The study populations for all of the trials of the major vaccine candidates consisted of healthy 22–44 year olds (actually appears to be 23–44 year olds though still struggling get confirmation of the low end). This was intentional because they were unsure how serious the side effects might be, and did not want to put already at risk individuals at further risk. That is fine and makes sense but unfortunately it distorts the data as that particular population is already at a much reduced risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19. It might protect already healthy young adults from progressing to the serious forms of the disease, but it is possible or even probable that would have been the case even if they were not vaccinated. This also distorts the reports of adverse side effects (see #2 below). Also, the fine details of the study design have not been released (at least not in a place I can find them). This is always worrisome and suggests a lack of confidence in said design. If those details are released, look closely at how the various placebo and control and treatment groups were assigned and look closely at the numbers required in order for any effect to be considered significant. Then compare those numbers with what have been used in previous vaccine trials. If you see big differences that is a problem and suggests a “loosening” of the “rules” (FDA would call them ‘guidelines’). Those rules are in place for a reason, they are not just made up. Loosening them is the same as breaking them. It calls into question all of the data and the interpretation of the results if this was done. I am not suggesting this is the case and have no knowledge either way, but I am personally concerned by the lack of transparency we have seen to date. FDA has used its authority under the EUA program to relax rules in many areas of research and product development related to Covid-19 specifically in the area of diagnostic test development. In my view they have done so mostly correctly, however, a diagnostic test and a vaccine are two entirely different things.
Adverse side effects
All of the trials reported adverse effects. None were noted as “serious” but the definition of a serious effect typically means one that requires hospitalization. There are no details I could find as to exact numbers but it has been reported (nowhere officially that I could find, but definitely ‘reported’ somewhere) that persons (how many is not known or has not been published, at least that I have seen or could find) receiving these vaccines did become ill, many very seriously, and some were bedridden for days or weeks. Make no mistake, if you choose to get one of these vaccines, you will get sick, possibly very, very sick. This is not like your everyday run of the mill flu shot where you may get some mild symptoms and then recover quickly. This will be shocking to many people. The fact that the current vaccine prioritization schedule prioritizes the eldery in assisted living facilities tells me there will be some deaths from these vaccines, possibly among the first wave of the vaccinated. There may be under or unreported neurological effects as well. These could be very problematic in the medium to long term. Bottom line here is we do not know how impactful it will be to a persons medium or long term health to become ill from one of these vaccines. Which brings me to my next important point.
SARS-CoV-2 carriage and transmission by vaccinated individuals
This has now been reported (this was also only reported in a vaguely worded press release) for all of the major vaccine candidate trials. If you get one of these vaccines you may be protected (may be) but you can still get all of your loved ones sick and potentially kill them by exposing them to virus you may still carry and shed. This is made extra problematic because vaccinated individuals will tend to think they are “safe” or “bulletproof” and will for sure act like idiots in terms of their behaviors. They will be ideal disease spreaders.
The presence of neutralizing antibodies is not enough and not a reliable measure of protection
It is one of the main ideas behind vaccination that the production of neutralizing antibodies against the vaccine target is enough to protect yourself from infection and to prevent you from being able to spread the disease as well. However, that is apparently not the case with SARS-CoV-2 and Covid19 disease. While neutralizing antibody titers in individuals who have been vaccinated were high and at levels that would be expected to prevent carriage or transmission of infective virus that has not proven to be the case. Instead it appears that for Covid19 (at least for some, no idea how many people) the production of neutralizing antibodies alone is not enough to provide complete protection for you and everyone that comes into contact with you. Why that is the case is an open question though there are some hypotheses and it gets very complicated very quickly. Without a deep understanding of immunology it is difficult for me to communicate what they are, but suffice to say it has to be the right “kind” of antibody (and I don’t just mean the right class) and it may be the case (emphasis on may) that whole spike protein has a fatal flaw as a vaccine target. Finally, and I shudder to think of the consequences if this were to be accurate but there is precedent for the production of the “wrong” type of antibody resulting in a worsening of disease in a process known as antibody dependent enhancement or ADE. I have written about this some previously. This is typically only an issue if vaccinated individuals are then re-exposed to the agent against which they have been vaccinated. There have been vaccines in the past in which this phenomenon has occurred with horrific consequences for those effected. There is zero evidence of this at the moment but it is a hypothetical possibility that cannot be ruled out or shrugged off as impossible.
One of the ways the vaccine manufacturer’s have been making “effectiveness” claims is by touting the correlation of their vaccine with the production of neutralizing antibodies in vaccinated individuals. I do not if that practice was part of the most recent trials because those details have still not been made public. However, if they are doing this than their claims are wildly off base and will be misleading in the extreme.
Boosters Will Be Required
Finally, it appears boosters will be required for each of the most common vaccine candidates. How many is yet another question for which no hard answer has been forthcoming. At least one to as many as three is the range I have heard. The boosters will all need to be taken within a relatively short time span and each shot will make you sicker than the one previous. There is no doubt that many people will not take the required boosters after becoming seriously ill from the first dose or first booster. These people will not be protected though they may think they are and will add to the “bulletproof” problem I mentioned above.
My overall summary is that what we have here are a group of vaccines that have been shown (maybe, the data has still not been officially published anywhere to my knowledge, but only presented to a small select audience of infectious disease specialists) to keep already healthy young adults from progressing to serious forms of the disease, but which still allows for these individuals to be active carriers of SARS-CoV-2, and able to transmit the virus to others who are not vaccinated, and possibly even others who are vaccinated. These vaccines will absolutely make some of those who receive them sick in the short term and possible much more sick in the medium to long term, and one or more than one booster shot will be required, with less and less people actually continuing the series through to the end. For these five reasons plus my own (hypothetical) concerns about the use of whole spike protein as a vaccine target I cannot endorse the current vaccines, will not accept a vaccination with one of them, and am counseling the same to all my friends and loved ones.
This should not be taken in any way as some sort of anti-vaxxer stance, and is in no way motivated by a distrust of “big pharma” or whatever other conspiracy theory the anti-vaxx crowd is currently spouting. I happen to believe all of the researchers involved in this work genuinely believe that the vaccines they have developed will on balance do more good than harm. Also, I am a huge believer in the power and utility of vaccines in general and a big proponent of their use. If anything I think the US is way too restrictive in its stance on access to certain vaccines that are widely available, safe, and commonly used overseas. When correctly developed, their effectiveness in eradicating and controlling disease cannot be called into question. Moreover, it should be made clear, if it hasn’t already, they have all of the information in front of them. All I have are vague “reports” and second or third hand information. They have seen all the data, I have not. But, really what it boils down to for myself, is that very point, I have not, and why exactly is that?