Question marks on covid vaccines

Published in Expansión

“Happiness and freedom begin with the clear understanding of one principle: some things are under our control and some things are not”. Epictetus’ wisdom does not permeate the self-sufficiency of contemporary man, nor the leviathan State and its protective sham, nor its politicians, focused only on appearance. Panic and haste, which are responsible for most of the measures that continue to ruin the lives of millions of people without any benefit worth mentioning (what good have they done?), have never been good advisors. Does vaccination in stampede fit into this dynamic?

Vaccines are a great scientific discovery and some have been enormously beneficial to mankind. Others, not so much, but all must meet the requirements of safety, effectiveness and necessity.

In covid vaccines, the safety requirement may have been compromised by haste: a vaccine against coronavirus had never been successful before and suddenly, under enormous political pressure (such as that exerted by the European Commission on the European Medicines Agency[1]), abracadabra! And we already have several vaccines approved almost at the same time, two of them using the mRNA technique for the first time. Compared to the 7 to 10 years typically needed to perfect a vaccine, less than a year has been invested in these vaccines and the clinical trials have only considered side effects within a few months, so that the medium and long-term effects are unknown and the vaccinated will become guinea pigs. Even the short-term effects must be taken with some caution, as pharmaceutical companies carefully pre-select those who participate in clinical trials in order to increase their likelihood of success. The UK has already recorded 236 deaths following vaccination (25 per million vaccinated with one dose or 472 per million vaccinated with two doses), although the authorities claim that “nothing suggests” a causal relationship (which will always be difficult to establish, even more so with so many vested interests). There have also been, among others, 800 cases of dyspnea and 160 anaphylactic reactions (statistically rare but unexpected, as they did not seem to appear in the clinical results), as well as 114 cases of temporary facial paralysis[2] (Bell’s palsy). More generally, the FDA has cautioned that there are insufficient data on safety in children, adolescents, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals[3]. This may explain why pharmaceutical companies have signed indemnity clauses exempting themselves from any liability (“we cannot take the risk if the vaccine develops side effects in four years[4]“), or why nearly 30% of US health care workers prefer to wait before taking the vaccine.[5]

As for effectiveness, the trials were not designed to measure the reduction of hospitalizations or deaths but of symptomatic patients. For example, Pfizer’s 95% “relative” effectiveness means that out of the half of trial participants who received the placebo, 162 had symptoms and positive PCR versus only 8 among those vaccinated (95% fewer). These data are under scrutiny from the British Medical Journal, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, as data in the regulator’s report, not shown in the clinical results’ publication, raise questions[6]. There are 3,410 cases “suspected of covid” by symptomatology but not confirmed by PCR that were not counted. Almost half belonged to the vaccinated group, so a sufficient number of false negatives (more likely in a symptomatic population sample) could have reduced effectiveness below the threshold required for vaccine approval. Additionally, 371 people were excluded for “major protocol deviations” with a surprisingly asymmetrical proportion (311 vaccinated and 60 placebo). Remember that the 95% effectiveness number comes down to a ratio of 8 to 162 people, so any small variation counts. The BMJ calls for transparency to resolve these unknowns, which may be unfounded suspicions, but it will take two years for Pfizer and Moderna to provide the data. The actual effectiveness will probably end up being lower than advertised, especially in the elderly.

As for the necessity requirement, the only people who would really need this vaccine, after a risk-benefit analysis of their particular circumstances, are those in the at-risk population, as is the case with influenza. Since the important thing is not to reduce the number of infections but to reduce the number of deaths, it is very questionable to vaccinate those for whom covid is a statistically mild disease (children, young people and healthy adults up to a certain age), who may suffer similar short-term side effects as if they passed the disease itself and unknown long-term effects. Although it varies by country, according to Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis the average covid infection fatality rate (IFR) for healthy people under 70 years of age could be as low as 0.05% (99.95% survive[7]), being close to zero for those under 50 even in more pessimistic estimates[8] and “remarkably uncommon” in those under 65 with no underlying conditions[9]. Finally, those who have passed the covid are already vaccinated with a natural immunization of higher quality and longer duration and do not need to inject themselves with anything (nor probably should they do so, since they are unnecessarily exposed to “significantly higher” adverse effects[10]).

It is scandalous to see the closed-mindedness that has led to first questioning and then dismissing natural immunization, a true “suppression of science” that has belittled the logic, the available evidence and the wonder of our complex and effective immune system. Perhaps the most prosaic reason for this blindness is the everlasting economic factor, a frequent distorter of medical reason. It is estimated that pharmaceutical companies will have revenues of $55 billion from covid vaccines in 2021 and 2022 alone[11]. Pfizer-BioNTech’s revenues might approach $14 billion, while for Moderna the vaccine was the “to be or not to be” of Hamlet’s soliloquy, a true “rags to riches” story: from revenues of only $60 million and losses of $500 million in 2019 to revenues of $11 billion and profits of $6 billion in 2021. To make matters worse, the development of vaccines has been largely financed by governments (with the US investing close to 12 billion) and by advance payments in contracts that, in the case of the EU, the European Commission keeps secret in an exercise of opacity typical of totalitarian regimes. At the same time, the media have carried out a priceless publicity campaign for pharmaceutical companies with their mind-boggling strategy of terrorizing the population through the daily bombardment of horror stories such as reinfections (31 cases worldwide[12]).

This political-media-pharmaceutical conspiracy, which lives on fear, is well geared. Sensationalism sells, politicians happily impose their tyranny and a sector with a mediocre ethical record (with honest exceptions) and which discovered decades ago that it could make more money by medicating the healthy many than the few sick, profits enormously. Perhaps this explains why research on treatments of severely ill patients, a very small fraction of the population, has been relegated.

One more thing: Vaccination should be a free and informed decision in which each individual weighs his or her personal circumstances and decides accordingly. However, some world authorities have vaguely tested the waters about the potential mandatory nature of these vaccines which, given the existing uncertainties, would imply a massive medical experiment on humans. Do politicians and bureaucrats, cooperators of vast economic interests, have the power to inject us with impunity with whatever they wish? There are enormous legal, political and ethical obstacles to avoid what would set a very dangerous precedent against which all civil and legal resistance would be justified, but the mere fact of suggesting such a chilling dystopia, such an intolerable attack on our physical integrity and freedom, is a clear sign of the pretensions of the new totalitarianism that looms in the horizon.

 

Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo

www.fpcs.es

 

[1] https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2021/01/16/vaccins-ce-que-disent-les-documents-voles-a-l-agence-europeenne-des-medicaments_6066502_3244.html

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-adverse-reactions/coronavirus-vaccine-summary-of-yellow-card-reporting

[3] https://www.fda.gov/media/144245/download#page=42

[4] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-astrazeneca-results-vaccine-liability/astrazeneca-to-be-exempt-from-coronavirus-vaccine-liability-claims-in-most-countries-idUSKCN24V2EN

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/some-health-care-workers-are-still-saying-no-to-a-covid-19-vaccine-11612089020?mod=hp_lead_pos3

[6] https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/01/04/peter-doshi-pfizer-and-modernas-95-effective-vaccines-we-need-more-details-and-the-raw-data/

[7] https://www.who.int/bulletin/online_first/BLT.20.265892.pdf

[8] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02483-2   and  https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30584-3/fulltext

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7327471/

[10] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.29.21250653v1.full.pdf

[11] https://www.morningstar.com/articles/1017621/covid-19-vaccine-distribution-and-herd-immunity-to-end-pandemic

[12] https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n99

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