The United Kingdom government has today announced its approval of the first Covid19 vaccine for general use. 800,000 doses are slated to be released for general use by the end of the week, and has already signed a contract for 40 million more doses (to go along with over 300 million doses of as-yet-unreleased vaccines from other companies).
With the newest phase in the Covid19 roll-out set to begin, it’s time we addressed the five biggest questions about this vaccine, its effectiveness, its safety and whether or not we’ll be forced to use it.
1. DOES IT WORK?
Clearly, the company claims it does, and the UK government seems to believe them. The Guardian, in their coverage of the vaccine, claim it has a 95% efficacy rating, but does not provide a source for this or any kind of data at all.
Fortunately, better journalists and researchers are writing for the British Medical Journal, including this piece from Peter Doshi just last week.
To explain where this “95% effective” claim actually comes from:
The Pfizer vaccine trial included nearly 44,000 people. Half getting their vaccine, half getting a placebo. In total, from the 44,000 people, 170 were later recorded as having become ‘infected with Covid19’. 162 of them were in the placebo group, 8 of them in the vaccine group.
The vaccine is therefore credited with preventing 154 cases of Covid19…or 95%.
You don’t need to be a medical researcher or virologist to see how potentially flawed this reasoning is. The entire trial of 44,000 people is deemed a success based on the potentially multi-variant outcome from less than 4% of those involved.
The details of the trial are hard to come by, so we have yet to find out how these 170 people were even diagnosed with “Covid19”. Was it a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms? Or PCR test? Either method would raise serious questions about accuracy.
In short, the answer to “Does it work?” is “we have no idea.”
2. IS IT SAFE?
Potentially more important than the question of efficacy is the question of safety. No one, not even the vaccines most ardent defenders, is denying that this vaccine process has been rushed – vaccines typically take years and years to produce, whereas this one has been hurried on to the market in less than nine months. Some of them have skipped important stages in testing altogether.
Even supposing the short term trials have not shown any side effects, there has simply been no time to do long-term outcome studies. The potential for complications, months or years down the line, certainly exists.
Further, the vaccine is based on new technology – an mRNA vaccine, which injects viral genetic material to generate an immune response. The technology has been in development for years, but this would be the first mRNA vaccine actually put to use.
So, again, the short answer to “is it safe?” is “we don’t know”.
However, the vaccine pushers and manufacturers clearly have doubts about its safety, since they have gone out of their way guarantee they have total legal indemnity from prosecution or civil suits should something go wrong. Not a confidence booster that.
Ask yourself: if Ford or BMW were releasing a new type of car based on “cutting edge technology”, but before you buy one you have to sign a waiver saying you can’t sue the car manufacturers in the event you explode in a fiery ball of death…would you drive that car?
3. WHAT’S IN IT?
This is a simple one. We don’t know, they won’t say. At least not in anything but the vaguest terms.