2. Herd Immunity
3. Vaccine safety and Antivaxxers
4. COVID Vaccines
5. Should I Get Vaccinated?
6. Which Vaccine Should I Get?
7. Common Fears
8. Where Do I Get The Vaccine?
First off, should we even be considering these new vaccines? One of the questions that kept coming up for me was, how do we know that the death toll of COVID is really as bad as the media has made it out to be? Afterall, they are incentivized to shock you into watching their shows.
Once I heard that people dying of car crash injuries were being counted as COVID deaths, I became incredibly skeptical.
President Donald Trump had gone so far as to accuse doctors of purposely inflating deaths in order to make a profit.
Is there anything to this? How many people are actually dying of this thing?
Well, after a little digging, turns out, the death toll is probably higher! Due to the fact that millions of people were not and will not be tested, if these people die of COVID, we may never know.
The way to get a reasonably clear calibration on the number of deaths is with “excess death” data.
With this, we are able to compare the current death rates to those of previous years.
The second strategy is Surveillance Data, which is a “quick and dirty” accounting system where doctors report any deaths from measles, mumps, etc. including COVID. These reports are not precise.
However, the 3rd strategy, Vital Records, picks up the slack. When someone dies, a death certificate is produced. This is then sent to the National Center for Health Statistics, which tracks deaths at a national level. These do not get filed until all testing results are in. So, it is much more precise than the previous method.
Even if a person has a comorbidity such as heart disease or diabetes, the fact is, if they were expected to live another 5, 10, or more years without COVID, then COVID is the main cause of death.
In a paper published in October 2020 in JAMA, Steven Woolf, a physician and population health researcher, and his colleagues examined death records in the U.S. from March 1 through August 1 and compared them with the expected mortality numbers. They found that there was a 20 percent increase in deaths during this time period—for a total of 225,530 excess deaths—compared with previous years (1)
Credit: Youyou Zhou; Sources: U.S. Census, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Center for Health Statistics
So, in conclusion, since the flu kills between 3,000 and 49,000 each year since the 1970s, and we take that vaccine seriously,
An even deadlier virus, which killed upwards of 350,000 in one year, is pretty damn serious. So, this vaccine just might be worth taking a deeper look.
Our first order of business will be on the topic of “herd immunity”, namely, when does it kick in, and does that mean we don’t need to vaccinate at that point?
The percentage of people that must be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to take effect is in direct proportion to the transmission rate. So, for example, measles is incredibly contagious, with an "R naught" factor if 18, meaning that if you are infected, we expect you will infect 18 other people. It requires about 94% of a population to be vaccinated or immune in order to prevent further spread.
I've heard some estimates that COVID would take 75-80% of our population to be in the clear, but COVID has an "R naught" factor of 2-3. So, if we compare that to measles, the estimate given by Nicholas Chistakis that it would take about 45-50% of the population to reach herd immunity, seems more reasonable to me.
But once, we’re there, this doesn’t mean you should avoid a vaccine. Herd immunity is especially useful for protecting our elderly and infant population who have more vulnerable immune systems. Without the vaccine, you may be fine, but you could still act as a vector for transmitting the disease to those less fortunate.
And even WITH the vaccine, you could still spread it, but you’re much less likely to.
Plus, the fewer who get vaccinated now, means there is more chance for the virus to spread and mutate. This not only applies locally, but worldwide. Any country that slacks could mean a new deadly strain of the virus.
Pro-vaccine vs Antivaxxers
Let’s do an overlook on what vaccines are and why antivaxxers are ignoramuses.
“Traditional” vaccines are based on killed organisms, proteins, or weakened versions of pathogenic viruses. We inject a bit into us, and our immune system learns how to fight it in a less stressful situation. Simple.
The new vaccine technology, based on mRNA, we will save for later, because the battle for reason has been raging for decades, even before the advent of mRNA vaccines.
And who is our opponent?
Antivaxxers - Emotionally driven activists that lack the necessary skeptical skills to make a sound argument. They make little, to no attempt to screen out any other explanations. Autism, Sudden infant death syndrome, Autoimmune diseases, Obesity, Diabetes, ADHD…To the antivaxxer, all of these are obviously caused by the vaccine.
If vaccines do cause any of these, it can’t be detected by current epidemiological methods. We’ve tried.
“Thousands of studies have already been done looking at hundreds of potential risk factors. If immunizations were identified as a risk factor in any of these studies, we would know about it. So far, they have not.” – CDC (6)
For a claim to overturn the general scientific consensus, it must come along with corroborating evidence. I will show here, that none of their arguments withstand scrutinizing peer-review.
Let the games begin…
To start, a key logical fallacy is to conflate correlation with causation. This is to say that, because the 2 events happen in tandem, one of them MUST have caused the other!
But, as usual, there are other candidate explanations. Let’s take Autism, for instance. Vaccine caused! Obviously! We started getting more cases of autism at the same time that vaccines were increasing in usage. Case closed. Ehhh... not so much. What about the fact that mass screening for autism was revamped in 1987, making it more likely to get a positive result? This is a perfectly good explanation too. Why don’t antivaxxers mention this? Because they either haven’t looked or it doesn’t serve their agenda.
So, correlation can be used as evidence to construct a hypothesis, but it is certainly not proof.
One of their main arguments is that vaccines are TOXIC.
Let’s not forget, that water and oxygen are toxic, in excess.
The trace amounts found in vaccines are insignificant, as you will see…
Also, just because the name of an ingredient has lots of syllables and sounds scary, doesn’t mean it is.
Formaldehyde: This is a naturally occurring product of human metabolism. It is already present in our bloodstream at levels far higher than any vaccine contains.
Aluminum: The average person takes in an estimated 30 to 50 mg of aluminum every day, mainly from foods, drinking water, and medicines. Not all vaccines contain aluminum, but those that do typically contain about .125 mg to .625 mg per dose, or roughly 1% of that daily average. (6)
Mercury: Babies are exposed to mercury in milk, including breast milk. Seafood also contains mercury. (6)
We should limit our seafood intake for this reason, but it’s not like you can have 2 cans of vaccine a day! They are inherently limited.
“…in 1999, the CDC recommended removing the thimerosal (mercury) from childhood vaccines, and as a result it was removed from most vaccines by the end of 2001.
Autism prevalence didn’t decline. It continued to rise. To scientists, this observation was a highly convincing falsification of the hypothesis (that vaccines cause autism) through a convenient natural experiment” (7)
To your typical antivaxxer, they will completely disregard this information, and will simply bring up another argument. With an emotionally driven movement like antivaxx, you have to hold their feet to the fire to get them to wake up.
Aborted Fetal Cells: The ones used are not actual fetus harvested cells, but are cell lines derived from a fetus decades ago. One of the main lines of cells is the WI-38. It is because of this line, that the vast majority of our viral vaccines, including measles, mumps, rubella, and many more, were developed; Saving BILLIONS of lives worldwide over the last 50 years. (2)
According to even the Catholic Church, the great good that these cell lines do, far outweighs the “distant evil” of abortion.
Before WI-38, we were using cells from monkey kidneys. These were not ideal because they contained things like simian viruses. And so, fetal cells are something to behold! Praise fetus!
PEG (Polyethylene Glycol): Very commonly used in toothpaste, ice cream, laxatives, and a variety of other medications.
Antifreeze: Lol, no. This is propaganda BS. It has never been used in vaccines. Ethylene Glycol is an ingredient in anti-freeze, which, ofcourse, sounds similar to PEG, but it’s VERY different, mind you.
But how many vaccines can we get before it IS toxic?
“Worrying about too many vaccines is like worrying about a thimble of water getting you wet when you are swimming in an ocean.”
You can’t take enough vaccines to reach toxic doses of any of the ingredients.
We are surrounded by MILLIONS of pathogens every day. The amount within the vaccine pales in comparison.
Next, they will try to say that vaccines never saved us.
One popular website shows a graph of death rates declining before the vaccine, and concludes that therefore we did not need it.
But when we look at a graph of Measles incidents after the vaccine’s introduction, it obviously made a significant difference.
Naturally, death rates are going to go down due to other advancements in medical technology, nutrition/supplementation awareness, better sanitation, etc.
But to try to dismiss vaccines completely because death rates are going down is just propaganda. Shame on you antivaxxers.
We do also have to be wary of false graphs. Some try to show measles incidents going down very slowly after the vaccine release. This too is dishonest. And I’m sure this is not the only incident that we’ll witness.
Not only do vaccines, in fact, stop pandemics in their tracks, but if we stop taking them, the pandemic has been shown to get back on track! This quote below from the CDC is rather lengthy, so if you’d rather skip it, in short, it shows that several countries experienced a sudden uptick in cases after decreasing the amount of vaccinations administered.
“Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they let their immunization levels drop. Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back the use of pertussis vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985. It seems clear from these experiences that not only would diseases not be disappearing without vaccines, but if we were to stop vaccinating, they would come back.” (6)
“People die from vaccines! You’d have to be crazy to take them!”
People die from soda machines. It’s not a perfect world. But the amount of confirmed deaths from vaccines is monumentally lower than the deaths that occur from diseases, EVEN WITH a bunch of us taking vaccines!
Without the vaccines, disease death toll would be billions more than it is.
Anaphylaxis can cause death, but it is super rare. About 1 person dies every 2 years or so.
Guillain Barré Syndrome can cause death. It is very rare, but it can occur. However, this disease is more commonly developed in people after getting the flu, and people are much more likely to die in these instances, as opposed to vaccine caused cases.
Oral Polio Vaccine, decades ago, caused a real case of polio in about 1 in every 2.4 million recipients.
Yellow fever vaccine has had the same effect, but about 1 in every million
All of these occurred within 6 weeks of receiving the vaccine. So the 2 month clinical trial window for the covid vaccine seems quite reasonable. (17)
If we take these few deaths, and compare them to the 3,000-49,000 who die every year from the flu (remember, this number would be higher without vaccinations. As many as 40 million died during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919, before we had an effective flu vaccine) it is simple math to decide which is the riskier decision.
Finally, for those that attest to vaccine “infringement of liberty” …
“If vaccines were not mandatory, fewer people would get their children vaccinated – they would forget; they would put it off; they would feel they couldn’t afford it; they wouldn’t have time. This would lead to levels of immunity dropping below what are needed for herd immunity, which would, in turn, lead to outbreaks of disease.” (6)
Not taking any vaccines is like driving on the wrong side of the road. There is a reason why we don't allow people to do that. It endangers everyone involved.
Where to get them?
A public clinic or health department is typically cheaper than a private doctor. Sometimes it’s free, except for administration charges.
There is also a national program called Vaccines for Children (or VFC), which allows qualified families to get free vaccinations for their children at participating doctors’ offices.
So, in conclusion, vaccines are pretty damn safe. Just like wearing a seat belt. There is that 1 in 50,000 car crash where you’re safer without it, but you’d have to be nuts to gamble on being that 1 person. Wear your seatbelt, get your vaccine. You might not need it, but it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
If someone you know gets the vaccine, this IS NOT an opportunity to let your guard down. Just because they have gained some protection, doesn’t mean they aren’t still a vector for the disease. We don’t have enough info to be cavalier about this. As far as I can tell, it is a false sense of security that some people have adopted. This is made even more insidious due to the fact that new variants of the virus are likely to emerge. You may be MORE likely to spread covid if you have a vaccine and become less precautious, thereby spreading a new mutated version of covid.
Before you even get the vaccine, I recommend getting 2 tests.
The viral test, which is done via the nostril – this will test for current infection. (I got mine done at CVS)
An antibody test, which is done via the blood, similar to a diabetes finger prick - “Antibody or serology tests look for antibodies in your blood to determine if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.” (13)
(Mine was $38 at CVS)
There is an IgM, which tests for covid within the last month
And an IgG, which goes back many months.
The test that I personally got tests for both of these.
It takes 1-3 weeks to produce observable antibodies. So, this is why you should get both the viral and antibody tests.
Should I Get Vaccinated?
If you test negative for both of these, then I would get the vaccine.
If you test positive for the antibody test, or for both of them, and you have never experienced significant symptoms, your body may be fine without a vaccine, but that is your call to make. You should still be very careful not to infect anyone else though.
According to the CDC, “there is a chance that a positive result (with the antibody test) means you have antibodies from an infection with a different virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses)” (13)
This means you can read a false-positive for COVID with the antibody test. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.
The viral test is highly specific, and will most likely only read positive for SARS-CoV-2
If you test negative for the antibody, but positive for the viral, it is recommended to isolate yourself for 2 weeks, and if you are symptom free at that point, get the shot once you are done.
The same holds true for if you take one of the mRNA vaccines, but then test positive on the viral test prior to the second.
I know at first it makes sense that if you get the disease, that you should have the antibodies to fight it off in the future, so why get vaccinated? Well, the easiest answer to that is that I know someone personally where her son got covid twice. And it was much worse the 2nd time. That's good enough for me.
Which Vaccine Should I Get?
mRNA Vaccines -
Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna
Scientists had been developing this type of vaccine for decades.
But it wasn’t until COVID that they finally figured out how to get the protein sequence to the cell before it gets annihilated by the immune system
The secret key was wrapping the vaccine in a lipid covering to shield it from the immune system
If COVID would have hit 5 years ago, we would have been woefully unprepared to use this technology.
“The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses administered 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine requires two doses 28 days apart.” (12)
Percentage of Protection – Roughly 95% was achieved after 2 doses in clinical trials for both vaccines.
However, the Pfizer achieves this with 30 micrograms of vaccine, whereas the Moderna currently uses 100 micrograms.
If you can get the same effect with less alien material injected into you, within 21 days instead of 28, I don’t know why anyone would choose the Moderna, aside from ignorance and limited resources.
These vaccines are not full proof. In one study, 4 out of 20,000 developed bell's palsy within 2 month period. The control group that received a placebo did not. It's not conclusive, but it is suspicious. (18)
More studies need to be done. The simple fact is that we don't have any long-term data on the effects of these vaccines. This is the main disadvantage that these have when compared to the other main types...
Viral Vector Vaccines -
Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca
These use adenovirus (common cold) by replacing some of the gene sequence with SARS-CoV-2, which stimulates an immune response. This technology has worked well for Ebola, and has proven effective in clinical trials for covid also.
J&J Protection – Roughly 66% from 1 dose
Astra Protection – Roughly 76% from 2 doses
So why would you take either of these? Well, even though it’s at 66%, that’s still been proven to be enough to keep you from being hospitalized from COVID.
But with the scare of blood clots, many places have paused the use of both adenovirus vaccines, even though the people affected were less than 1 in a million for J&J and about 2 to 16 per million for Astra. These numbers are FAR LESS than the number of people they save from covid death.
And for Astra, since it also requires 2 doses, I could see choosing this is if the mRNA vaccines aren’t available, and you happen to be especially skeptical about the mRNA technology.
But in the end, wear whatever seatbelt is available. It’s still better than no seatbelt at all.
Some people die after taking the vaccine. Isn’t that proof enough? It’s dangerous!
Hello, our old friend correlation is back, to tell us to quit calling it causation.
I know it’s hard not to, but in a world of 8 billion people, people are dying just about every second of every day. Undoubtedly, some of them will coincide with the shot.
My uncle came down with Guillain-Barré (a crippling auto-immune disease) 2 weeks after taking the Johnson & Johnson. It’s suspicious timing, but it’s not proof. If we check nationwide for Guillain-Barré, and there isn’t a significant spike in the number of cases, then we don’t have any corroborating evidence to support our suspicions.
And since the benefits far outweigh the risk, just like the seatbelt analogy mentioned earlier, it’s still worth taking.
The only serious side effect that has been confirmed is anaphylaxis, which is a potentially fatal allergic reaction. This has occurred in about 3 out of a million people. No one has died from it yet, as they keep you on site for 15 minutes to make sure you’re okay. It is easily treatable.
If you do experience anaphylaxis upon the 1st dose of an mRNA vaccine, it is recommended by Kathryn Edwards, MD, a vaccinologist, who spends most of her day assessing reactions after COVID-19 vaccines as part of her CDC-funded Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment unit, to take the Johnson&Johnson as your 2nd dose.
But with the blood clot scare, it may be best to take the alternate mRNA vaccine.
As for the more common and mild side effects – “such as a sore arm, fever, fatigue, chills, nausea, and body aches — especially after the second dose of one of the two-dose regimens. This is a sign that the immune system is reacting and is not a cause for concern. The CDC recommends taking a painkiller after (not before) getting the shot and exercising the arm to avoid soreness.” (12)
If anything serious does occur...
"WHAT IS THE COUNTERMEASURES INJURY COMPENSATION PROGRAM? The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is a federal program that may help pay for costs of medical care and other specific expenses of certain people who have been seriously injured by certain medicines or vaccines, including this vaccine. Generally, a claim must be submitted to the CICP within one (1) year from the date of receiving the vaccine. To learn more about this program, visit www.hrsa.gov/cicp/ or call 1-855-266-2427." (19)
Isn’t it going to change my DNA?
No, “the material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.” (16)
My colleagues at Science Based Medicine have an entire article on this subject. Their article is listed in the bibliography - (14)
Is mRNA really a vaccine?
According to the CDC -
“Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.” (8)
According to the FDA -
“Vaccination stimulates the body’s immune system to build up defenses against the infectious bacteria or virus (organism) without causing the disease” (9)
Neither of these definitions require that the vaccine be a protein or weakened antigen (virus/bacteria/etc.).
Yes, it’s a vaccine.
How do we know if it works?
“With most vaccines in the past, such as the vaccines for measles, hepatitis B and seasonal flu, a good antibody response is correlated with being protected.” (11)
So, you could get the antibody test 2 weeks after your first or second dose to see how well it worked.
Where can I get the vaccine?
The CDC offers a convenient locator at this site - (15)
I personally went to CVS, straight through their website, and got the Pfizer. I have only taken one dose at the time of this publication, and nothing significant occurred. I stayed at CVS for an hour just to be sure. Anaphylaxis generally occurs within 15 minutes, but I am a very neurotic person, plus I had the time to spare. I will note that I got a sore arm many hours later, and my heartbeat increased within a few minutes of the shot and lasted for about 10 minutes, but there was a cute girl nearby and I was pondering introducing myself lol. So I can't say for sure what caused the blood rush.
And finally, if you missed this during my last covid report, or you just want to rekindle some laughter, here’s the coronavirus song again (with commentary by John Oliver)
Pictures from Shutterstock under firstname.lastname@example.org sign-in.