A Shot in the Arm

A Shot in the Arm

A few months ago I posted a couple of things on Facebook about the new bivalent COVID vaccines and my uncertainty about getting them, as they hadn’t been tested on any humans yet, just mice. And we’re not like mice. I tried to make it clear in my social posts that I am not anti-vax at all. I willingly and excitedly got the original COVID vaccine on April 12, 2021 (J&J) and then I went ahead and got the booster as well on November 12, 2021 (again, J&J). So I did not get the mRNA version from Pfizer or Moderna. It wasn’t my choice – I showed up at the big vax factory and they moved us like cattle through the lines – they pointed and told me “go over there” and that was that. “Over there” just happened to be the Johnson & Johnson area. I also get a flu shot every year.

So now that I’m doing more long-form writing on my blog, I can explain more clearly how I’m feeling about this.

With that now framed up, this bivalent COVID vaccine gave me pause. As mentioned above, they skipped what I consider a kind of important step, which is testing on humans. I am generally averse to taking a shot of something that hasn’t been tested on humans. Because the Johnson & Johnson shot is not available anymore, any booster I get will have to be Pfizer and Moderna, which is a different technology than the J&J was.

My hesitance is largely rooted in a few things:

  • The lack of testing on humans. This is becoming less of a factor as more time goes by and we see an overwhelming amount of people reacting fine to it. Still, I think it’s logical to say that the rollout of this new booster to the masses in September was, effectively, the trial. YOU were the experiment if you got the shot this fall. And that’s fine. I’m not here to criticize, to each their own. I just decided to sit it out for a little while and not be a part of the experiment. And god bless the humans who volunteer for vaccine testing, by the way. They are kind of unsung heroes. Hesitance level: fairly low
  • Deep distrust of Big Pharma. Try to make sense of what Pfizer and Moderna are putting out there for data around trials and adverse reactions – it’s hard. Very hard. They do that on purpose, you know. These companies are *selling shots* – they are public companies beholden to shareholders and driving revenue. They are not looking out for you at all. You might also feel like the CDC or the FDA are more trustworthy and perhaps they are. But the FDA gets 75% of it’s funding for its drug division by…Big Pharma. Ouch. That feels like a very concerning conflict of interest. It wasn’t that long ago that doctors and patients were told that Oxycontin was perfectly safe and non-addictive. We cannot forget this. Hesitance level: medium
  • The shots don’t seem to work as well as Moderna and Pfizer told us. This is one of my biggest issues. One of my favorite tweets at the beginning of the original vaccine rollout was the CEO of Pfizer, who tweeted that Pfizer’s testing of the vaccine showed 100% effectiveness in blocking transmission entirely. The New York Times ran a piece on December 7 that is worth reading about this, focused on how “Covid-19 Isn’t a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated Anymore.” The article leans more towards the age of people getting it, but has some interesting data around mortality with Covid-19. Hesitance level: medium-high

The share of deaths among people vaccinated and boosted grew significantly as well, from 12 percent in January 2022 to 36 percent in April.

New York Times Op Ed, December 7, 2022
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla

These three things all give me pause. They don’t make me anti-vax and if anything, over the last few months I’m coming around to getting the shot. I’m not there yet, but maybe I’m getting there. I do feel pretty strongly that I have good reasons to wait.

A popular response to my hesitance is the point that, yes, ok, they lied to us and it doesn’t stop transmission, but it *does* prevent hospitalization and death. So I will make one other interesting point. Each week The Boston Globe publishes a COVID-19 data status for the state of Massachusetts. I can’t speak for the other 49 states, but have a look at the total amount of people hospitalized vs. the total amount of *vaccinated* people hospitalized. The total amount of people hospitalized is around 750 this week, 450 of which are vaccinated. 60% of people hospitalized in for COVID in Massachusetts are vaccinated.

I think where things go off the rails for me is all the fear mongering from the hardcore anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of posts out there about kids and adults collapsing on sports fields. Or people just collapsing on the street or in the course of their daily lives. Or people dying of heart attacks “out of the blue.” All of these things are sad, but they happen. They happened before 2021 and they will happen long after this pandemic is truly abated. But still, they fear monger. When confronted about this, the response is often “but how do you know it’s not from the vaccine? It could have been.” BAH.

There is not a single anti-vax person that can show me data that clearly shows the percent of people dying from the COVID shot isn’t the same as the percent of people dying from the flu shot or any other vaccine. They LOVE to show charts and graphs singularly showing the number of people having reactions since 2021, but when asked to show the percentage of reactions vs. total administered for COVID vaccines vs other vaccines, they go silent. Of course. Because they love fear mongering. OF COURSE the sheer volumne of reactions is going to be higher! The total number of vaccines given starting in 2021 skyrocketed!

Look, I’m not a doctor. This is a topic that people are really passionate about. And I respect and do not criticize anyone’s position on this. But I just wanted to get a longer form explanation of how I’m feeling. Now go get vacccinated! Or don’t! Either way, I’ll still love you.