I challenge a good friend to reconsider NOT taking the COVID vaccine

A dear friend recently wrote me to let me know why he’s not taking the COVID vaccine and to ask if I had any challenges to his way of thinking. Below are his questions and my replies. It’s a tad long, but I hope it’s helpful to those thinking about not getting the COVID vaccine who may have similar concerns:

From my friend:

May 21, 2021, at 3:36 PM
Walt,
Thanks for your blogs on COVID vaccine–especially the mRNA vaccine. Your advice is much appreciated. I don’t have anywhere near the expertise you do on this topic, but I do have some questions. Not to be confrontational or to spar with you on this, just some honest reservations.
You don’t seem to be concerned with the mRNA technique used in the two-dose vaccines. I read that these are the first vaccines to use this method and it concerns me. These critical components of building proteins deserve to be well-tested. Especially when I read about previous problems with developing vaccines for coronaviruses.

My Reply

From the CDC: mRNA Vaccines Are New, But Not Unknown

Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.
mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.
Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases.
Beyond vaccines, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells.

As an aside, dear friend, would you consider a test that included more than 1.63 billion people worldwide (equal to 21 doses for every 100 people worldwide) to be well tested?

Especially given that most serious side effects from vaccines are discovered fairly early in their use? Especially given the intense scrutiny of the COVID vaccines? Especially given the CDC and FDA’s The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System?

And do you honestly discount a Mount Everest-sized data set that shows major potentially life-threatening side effects such as anaphylaxis or blood clots occur in less than 1 in a million vaccine recipients out of every 77 million recipients?

And what about the massive data sets in every country that has produced data (well over 100 countries), and in over hundreds of millions of COVID vaccine recipients, where real-life data reveal only minor, short lived side effects lasting hours to days in far less than one in 10 COVID vaccine recipients, you wouldn’t consider that to be “well-tested”?

Dear friend, forgive my bluntness, but how much more proof does one need?

From my friend:

The COVID vaccines are only given emergency-use approval — even now after hundreds of millions of people being injected. As far as I can tell, the vaccines won’t be considered for full approval until 2022 or 2023.

My Reply:

From Web MD: Pfizer Seeking Full FDA Approval for COVID Vaccine

May 10, 2021 — Pfizer and its European partner BioNTech are seeking the FDA’s full approval for their COVID-19 vaccine, which is already being widely administered in the United States under an emergency use authorization.

If the FDA says yes, Pfizer would be the first COVID vaccine to gain full approval in the United States.
In a news release, Pfizer said it will initiate a Biologics License Application and submit information to the FDA on a rolling basis over the coming weeks. The vaccine application is only for people 16 and over.
Pfizer says it’s seeking a priority review, which the FDA defines as “a 6-month review of the entire BLA rather than the usual 10-month review.”

From my friend:

I read that some doctors don’t consider the COVID vaccines to be “vaccines” in the normal use of the term historically. When I try to research that disagreement, it seems to get pretty technical about what a vaccine normally does and I don’t understand all of it.

My reply:

From the CDC’s Immunization Basics

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.

The COVID Vaccines are exactly that . . . vaccines.

From my friend:

But one thing I do draw from the disagreement is the suppression of any opposing views. Those doctors that have disagreement with using the COVID vaccines seem to be censored and removed from main stream articles. For the non-medical layperson, that erodes my confidence in the CDC recommendation to get vaccinated. They appear to censor opposing views.

My reply:

I’m not aware of any evidence of the NIH or CDC censoring opposing views. The CDC did (and does), however, address COVID-19 misinformation on social media preemptively and responsively. One example is here

I, too, have posted a number of blogs countering blatant misinformation about the COVID vaccines, in general, and the mRNA vaccines, in particular, at DrWalt.com/Blog.

From my friend:

If I have to get a COVID vaccine, I would consider the J&J one-shot vaccine because it uses a known and well-tested method as a vaccine. We are certainly not anti-vaxxers and completely agree with normal vaccines that are typically used in younger people.

My reply: 

I oppose the J&H vaccine because, in my view, it’s the most unethical of the COVID vaccines, having and continuing to use aborted fetal cell cultures in the developing, testing, and production of the vaccine. I’ve posted a number of blogs on this topic.

From my friend:

[My wife] and I don’t see the existential threat of which many in this country have convinced themselves. Our confidence in the CDC and state health depts is eroded by the politics that appear to have polluted the science-based decision making. CDC leaders appear to cherry-pick the science when it suits their position. And then change their recommendations as it suits their position. But then they ignore the data that suggests we have done enormous harm to the under 40 population in this country for little good reason. I have never once seen any attempt by the CDC or the federal govt. to count the cost in public health by the decisions that have been made to fight COVID.

My reply:

I’m no apologist for the CDC, and without doubt, their messaging has at times been confusing and perhaps even contradictory. However, there is ample evidence that the CDC considers the cost of its decisions. Here’s just one example.

 

From my friend:

Won’t our country develop herd immunity as it was described back in March 2020?

My reply:

From Mayo Clinic: Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know

There are some major problems with relying on community infection to create herd immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19:
Reinfection. It’s not clear how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have antibodies, it’s possible that you could get COVID-19 again.
Health impact. Experts estimate that in the U.S., 70% of the population — more than 200 million people — would have to recover from COVID-19 to halt the pandemic. This number of infections could lead to serious complications and millions of deaths, especially among older people and those who have existing health conditions. The health care system could quickly become overwhelmed.

I would add that you’d need herd immunity for each variant, arguably an impossibility. There’s a much more detailed answer to your question in a well-written Nature article, “Five reasons why [nautural] COVID herd immunity is probably impossible.”

Given vaccine hesitancy, we may not even reach the estimated herd-immunity, whatever that number might be. Yale Medicine writes in Herd Immunity: Will We Ever Get There? Vaccination is the key to protecting our most vulnerable:

At the start of the pandemic, figures like 60 to 70% were given as estimates of how much of the population would need immunity from the coronavirus in order to reach herd immunity.
With the increase in variants, which are more infectious and could potentially impact the effectiveness of the vaccines, that percentage is now estimated to be higher—some say up to 85%. And it has become more difficult to pin down.

From my friend:

The data seems to suggest this virus leads to serious illness or death for a very small percentage of the population.
Researchers often look at the case fatality rate, which is the proportion of people who die from a disease of those who have been diagnosed with it. The case fatality rate can vary substantially over time depending on the specific characteristics of those infected.
Case fatality rates for COVID-19 have been reported to be as low as less than 2%. The case fatality rate may even be less than 1% if the number of asymptomatic or cases with minimal symptoms is significantly higher than the number of reported cases, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.everlywell.com/blog/covid-19/coronavirus-statistics/

Of great concern to me, my friend, is that of those of all ages who contract COVID (even those with mild to moderate disease that are not hospitalized) between 10-30 percent develop significant long-term symptoms, the so-called “long haulers,” or what the NIH calls “Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” or PASC. Of interest, the best treatment so far from PASC appears to be the mRNA vaccine.

But the fact of the matter remains that had all of these folks who died from or were hospitalized with COVID had been vaccinated, almost none would have been hospitalized or have died. None would have developed PASC. And only about 5% would have developed asymptomatic or mild disease. And almost none of those would have spread the disease.

Franklin Graham claimed being vaccinated is something his Father would have done and that Jesus would do. He likened getting the vaccine to being a Good Samaritans.

My friend wrote:

I know that some might think that [my wife] and I are playing Russian roulette like some idiots. But we see it as living a life that is filled with many viruses and bacteria. Our experience [when we each had COVID] with mild symptoms (of which we are very grateful) seems to support our decision.

My reply:

Do you know how many folks you spread COVID to? Or how many people those folks spread COVID to? If even one potential person was hospitalized, or developed PASC, or died, was your personal decision worth it? Playing Russian roulette with your life is, of course, your choice. But, what if it negatively impacts others? Is that worth it?

And, if you’ve taken any other vaccine, then are you on ethically thin ice? Have you made the same decision for your very small risk (but potentially fatal risk) with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, shingles, influenza, pneumonia, measles, etc?

From my friend:

This turned into much longer than I anticipated. Guess we’ve had plenty of time to think about it.

My reply:

You’ve asked so great questions. And ones many in the evangelical community are wrestling with. In fact, polling by the Pew Research Center  hows 45 percent of white evangelicals say they definitely or probably will not get vaccinated against COVID-19, a higher number than any other religious group.

From my friend:

Wish we could have this conversation over a beer or cup of coffee.

My reply:

Or a glass of wine or bourbon. Twould be fun.

From my friend:

May God bless you and your family.

My reply:

And to you and yours.

From my friend:

Have a very nice weekend!

My reply:

It has been. Lots of writing projects due, so back to the typewriter!

Love you, brother.

Walt


This blog was accurate as of the day of posting. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus and the COVID vaccine develops, the information above may have changed since it was last updated. While I aim to keep all of my blogs on COVID and the COVID vaccine up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

 

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