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
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.
Thanks for. saying what so many of us feel. I think you are wise to be hesitant. IMO metabolically healthy young* (under 60-65) people with no ongoing serious health issues or co-morbidities should rely on their own immune system. I think that the pharma companies should be liable for the abundance of vaxxxx related injuries. and tbh it pisses me off that they seem to have blanket immunity. Like you I was excited to do my part at the beginning but once the blatant lies were evident I lost all faith. Since my original two shots (Fizzer) I decided that I was all done taking the jab.
I will follow some of your logic. You note 60% of people hospitalized in MA are vaccinated (this does not note fully, boosted or one and done). 95% of the population has had one shot or more. 80% are fully vaccinated. So, the unvaccinated population in MA is REALLY small comparatively. But they represent 40% of the population hospitalized.
One by one.
Lack of testing on humans is more about efficacy than safety. We know the vaccine is relatively safe. We don’t have human data to know how well this strain works.
Distrust of big pharma, especially their poorly regulated advertising and marketing, is well placed. However, there are several logical fallacies between the opioid crisis and not getting your jabs, including ad hominem and slippery slope.
Isn’t as effective as they told us? Or isn’t as effective on later strains as was indicated in early studies? Either way, this argument employs the false dilemma fallacy. The vaccine works 100% vs the vaccine isn’t worth taking.
As I noted earlier, the hospitalizations thing here is still compelling evidence for me to want the jab. I radically improve my risk of hospitalization with it (by your data).
Hey Jeff. I think you’re probably over cautious in this case, but I’m not here to try to convince you of that; I will just give you some more info on the hospitalization rates, because there’s some tricky and unintuitive math there. First, the 7XX number is not the people hospitalized FOR Covid, it’s the people hospitalized WITH Covid; people primarily hospitalized for Covid is around 250. The data doesn’t show this breakdown, but it’s very likely that the percentage of the unvaccinated is much higher in the FOR Covid group, and the percentage of the vaccinated in the WITH Covid group is higher. The more tricky part is the way the percentage is calculated wrt the “vaccinated”. “Vaccinated” in the globe report is either referring to “has received some vaccine” or “fully vaccinated (one or two shots, depending on mfr)”. The percentage of those in MA is 99 and ~ 85 respectively. Let’s assume the globe is using the 85% number. That means that 85% of the population is making up _only_ 60% of hospitalized Covid cases, and worse: 15% of the population is making up 40%. That is to say, as a share of population, the unvaccinated are 266% over represented in the hospitalization data, while the vaccinated are around 30% underrepresented. Further, this number _does not_ differentiate the percentage of the population with the first (40% in MA) or second (~20% in MA) booster, but other data indicates that the presence of those groups in the “FOR Covid” group is extremely low. Maybe you already “got this” from the data, but it’s confusing to a lot of people, so I thought I’d add this.
As an over 65 person I fall in the vulnerable category. My opinion may carry no weight on the subject but I feel as if it is well-reasoned. I have always likened the Covid vaccines to a influenza shot. You don’t necessarily take the Flu shot for yourself, you take it for a vulnerable person that you may contact while you are contagious. Whether an individual is 40% or 60% less likely to contract Covid, that person is not going to pass it along to someone else if they don’t catch Covid.
I don’t have warm feelings about “Big Pharma” (nor do I necessarily trust them) but I have been vaccinated and boosted with the Moderna vaccine. I haven’t contracted Covid but more importantly I haven’t passed it along to someone that it might kill. I believe you sometimes do things for the “greater good.”
This is helpful and interesting, particularly the “with” and “for” metrics. thank you for that reply!