The Truth About Vaccines

  • 9 Dec 2021
  • Reading time 4 mins
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To investigate the truth about vaccines one has to ask a series of questions: do they stop you getting infected? Do you transmit less infection? If infected is disease less severe? How common are deaths and adverse reactions? Does vaccination change risk for infection in the following year? As a consequence of knowing these risks and benefits one can then evaluate whether widespread vaccination is effective, and cost-effective, compared to other approaches? On Friday Channel 4’s Despatches program investigates the ‘Truth About Pfizer’, but is unlikely to give you this overview, so here goes.

Does vaccination reduce your risk of getting infected? No, it increases the risk among adults by 1.6 times, doubling it in the age group of 30 to 69 (Source UK Health Security Agency).

Does vaccination reduce transmissibility? Viral load upon infection is no different between vaccinated and unvacciinated individuals. “Peak viral load did not differ” concludes a study in the Lancet “The secondary attack rate in household contacts exposed to the delta variant was 25% for fully vaccinated individuals compared with 38% in unvaccinated individuals.” In those infected, but asymptomatic, a Chinese study shows one in 100 contacts become infected. In the Lancet study, those symptomatically infected infect 2.5 out of 100 contacts if vaccinated versus 3.8 if unvaccinated, but bear in mind that if a vaccinated person has up to twice the risk of infection this small reduction in transmissibility is negated, predicting slightly more overall transmission of infection from those vaccinated.

Does vaccination reduce hospitalisation or death? UK Health Security Agency data shows three times less hospitalisation and death in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated. Broadly, this illustrates a 66% ‘efficacy’ of the vaccine however it is important to consider that these are ‘deaths with 28 days of a covid positive test’ so are deaths associated with vaccination, not necessary caused by it. This is consistent with studies, however it is very dependent on the length of time since vaccination. A Lancet study shows that, after 181 days from vaccination, the mRNA vaccines are 59% effective. Regarding the Astra Zeneca vaccine “at day 121-180, and from day 211 and onwards no effectiveness could be detected.”

Is vaccination associated with adverse reactions and deaths? In the UK, if a doctor suspects an adverse reaction or death is associated with a vaccine they write a ‘yellow card’ report and submit it to the MHRA. It is well known that these report totals are a fraction of the real number and can realistically and conservatively be doubled. This is illustrated by many deaths in care homes occurring shortly after vaccination not being yellow carded. As of November 24th MHRA have received “628 UK reports of suspected ADRs to the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine in which the patient died shortly after vaccination, 1,136 reports for the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, 19 for the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna and 32 where the brand of vaccine was unspecified.” That totals 1,815 deaths. Assuming this number is half of actual vaccine associated deaths then the chances of dying is one in 11,000. The chances of dying from a road traffic accident each year is 1 in 20,000. (More deaths have occurred in the last year associated with a covid vaccination than road traffic accidents.)
Specifically, MHRA have received 1219 reports of myo or peri-carditis (heart inflammation). In relation to clotting events concurrent with thrombocytopenia associated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine MHRA has received 427 cases of which 74 died.

Taiwan has suspended vaccinating children following a number of vaccine-associated deaths. Vietnam health officials have reported three deaths in their vaccine roll-out to 15-17 year olds caused by an “overreaction to the vaccine” and 120 teenagers hospitalised.

Up to November 24th 395,049 individuals were reported as have one or more adverse reactions. Since 45 million people have been double jabbed that means that the chances of having an adverse reaction is 1 in 113.

As yet unknown is whether vaccination increases risk of infection in the following year, as has been shown for flu vaccination.

In summary, a vaccinated person is more likely to become infected, just as likely to transmit infection and less likely to become hospitalised or die from covid.

They may, on the downside, have an adverse reaction or possibly die from vaccination. To put this into context out of 100,000 adults unvaccinated 83 would be expected to die with/of covid. Of 100,000 adults double vaccinated 53 would be expected to die with/of covid and 9 would be expected to die from vaccination, giving a total risk of death of 62 per 100,000 compared to 83 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated, but with about 1 in 100 having an adverse reaction to the vaccine. (The exact number is 1 in 113 but this doesn’t factor in under-reporting.).

This gives the risks to consider in making your own choice about medication.