Article originally Published in January, 2021. Re-published with minor edits in June, 2021.
After the year of the pandemic comes the year of the vaccine. Sort of like the Chinese convention of naming years.
The vaccines are here. But are we ready for them? What does it mean to have a vaccine and what does the future possibly look like for us, with pandemic + vaccine?
A few numbers and facts, first.
The Moderna & Pfizer vaccines have an efficacy rate of ~94% and in some countries the recovery rate from COVID is close to that figure. I believe, in India it is ~94%. Though I have no reason to believe any of those numbers (it all depends on the integrity of the data—has it been honestly collected?), I will take it as given at the moment.
I'm neither a blind supporter of vaccines, nor an anti-vaxxer. But in this case there are several things to be considered as far as these vaccines go:
Long Term Effects of COVID
People who suffer from COVID have long term problems with breathing, health, strength etc. They are, in many cases, permanently disabled in some way. They are not always able to go back to a healthy, normal lifestyle. So avoiding infection is an important metric in itself which cannot be ignored. But there is also the question of long term effects of the vaccine itself, which I will come to later.
It is Not Just Numbers
The infection rate & recovery rate cannot be compared. In 1 million infected people, if recovery rate is 94% (ignoring point 1 for the moment), we still have 60,000 fatalities. In 1 million people, if efficacy of vaccine is 94%, infected people would be 60,000, and in those 60k, if recovery rate is 94%, fatalities would be 3,600. There is a huge difference in numbers. These are people living or dead. It matters to millions of us. It matters because of the mental trauma, pain & suffering caused to us, it matters for the overall health & economy of a country. So as far as the arguments on numbers go, that is the maths that needs to be followed.
Free or Not?
Would it be free or available for purchase? Then pricing will be a big question. Even if it is paid for by the government, government will extract that money in some other way. There is no such thing as government money—it is all public money. But still, that criterion of pricing would matter. If it is not free, it simply means that the poor man does not matter. Also, who gets the jab first? Healthcare workers can take the jab, but who next? How do we know that the elite are not somehow in a position to obtain the vaccine first, by sheer influence? Once again, where are we on the “equality” spectrum, as far as the vaccine goes?
I am not a big fan of the usual ideology of “equality,” but when it is a question of life and death, assuming that the vaccine works and is safe, it should be made available to all, and same criterion used everywhere, be it age or risk of exposure. The guidelines on this are not very transparent right now.
Open the Economy?
Having a vaccine means we can implement precautions & open up the economy & not have to live with lockdowns. That is the main reason why it will matter from a big picture perspective for a country. Although, there still does not seem any guarantee that different countries/ states will open the economy even after the vaccine. Taking due precautions is okay. But if we still need lockdowns inspite of the vaccine rollout, we must question the idea behind both—the vaccine and the lockdown.
A vaccine is effective only if the uptake is more than a certain critical percentage. It varies for different diseases. I don't know the precise number for the COVID vaccine, but it is usually > 50%. This is to contain the spread of a contagious disease. Only if a certain %age of the population is not infected, can the spread be contained. So, the crucial question remains: should it be made mandatory or not? I don't think it should be mandatory, but at the same time, it may not work if it is not mandatory. If there is a considerable uptake of the vaccine, and the pandemic can be controlled with that, then making it mandatory is infringing upon someone’s free will and that should not be the case.
Side Effects up to and including DEATH?
My bigger concern with the vaccine is whether there would be long term side effects—which we may not be in any position to know right now. And we don't know when or how we may know about this unless someone files a law suit & the media publishes it. But will they publish it at all? So whether the vaccines can cause any trouble a few years down the road or not is a big question mark. There is no legitimate way of knowing what each vaccine may or may not do in another 10 years to someone. This risk is not even quantifiable—because we cannot have that data. As such, people are groping in the dark here. Whether they want to take the risk or not is an individual choice.
That said, we already have some evidence of short term side effects, and...err…death. These cases of death are of people, many of who were perfectly healthy and happy, had no case history of any fatal disease, nor was anyone expecting them to fall sick, far less drop dead. The elderly seem to react more to the vaccine as well. These are not isolated cases. The common denominator: they all took the Pfizer vaccine jab.
The list isn’t exhaustive. But the key takeaway remains that there should be no deaths from taking any vaccine if it is safe and there are no side effects from the vaccine. Even if patients have co-morbidities, the impact of the vaccine on people with certain conditions should be studied and made public officially, so people know what they are in for! How do we know it will not cause paralysis, heart attack or stroke in people who have previous history of these conditions? Or does the media and big pharma think that it is no big deal for people with serious health conditions to die?
The usual argument is that the %age of deaths and reactions to the vaccine are low and it might still be worthwhile to go ahead with it, considering the Case Fatality Rate of COVID19. Yes, I understand the argument. All I am stating is that the side effects should be known and people be informed. This risk may be low for a government to take the decision, but for an individual, the type of risk they prefer to take is their own choice. Then there is also the question of long-term side effects.
Many people assert that we can’t establish that it was most definitely the vaccine that killed the people. Please tell me when was the last time researchers were able to definitively establish that doing x causes y. Establishing causality is really not the strong hold of medical researchers in the first place. For a long time, they could not even establish that smoking cigarettes causes Cancer. So who is going to investigate, study, and establish the causality? And by when?
In areas where causality is not easy to establish, correlation is all we have to go on, especially when it poses a risk to your life.
There is a hard to overlook correlation between taking the Pfizer vaccine and death, which should not be ignored. Nobody has a right to play with others’ lives. In legal terms, when one person does it, it is called “attempt to murder.” When the government does it, it cannot suddenly be called something else.
The Swift Delivery
I find it weird that there are people hailing the Moderna/ Pfizer vaccines as some great achievement of medical science, because it is "ready" in 1 yr...
It basically means that they had the vaccine for a Virus they STILL don't know much about, back in March 2020—remember where we were in March 2020? We had just woken up to the existence of a contagious virus. Note how many times WHO changed their claims about the virus—wear masks, don’t wear masks, wear masks, keep distance, don’t keep distance, must keep distance, asymptotic contagion, asymptotic is not a problem, nope, scratch that, asymptotic is a problem, so on and so forth...
For the last 8 months they have been going through different trials & tests required for approvals—not the research for creating a vaccine. Doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that these researchers created a vaccine in barely 2 months of research, before we even knew much about the virus? Compare this with other diseases. Hey, where be your vaccine for AIDS?
Surely they have had like decades to learn about the more common health conditions. Where is treatment for almost 25 fatal and/or auto immune diseases? Have these doctors & researchers in Big Pharma been sleeping all of these years & woken up just for the pandemic?
This is not aimed at doctors in general, I know there are many sincere & honest doctors too. But the folks at Big Pharma have something super weird going on, which requires explanation.
Odd thing about odd things
There is every reason to believe that this pandemic is work of big pharma since the beginning, but whether the vaccine itself is bad or not, is another question. The way the pandemic got politicized, it is possible that there may be political reasons for it as well. We don't know for certain because there is no real way of knowing. No media is unbiased. And the freedom of speech of independent writers is limited to the few hundred who listen to them. Social media is not a platform for open discussion anymore. You could get demonetized, de-platformed without warning or apology.
The odd thing about Pfizer is that the Pfizer top brass decided to sell their stock, worth millions of $, right on the day of vaccine approval, when the stock hit a peak. They sold it very, very close to the peak. Why? If there is nothing fishy going on, we should have some legit answers to these questions.
You Can’t Sue Them in USA
The other problem with this whole vaccine episode is that if it goes wrong, and you do in fact die or develop some really obnoxious health condition, you cannot sue them in USA. Nope. The vaccine manufacturers have some legal protection against being sued. So, no matter what happens, nobody can sue them in USA. In other countries, probably yes, but you do need to make sure you read the fine print.
The legal protection, the highest privilege possible, being given to big pharma for making vaccines itself raises many fundamental questions. Whether the damage from vaccines to people is intentional or non-intentional is only secondary. The primary question is that there is a non zero probability of damage, and as long as there is this possibility, why should anyone give them complete legal protection against law suits? Isn’t it their fault if they administer something wrong and someone dies or develops paralysis? Shouldn’t people have a right to bring them to justice?
“Pfizer received the biggest fine in U.S. history as part of a $2.3 Billion plea deal with federal prosecutors for mis-promoting medicines (Bextra, Celebrex) and paying kickbacks to compliant doctors. Pfizer pleaded guilty to mis-branding the painkiller Bextra by promoting the drug for uses for which it was not approved.”
A whistleblower doctor already filed a lawsuit against both Moderna & Pfizer when the vaccine was due to be approved.
I am not against the fundamental concept of a vaccine. A vaccine can be made ethically too. It can save lives. But I am against corruption in health sciences which destroy health instead of gifting it. It comes as no surprise that a huge number of healthcare workers, who are the first to be offered the vaccine, have refused to take it.
Currently there is a lot of uncertainty in many places & I think that uncertainty needs to be resolved before any decision is taken for millions & billions of people. I think it should be made voluntary in the beginning. If sufficient number of people want to take it, it may not be required to make it mandatory at all to achieve the desired uptake. So there is no need to make it mandatory at all. We should have the choice to decide what we want to do with that uncertainty. Moreover, as someone who is against animal testing for drugs, me and people like me may not want to take the vaccine at all for ethical reasons. We should have that option.