By Karl Sweetman
The term “vaccine hesitancy” has been used in the medical field since the early 2010s but has come into mainstream use recently because of widespread resistance to vaccination for Covid-19. Depending on your point of view, justification for such “hesitancy” may be totally valid, questionable, unfounded, or just plain loopy.
First of all, let me stress that I am not an “anti-vaxxer”. Many like me have done our best to evaluate all sides of the issue carefully. Some weigh the pros and cons of taking the vaccine now versus waiting for a clearer picture to emerge. Others demur after assessing their likelihood of contracting Covid versus the potential risks of the vaccine for them personally. Some have concluded that their chances of developing the disease are extremely slim and the chance of a severe case even slimmer. Others await the release of results of multiple well-controlled clinical trials for a possible alternative, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a vaccine that has been globally used to protect infants against tuberculosis for about a century and has been shown to provide some degree of non-specific protection from other respiratory tract infections.
BCG appears to have far less intrinsic risk than the vaccines that have been recently developed for Covid-19 and perhaps better wide-spectrum effectiveness against multiple variants. For those desiring an in-depth scientific analysis and description of observational data and potential vaccine effectiveness, see On BCG Vaccine Protection from COVID-19: A Review. For examples of some of the 25 worldwide clinical trials in progress, see Canadian researchers begin clinical trials of tuberculosis vaccine for COVID-19, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Study to Help Prevent COVID-19 and Efficacy and Safety of VPM1002 in Reducing SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Infection Rate and Severity (COBRA).
Any thoughtful, rational person should always carefully weigh the uniquely personal risks inherent in various choices of action being contemplated, especially if those choices may present significant risks. This is even more true in this case in which it can be legitimately argued that the potential risks of taking the vaccine could be greater than the risk of not being vaccinated.
A number of different immediate or short-term side effects and/or adverse reactions to the current vaccines have been identified (see Covid Data – Open VAERS). Most are not life-threatening but a significant number of them are. However, by far the most worrisome and potentially deadly effect of these vaccines is one that will not materialize immediately and could take months or even years to show itself: antibody dependent enhancement (ADE).
Yes, I know, there are some scientists telling us that they think these vaccines will not cause ADE, but these are the same guys who flip-flopped (and were often proven dead wrong) on many issues that have arisen in the past. In a recent MedPage Today article on this subject (Why ADE Hasn’t Been a Problem With COVID Vaccines — Even with new variants, it’s unlikely antibody-dependent enhancement will be an issue ) the experts state that ADE has not been a problem vis-à-vis the original SARS-CoV2 variant but that it is unknown what the potential is for ADE to develop with other variants. This is especially problematic since it now appears that future repetitive/multiple booster shots will be required far into the future. As new variants constantly mutate and evolve, the vaccines for them will have to be modified, some modifications of which will render the safeguards against ADE in the current vaccines no longer effective. “It’s all theoretical,” says Brian Lichty, PhD, the expert quoted in the article and an associate professor in pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University in Toronto.
I’m sorry, but in my book “it’s all theoretical” just isn’t good enough, especially when the “oops” outcome is likely to be far more devastating than the normal course of the virus itself. Aren’t these the same experts who have hurriedly led us down the garden path on multiple occasions in the past?(“Past vaccine disasters show why rushing a coronavirus vaccine now would be ‘colossally stupid’”). Aren’t these “experts” the same guys who have advised the public about a constant litany of issues with this virus, only later to do complete 180s?
When the effectiveness of the vaccines is much less than the thinly supported trial efficacy; when the protection afforded against some variants is nil or significantly attenuated; when the sales pitch is that if you get Covid it might not be as bad as if you were not vaccinated (that is if you are in the positive efficiency group); when the effects of the mRNA vaccines are irreversible; when long-term effects haven’t been tested (you are the animal test guinea pig); when the risk of ADE is still hotly debated among respected, credible experts; and when trial results are imminent for a much safer, tried-and-true possible alternative with a hundred-year track record, is it really so unreasonable to exercise caution, patience and to demand more definitive information?
Although I’m not quite as skeptical as Rabbi Chananya Weissman (“31 Reasons Why I Won’t Take the Vaccine”), the track record of those calling the shots (no pun intended) so far certainly hasn’t warranted confidence or unquestioning trust in their prescriptions. However, I do agree with the good rabbi’s sentiments expressed in his reason #30 and most especially reason #31:
“#30. I see all the lies, corruption, propaganda, manipulation, censorship, bullying, violation of medical ethics, lack of integrity in the scientific process, suppression of inconvenient adverse reactions, dismissal of legitimate concerns, hysteria, cult-like behavior, ignorance, closed-mindedness, fear, medical and political tyranny, concealment of protocols, lack of true concern for human life, lack of respect for basic human rights and freedoms, perversion of the Torah and common sense, demonization of good people, the greatest medical experiment of all time being conducted by greedy, untrustworthy, godless people, the lack of liability for those who demand I risk everything…I see all this and I have decided they can all have my place in line. I will put my trust in God. I will use the mind He blessed me with and trust my natural instincts. Which leads to the final reason which sums up why I will not get “vaccinated.”
“#31. The whole thing stinks.”
Each of us must make our own personal decisions about Covid vaccination in light of our own unique circumstances. As long as that decision is made for good and valid reasons (of which there are many), it should be respected.
Karl Sweetman is a retired orthodontist from Denton, Texas who has lived happily in Ecuador for many years.