On skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines - II

Posted by Manuel Oñate on other

government failurefallaciesprecautionary principlecovidvaccines

12 min read

On February 2022, the covid hysteria entered a new phase when the Omicron wave made clear that the mass vaccination campaigns have failed to control the covid pandemic. Contrary to the official narrative, maintaining a high degree of skepticism regarding the necessity and convenience of mass vaccinating the entire population using insufficiently tested vaccines was the most rational position. In this second post of the series, I argue that the mass vaccination campaign was a government failure.

In the previous post of this series, I presented in a chronological order the emerging evidence of the failure of the vaccines, using information that was readily available and published by mainstream sources.

In this post, I argue that the mass vaccination campaigns was a massive government failure, sharing all the characteristics common to failed policies.

Vaccines are a complex medical intervention

As previously documented on this blog, I never considered vaccines a viable exit strategy for covid. For that reason, when vaccines become available on December 2020 under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), I remained skeptical.

Vaccination is a medical intervention, and a particularly troublesome one since it directly contradicts the ethical medical principle of not harming the patient: "first do no harm" (primum non nocere). We can say that all medical interventions have at least the potential to harm patients, but with vaccines it is not a potential risk, it is a certain risk.

One very important difference between vaccines and other medical interventions is that we don't wait until the disease manifests. This results in a completely different risk-benefit analysis. When someone already has a disease, it is easier to justify an intervention than when we are simply preventing a future disease. As with any other prophylactic intervention, safety is more important than efficacy.

Another important aspect is that vaccines need necessarily to provoke an infection in an otherwise sane individual in order to be effective. Otherwise, they would not trigger the immune system and the vaccination would be useless. This distinguishes vaccines from all other preventive treatments. In fact, vaccines are a wager in which we bet that the protection gained against a future real infection is higher than the certain short-term risks imposed by the intervention itself.

Having said that. I am, and have always been extremely favorable to the concept of vaccines. I have considered them one of the most significant exponents of the human ingenuity and it is a testament to our rationality that we accept being inoculated with an attenuated form of a disease in order to become immune to it.

One reason humanity has accepted vaccinating our little children is that vaccination campaigns, at least recently in the Western world, have been conducted mostly following strict safety principles. Of course, there have been some controversies. In particular, those related to the polio vaccination campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s. Ironically, the control of polio, which has been one of the greatest vaccine successes in History also involved some of the worst mistakes.

When effective, vaccines are a great solution. Unfortunately, they are not adequate for all contagious diseases. In particular, respiratory viruses have proved very elusive to the development of safe and effective vaccines.

After decades of promotion of the annual influenza vaccines by public health authorities, there is a considerable gap between vaccination policies and the evidence of their benefits.

I have a completely unproven theory about the convenience of vaccination for mild respiratory viruses, but I don't want to contaminate this series that is based on facts, not opinions. It might be the subject of a future post, though.

In what respects to coronaviruses, there are no vaccines for any of the four common coronaviruses that regularly infect humans. That is an immense red flag that has been flaming against the 'vaccination solution' since the beginning of the crisis.

In summary, vaccines might be good when they exist, but they are also risky and we should handle them with the most exquisite care, advancing at a very slow pace to prevent errors. And when they don't work, we should not force them on an unsuspecting public.

Unfortunately, as with everything covid, the public discourse about the vaccines has become so politicized as to lose any contact with rationality. New dogmas have substituted ideas that used to be common basic knowledge. And these dogmas cannot be challenged because of ideological reasons that have no relation with public health considerations.

What would a pro-vaccine skeptic do regarding the novel vaccines?

The news of the authorization of the first mRNA vaccine for covid impressed me. The technology behind mRNA vaccines looked truly exciting, offering many possibilities for fast development of vaccines and other therapeutic interventions.

Also, at first sight, mRNA seemed safe. Rather than using an attenuated live virus or a 'dead' virus, these new vaccines are based on a short-lived molecule to instruct our cells to produce an antigen (the covid spike protein). What could go wrong?

So, even if vaccines for covid never convinced me, I thought that the new vaccine technology could at least prove useful for other use cases.

My wife was much more skeptical than me initially. She thought that biology is complex and messy, and we know very little of what really happens at the cellular and molecular level. So I hastily conceded her point and decided that only time would tell if these vaccines were safe.

What about the other vaccines?

There were two other vaccines authorized in Europe and the United States (Johnson & Johnson - Janssen and AstraZeneca). They used a different mechanism to introduce the genetic material inside the cells, an adenovirus incapable of reproduction, but they had a similar mechanism of operation; instructing cells to produce the covid spike protein.

These two vaccines were much more disputed since the beginning. Regulators such as the CDC in the United States and the European Medicines Agency warned of adverse effects. See how the CDC does not recommend the Janssen vaccine, after authorizing it, and a summary of the AstraZeneca early doubts and disputes.

As shown in the following table, four other vaccines were developed in Russia and China. Two of them using adenoviruses and the remaining two traditional inactivated viruses.

Authorized vaccines for covid

In retrospect, it is not clear why public health authorities focused their criticism on the two non-mRNA "occidental" vaccines, given that the other two had similar problems. Nor why they completely neglected the "non-occidental" vaccines, even accepting that Russia and China could be considered at the time not a reliable source of covid related technology. It is also remarkable that no pharmaceutical company outside China undergone traditional inactivated virus vaccines.

According to Our World in Data, as of April 7, 2022 the mRNA vaccines accounted for 97% in the United States and 89% in the European Union. Thus, the campaign against non-mRNA vaccines carried out by regulators in the United States and the European Union has been rather successful.

Because of their absolute prevalence, I have focused on the mRNA vaccines in my research. But I suspect that most of what I discuss in this series of posts also applies to the other vaccines.

The decision to not vaccinate

Fortunately, living in Spain and being under 65 there was no rush. I would not get offered the vaccine for a few months. So I had the luxury of waiting and see.

As I have documented on the previous post, before I had to decide, there was enough information available that suggested that my wife was right after all and the mRNA vaccines were not safe.

So, by February 2021, I had already decided that I was going to pass on the vaccination, unless the future proved that the initial safety related data was misleading. Maybe I could contemplate getting jabbed during the Summer (the best moment to be low on defenses). But to be frank, most probably I would not, because, as I have said, I doubt vaccination is a good treatment for a disease like covid that is mild for most people.

My decision was a direct application of the precautionary principle regarding novel medical interventions. The vaccines had not undergone a proper evaluation of risks. There had not been enough time for that. In that situation, unless you face an imminent risk of death or serious injury, you do not subject yourself to a new medical intervention lacking a proper safety profile.

The story should have ended here. In February 2021 there was enough information to rule out massive vaccination as the preferred way to control the covid medical crisis. Around that time, regulators should have reassessed the ongoing vaccination campaigns, reserving the vaccines for the population at the higher risk from covid, monitoring closely the adverse side-effects and the temporary immune suppression, with a view to stop completely the vaccination altogether if they proved to be a concern, as they would.

Unfortunately, I was in a minority. People were still getting jabbed as if there was no tomorrow, and the covid circus was in full parade mode.

The authorities silenced the side effects and gave no advice regarding the increased post-vaccination risk. For example, the pamphlets produced by the CDC were a joke:

  • Regarding side effects, they recommended 'drinking a lot of water' and 'dressing lightly'. In addition, they affirmed that 'You should get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a doctor tells you not to'.
  • Regarding the immune suppression. Pamphlets did not even mention it. They simply warned that vaccines would take time to 'fully protect' the vaccinated, without the implication that they rather increased the short-time risk.

I don't believe I have ever seen an example of public authority recklessness in the past that is comparable to this.

The regulatory vicious circle

That authorities were actively hiding the initial problems caused by the vaccines raised all my alarms. The vaccination exercise had but all the symptoms of a failed public policy. As such, it would enter, inexorably, into the vicious circle experienced by all faulty policies.

Faulty policies vicious circle

From the moment I decided the vaccines were not a good option, I kept looking at the data that was emerging, comparing it with what the authorities and their loudspeakers were saying. With each turn of the vicious circle, it became more clear that the vaccines were failing and their proponents were perfectly aware of it. I have documented this process in the previous post of this series.

The elimination of the control group

In my previous post, I describe some fallacies that were used to trick the population into compliance with vaccination:

  • Vaccines were sold as safe and effective, implying that they offered substantial and durable protection and prevented secondary infections.
  • The necessity of achieving a high proportion of the population vaccinated to end the pandemic, even after it was patent that vaccines did not prevent secondary infections.

With respect to the first fallacy, I hope this series of articles debunk the safety and efficacy of the vaccines sufficiently.

Regarding the second one, arguably the most insidious, I need to examine it carefully, because it is the key to understand the perversion of the regulatory vicious circle.

First, the motives:

When there was undeniable evidence that the vaccines were not working as intended during the Summer of 2021 ("Harms become impossible to hide") it was necessary to acknowledge it ("A real problem is identified") and amend the policy to accommodate the problem caused by the previous policy ("A faulty policy is introduced").

Blaming the failure of the vaccines on the unvaccinated offered two key advantages: First, it preserved the idea that the previous policy was sound, but its implementation was insufficient. Second, it transferred the blame from the real culprits (the public health authorities that had implemented a bad policy) to the sector of the population that was most dangerous to the vaccinators. Unvaccinated had defied the authority (and had to be punished) and were the control group that showed that the vaccines had failed (and had to be eliminated).

Then, the basis:

Trying to follow the convoluted rationale used to blame the unvaccinated is almost impossible, because it defies logic at every stage. But I will try my best.

Certainly, the concept of herd immunity implies that a minimum percentage of the population achieves immunity. These immune individuals act as a shield that protects the vulnerable sectors of society and starve the virus of susceptible hosts..

Thus, to achieve herd immunity and end the pandemic, we need to vaccinate as much as possible. Quod erat demonstrandum.

This reasoning is so wrong when applied to the covid mRNA vaccines that it is embarrassing that the authorities used it, and that many people failed for it.

First, as I mention in my previous post, it is immoral to use common good arguments to justify the imposition of known risks on anybody to protect others. It is a very worrying sign that governments imposed mandatory vaccination policies but that a sizeable portion of the population of western countries complied with them and approved these policies is even more worrisome.

In particular, I find particularly abhorrent the extension of vaccination to children. I have little doubt that the treatment they have suffered during this nightmarish two years will be remembered for a long time, and we will be justly vilified for accepting it.

Second, the vaccines do not prevent secondary transmissions. Therefore, they are incapable of participating in herd immunity. Period.

Third, recovered individuals also achieve immunity (natural immunity). Yet, natural immunity was neglected. Contrary to the established procedure for any other vaccine of not vaccinating recovered individuals, a bizarre argument was used; that vaccines provided better protection than natural immunity.

That is absolutely false. It is impossible for any vaccine to provide a better protection than a successful recovery. In the case of mRNA vaccines, as opposed to 'dead' or 'live attenuated' vaccines it is even worse, because the vaccinated have only been exposed to a portion of the virus, the spike protein, while the recovered have been exposed to the whole virus.

Vaccines are useful not because they provide a better protection, but because they provide an inferior protection without the risks inherent to a true infection. Subjecting recovered patients to the known and unknown risks associated with the vaccination, with no benefits for them or the community, was reckless and criminal.

The disaster was predictable and inevitable

What is important to note is that once the authorities decided to promote an untested vaccine technology, the rest of what has happened was almost inevitable. Because of the vicious cycle, faulty policies always provoke enormous harms to society, orders of magnitude higher than the problems they intend to solve.

Different groups have tried many therapies and procedures since the initial outbreak of covid. Most have failed, but it was worth the try. And when an option fails, we move ahead and try something else. That is the only way to win in a pandemic.

The bet on the mRNA vaccines had tiny odds of winning to begin with. In fair competition with alternative interventions and with no political pressure, vaccines would have shown they were less safe and effective than other prophylactic or therapeutic procedures and quickly discarded.

Instead, governments, medical organisations and the complicit media fixated on vaccines, while dismissing all other alternatives. That is the surest way to lose in a pandemic.

When the COVID crisis started it was fashionable to argue that there are no libertarians in a pandemic. The vaccination fiasco, following the previous ones, has demonstrated that governments should be restrained in a pandemic.

The results of the mass vaccination campaigns

We can be sure that vaccines have failed. But to what extent?

To answer that question, we need to explore their benefits, measured in lives saved, against their costs and their potential risks. And this is precisely what I am going to do in the next article on this series.

If you have reached this point. I thank you very much.