally alien.

What he is suggesting is bordering on conspiracy theory. Following such a crazy notion, given the timing of its appearance and what happens in just 7 days, I was reminded of certain nations and authoritarian presidents within the EU threatening to teach the UK a lesson, to make us pay for our dissonance. Juncker, Hollande and others are in a long list that threatened to punish the UK for Brexit (e.g. Daily Mail, 2016, or just Google something like “EU threatens UK”).

Crazy, obviously, but IF (and it is a huge IF) someone is biohacking at that level, it’s state sponsored, not some clandestine group in their grans shed! I emphasise I do no believe this to be the case, but I have a wild imagination sometimes, so got it out their first. 😀 As an aside, it would also be classed as bioterrorism and an act of war, if from a nation state. Not to mention incredibly stupid, given it’s a pandemic virus.

Next is The Telegraph: New Covid strain: how dangerous is it, and could it hamper a vaccine?

“In reaction to the spread of this new strain of the virus, over 50 countries have banned any flights to or from Britain, including the Netherlands, India and Canada.

… there is no evidence to suggest it is more likely to lead to serious illness. However if it can bind more easily to human cells, it may spread quicker and people could end up with a higher viral load .

However, if the spike protein mutates the body will no longer be able to recognise the virus and vaccines may prove ineffective.

Professor Calum Semple of Liverpool University said it is “the million-dollar question” whether vaccines will be effective against the new variant of coronavirus but he thinks they will.

This echoes what I said earlier, and in previous posts over the past year. Viruses change over time, making them weaker or stronger. As with superbugs such as MRSA, the more you try to contain and control them, the greater the chance that the one that survives inoculation will be the strongest and meanest of the bunch. Basic evolution, really. Thus far, the new strain is 70% better at spreading, but does not appear to be more dangerous otherwise.

Just to help debunk the idea above about state-sponsored biowarfare, there are other new strains with multiple changes popping up, such as South Africa. UK to widen COVID lockdowns as new strain from South Africa found (Al Jazeera, Dec 23rd 2020).

Ack

Been playing with computers since the stone age, online since the '80s, and developing websites since the '90s.

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