How to defend your choice of getting vaccinated — or not.
Some things happened this week that hit me like a punch to the jaw. I’m writing as a scientist, and although I cry a lot and friends wonder if I’m deeply emotional, when I get serious about a subject I write as a scientist and keep my emotions at bay.
There are reasons for not getting vaccinated – can we defend them?
• The vaccines may have long-term negative effects. A thoughtful engineer told me this week doctors still don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine. That’s true, as it was revealed this week that the J&J vaccine led to serious blood clots and deaths (the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have no such side effects). But for J&J the numbers were low – just 9 deaths out of a 16 million, and that’s only 0.00005%. Compare this with the chance of dying from Covid: in Texas, 75,000 people have died out of a population of 30 million = 0.25%. This means the chance of dying from Covid is 5,000 times higher than dying from the vaccine.
But the vaccines have been available for only two years. Whether they cause side effects beyond that, we don’t know, but it seems unlikely if they haven’t shown up by now. There are side effects of the Covid disease – its called Long Covid, lasts for 3 months or more. Fatigue, cough, chest tightness, breathlessness, palpitations, myalgia and difficulty to focus are symptoms reported in long COVID.
• The government is intruding in our personal space. They take our taxes, and they want to take our guns. They stopped us having prayers in schools. While all this may be true, we have accepted government intrusion in many other areas, such as wearing seat belts to reduce chance of death, and warning labels on cigarettes which harm our lungs. Both of these at the time were resisted strongly by people who felt that the government was taking away our freedoms. Another example is regulations that govern building a new house, such as electrical wiring. If this is not regulated, wiring errors can cause homes to burn down. Home-building rules and car driving laws like red lights we follow (mostly) without too much complaint because we can see the benefits.
• Its political. Because we are conservative and lean to the right in our beliefs, we follow the party’s guidelines that we hear about on radio, TV, and Facebook. The party in power in 2020, when Covid first appeared were confused about Covid. They officially challenged or even denied the medical establishment’s position regarding the virus existence (they said it’s a hoax), how rapidly it spread (they said it will be gone by Easter 2020), the death rate (it won’t be too serious), and basic medical-advised protections (it’s not that important to wear a mask, nor stay 6 feet away from other people).
On the positive side, the government in 2020 initiated an enormous effort, and a successful one, to find vaccines that would protect people from severe illness and death. However, the US lost the advantage by the slow response of government advice and leadership, as compared with many other countries whose death rates were kept far lower by acting sooner and pushing harder to install the directions of the medical establishment. My old country of Australia has had only 2,000 deaths in 25 million people (80 deaths per million). The US has had 800,000 deaths per 330 million people (2,400 deaths per million).
• The Covid virus is a hoax. Some people believe the virus is a hoax, that hospital death numbers are falsified, and that a cabal of super-rich people are controlling Covid and the government – people like Bill Gates and Dr Anthony Fauci. And the press is being controlled too, so the press doesn’t report the truth. I will examine this one in the Appendix below
There are reasons for getting vaccinated – can we defend these?
• If not vaccinated, we may infect an elderly person, or a person at high risk, because we may carry the disease but not show any symptoms (yet). Frank and Susan were elderly. In 2020, Susan attended a Bible study group during lockdown and may not have worn a mask. She caught Covid, brought it home, and infected Frank who died. If not vaccinated, the danger of spreading Covid to someone at high risk will be much worse next week at Christmas and afterwards because the new Covid variant called Omicron will be here in force, and because families and friends are gathering indoors in winter.
• Essentially all doctors insist we should get vaccinated. This is reassuring because we mostly trust doctors and seek their help when we have a serious problem with our health. Why would we ignore or push back on doctor’s opinions when it comes to vaccination? Do we think we know better than our doctor when it comes to vaccine medicine?
• Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant. Because it is so infectious, Omicron is taking over Delta infections which took over the original Covid strain.
Omicron has hit New York. The first figure shows 9,822 new cases of Covid on December 17. This is the second-highest increase in daily cases ever. What is happening in New York will surely happen in Texas.
Omicron is now thought to be the dominant variant in England and Scotland, replacing the Delta variant. On 18 December, there were over 93,000 new cases of Covid, the highest ever reported (see second figure).
In the UK government, the opposition party’s health spokesperson Daisy Cooper worried: “Ministers must act now to protect NHS [medical] staff and ensure that urgent NHS services are available to everyone over the Christmas period.” What is happening in the UK will surely happen in the USA.
• If we are vaccinated, we are doing our part to slow the pandemic, because we have a lower chance of catching the virus and transmitting it to someone else. When a virus spreads faster, this also means a greater likelihood of another, and worse, variant popping up by mutation.
• If we get vaccinated, it shows we care about high-risk people that we encounter at home or in our work. These are the elderly, above 65, or people whose immune systems are already compromised, such as diabetics, those with heart issues, or cancer patients. But if we don’t get vaccinated, and we do infect a person who dies alone in a hospital bed (if they can get one when Omicron hits this Christmas), how are we going to feel about that at the funeral?
Appendix to address the hoax statement: The Covid virus is a hoax, and a cabal of super-rich people are controlling it and the government – people like Bill Gates and Dr Anthony Fauci. And the press is being controlled too, so the press doesn’t report the truth.
From people I have talked with the “facts” behind these claims are only outliers, not patterns of evidence. Science is based on patterns of evidence not outliers.
What do I mean by outlier? If you are an animal lover, and you hear that a few billion animals (including koala bears and kangaroos) were burnt to death by the wildfires in Australia in 2019, you might blame global warming and climate change. But a single outlier can’t be used to prove the existence of climate change — it has to be proven by many observations such as glacier retreats, Arctic ice melting, corals bleaching, abnormal wildfires in California, 100-year floods in Louisiana and Germany, hurricane intensities in Gulf of Mexico, heat waves in Canada and Siberia, etc.
You can build a theory on a single outlier observation. But its not acceptable to scientists unless the theory is built on a pattern of evidence. The theories that Covid is a hoax and that the government is run by Bill Gates and Dr Anthony Fauci is not based on a pattern of solid evidence.
In contrast, Bill Gate’s heritage is well known and well documented. Bill Gates started Microsoft while at college here in Albuquerque. A museum in the town has a large display summarizing the history of Gates and Microsoft. Ten years ago, Gates forewarned in a video of a coming pandemic, but he was largely ignored, to our terrible loss. Through his foundation’s funding, Gates has been instrumental in trying to eradicate malaria from Africa and the world, and has had some good success.
The press are not being controlled, except in some totalitarian countries, like China and Russia. I am a reporter for Forbes.com, so I am part of the press. And I’m careful to try to report only facts, based on patterns of evidence. I have seen, on rare occasions, a report that seems overly biased… but too much bias without a pattern of evidence to support it is generally not acceptable, and a reporter loses credibility.
BLOG TOPICS: I write in-depth blogs about a mix of topics: Science and Energy, Inspiration and Hope, Health and Hiking.
The Gray Nomad ….. A science approach to the Covid pandemic can help us make personal decisions.
The lines are fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage. I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
[Book of Psalms, chapter 16.]
Thank you, Ian, for your scientific approach to review covid vaccinations.
Well done, Ian. Well written, informative without being “preachy”.
Hope you are well. Merry Christmas!
Ian, this is the worst blog you have ever written, full of so much false information (mostly you may have received by fake news), that I won’t even start. I will simply live by your own words: Compare this with the chance of dying from Covid: in Texas, 75,000 people have died out of a population of 30 million = 0.25%.
You can’t use outliers as you say, and statistics have to be used appropriately to recognize outliers. For example, we should recommend vaccinations by age group and pre-existing conditions. Death rates for those 18 and under are infinitesimal, and even in older age groups are lower until you hit 65 or so when pre-existing conditions/comorbidity are normalized from samples. As such, vaccination negative effect rates have to be compared to improved results by taking the vaccine for the same age-groups (and potentially other measures such as gender)
Shame on you for missing this basic fact.
Kevin, I will reply in some detail because you and I are friends.
My J&J stat was based on 9 deaths out of 16 million people which was effectively how many people were ‘infected’ by the vaccine. This gives 0.00005% fatality ratio.
The Texas stat was based on 75,000 deaths in a population of 30 million. That gives 0.25% fatality ratio.
But perhaps I should have used 4.4 million because that’s the actual number of cases exposed to Covid. This gives a 1.7% fatality ratio. That’s based on actual cases and not based on total population.
So now we are calculating the risks the same way — based on ‘infection’ from either Covid or vaccine. This is apples-to-apples. The new result is the risk of dying from Covid versus vaccination is 1.7% / 0.00005% = 34,000.
So we are 34,000 times more likely to die from Covid (if we catch it) than from getting vaccinated.
Yes, this is averaged over all ages of people and over all genders. But you know yourself that if you argued that people UNDER 40 would have a number LESS than 34,000 then people OVER 40 would have a number MORE than 34,000. You can pick your poison but you can’t get around the fact that the overall average is 34,000.
I’m writing from personal experience. I am caring for a lady who was infected on Christmas day in another city I had to travel to. She is quarantined in her room.
5/6 of my g-children refused to be vaccinated despite my intense pleas and warnings. I fedexed to them several Covid Rapid tests, but not all of the family got tested.
They sat around a table and played cards into the night.
Four members of the family came down with Covid after that Christmas day.
The grandmother who is over 80 and frail escaped Covid, I know because I was caring for her as well. She wasn’t playing cards with the group.
Yes the Covid effects were minimal in all 4 people who were infected. I asked them what their reasons were for not getting vaccinated, and none of their reasons were legitimate.
Neither were they justified playing cards and hugging and touching and not masking and not keeping 6 ft away from other family members, one of whom was over 80 and very frail. I had warned them that if she contracted Covid from them, that she would possibly die an agonizing death alone in a hospital bed.
The g-kid’s selfish reasons to not get vaccinated do not cover the risk of death they presented to this wonderful lady.
Good blog report Ian. Very interesting, informative, and factual. Thanks.