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What an Honest Vaccine Rollout Announcement Might Have Looked Like 


Establishing counterfactual arguments can be a very valuable intellectual exercise. They help us remember something that our current oligarchic media system desperately wants us to forget: that there are always alternatives to what they sell to us as The Only Realistic Way Forward™. 

Put another way, articulating what might have been, helps us recover and stimulate the moral and intellectual imagination we must constantly cultivate if we are to resist the many incipient tyrannies in our midst. After all, if they kill our ability to envision more dignified and life affirming approaches to our common problems—as they seem to have successfully done with so many of our well-credentialed countrymen— then it’s game over. They win. 

It is in that spirit of “Intimate Resistance” that I submit the following version of what a Vaccine rollout document would look like if the governing agencies charged with protecting our health actually saw us as something more than cattle to be directed into behaviors amenable to the bottom lines of Big Pharma, and the goals of a Deep State ever more interested in exercising control over the most intimate rhythms of our lives.

Three Covid Vaccines Granted Emergency Use Authorizations by the FDA

March 1, 2021

Over the last year, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused numerous hospitalizations and deaths in our nation. While the number of Covid hospitalizations and deaths reported in the press are often appear quite large, no one is quite sure what they actually are owing to a) the proven inaccuracy of PCR tests b) the decision of the CDC not to distinguish clearly between those that were hospitalized or died primarily because of the virus and those for whom it was an ancillary factor in a much more grave and complex panel of ailments. 

It is also important to bear in mind that for all the media comparisons to previous pandemics like the Spanish Flu of 1918, which is estimated to have claimed as many as 50 million victims worldwide across a broad set of age cohorts, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been relatively mild, with an Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) in general fairly close to that of the yearly flu, and an age gradient for severe illness and death that is overwhelmingly tilted toward the aged and/or those already battling multiple maladies.

But, of course, every severe illness or death is a tragedy for the family affected by them. This is why we are pleased to now offer the US public three new experimental vaccines, brought to market on an extremely accelerated schedule as part of the Operation Warp Speed effort initiated by President Trump in 2020. 

Initial trial results suggest that these new medications may help curtail the rates of severe illness and death among those most prone to the most negative effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, we must underscore that since those trials were dramatically shorter than those normally required by federal rules, excluding animal trials which are often conducted to gauge both the effectiveness and possible side effects of new medicines, we cannot give any solid assurances that this will be the case. 

Facts you need to know

  1. These vaccines are being made available to the public under Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs), a categorization that falls considerably short of “Approval” owing to the drastic foreshortening of the trial process mentioned above. Therefore any claim that the vaccines are “safe and effective” must be seen not as factual, but rather aspirational. We will only be able to arrive at definitive conclusions about their effectiveness and safety in several years time when the full cycle of trials is completed and/or government agencies have rigorously collated and analyzed the results of their widespread experimental use among the public. 
  1. According to the federal rules governing the deployment of EUA products citizens have “the option to accept or refuse administration of the product” and about “the alternatives to the product that are available and of their benefits and risks.” Additionally, the EEOC has made clear that, under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, employers cannot offer incentives for vaccine uptake that are in any way coercive. 
  1. These US government rules are grounded in the broader structure of international law relating to medical experimentation that grew out of the Nuremberg Principles articulated in the wake of widespread medical experimentation by Nazi doctors on human subjects which state clearly that in matters of medical treatment the “voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” In short, no medication can be forced upon a human being without his or her consent. As a key promoter of, and signatory to, the Nuremberg Principles, the US government is legally bound by the directives contained therein. 
  1. The US government has granted the three large pharmaceutical companies that have produced such vaccines complete immunity from liability for any damages they might cause to those who take them. Therefore, if these experimental vaccines in any way damage your health, or the health of a member of your family, you will have little or no legal recourse for gaining compensation.
  1. The traditional attraction of vaccines to those making public health policies lies in their ability to turn the vaccinated person into a “dead end” for the virus. Vaccines that have the capacity to stop the chain of infection and transmission in this way are said to offer “sterilizing immunity.” While some scientists have expressed the hope that by lowering viral loads in the bodies of those injected with these three products (itself a largely unproven supposition), infection and transmission might be attenuated, there is nothing in the clinical data currently available to substantiate this claim. In fact, in the summaries of the clinical data gathered as part of the government’s EUA of the three products (here (Pfizer p. 53 , Moderna p.48 , and Janssen p.55 ) all state clearly there is not enough information to make any such assertions.
  1. Given that the vaccines have shown no documented ability to stop infection and transmission, the argument that one should get vaccinated to further the public good has little or no validity. Rather, the decision to take one of them should be seen as a purely personal decision. 
  1. As mentioned above, the one area where the experimental vaccines appear to have shown some effectiveness is in limiting severe illness and death among the relatively small number of the people in the volunteer cohort who became infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, this apparent success must be weighed against the fact that in at least one of the trials, overall mortality was greater in the vaccinated group than in the control group. Moreover, the EUA documents produced by the FDA on the basis of information provided to them by the pharmaceutical companies (see section 6 above) demonstrate that none of the companies were willing to even suggest that the ability of the vaccines to curtail severe illness and death might last beyond a period of two months. 
  1. The rates of vaccine effectiveness currently circulating in the media (e.g. the much repeated 95% attributed to the Pfizer vaccine) do not, as many people seem to assume, refer in any way to the level of overall protection a person receives against becoming infected or passing on the virus. As we have seen, the companies have admitted that there was not enough clinical information to make any claims in these areas of vital public concern. 

So what do they refer to? 

When speaking about vaccine effectiveness, we can express it in two principal ways. 

The first is in terms of Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR). 

For example, in the case of the Pfizer trials the number of people who developed Covid in the control (unvaccinated) group was an already incredibly low 0.88% (162 of a total of 18,325 people). In the vaccinated group, the number of those developing the disease was 0.04% (8 out of a total of 18, 198). When we calculate the difference between the two outcomes as a percentage we get an ARR of 0.84%. That is, you are 0.84% less likely to develop Covid if you get the injection. And that “benefit” only holds, according to the statistics provided by Pfizer, for the first seven days after injection.

So where does the famous 95% effective claim come from? 

That’s the expression of vaccine effectiveness in Relative Risk Reduction (RRR); that is, the difference between 0.84% and 0.04% expressed as a percentage. 

Again, this is not, we believe it is safe to say, what most people in the public understand when they hear that the mantra that the current vaccines are 95% effective. 

Summary: We are glad that these vaccines have been made available to the public, as they may prove to be beneficial for a number of people for whom health profiles make especially vulnerable to severe sickness and death as a result of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

However, it is important to underscore that these vaccines are experimental and that no one actually understands their full effectiveness nor the set of side effects they might induce. And should severe side effects develop, the vaccinee will find him or herself without legal relief before the vaccine manufacturers. 

Moreover, as the abbreviated clinical trials have shown, these are not sterilizing vaccines and thus no one can or should be coerced to taking them in the name of the “public good.” And even if they were shown to serve the public good by stopping infection and transmission, US government regulations and international law clearly prohibit coercing the individual citizen into taking them. 

We wish you the best of luck in making your own decision about what medications you choose to take into your body at this troubling time in our nation’s history. 

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  • Thomas Harrington

    Thomas Harrington, Senior Brownstone Scholar and Brownstone Fellow, is Professor Emeritus of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he taught for 24 years. His research is on Iberian movements of national identity and contemporary Catalan culture. His essays are published at Words in The Pursuit of Light.

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