If your vaccine works, why do you need me to take it? If your vaccine doesn’t work, why do you need me to take it?
Written by an Arkansas Physician
October 14, 2021
These are the questions I have asked frequently, and they have framed my thought process throughout the vaccine mandate debate. If the COVID vaccines were sterilizing immunity there would be holes in the logic presented by those questions. For instance, there are some that aren’t able to take the vaccines, so the idea is that my taking the vaccine would help protect those people. The other idea, which is similar, is that the higher the percentage of vaccinated individuals the better the herd immunity will be which will help decrease the spread and incidence of disease. However, the COVID vaccines we currently have are not sterilizing immunity, they are “leaky”. A leaky vaccine is one that doesn’t prevent infection or spread of the disease it is targeting.
Stating that COVID vaccines are leaky shouldn’t be a controversial statement anymore since it is a fact the CDC admits, and has been clearly demonstrated in scientific literature and by observation. It is also evidenced by the fact the CDC still recommends vaccinated individuals wear a mask when indoors in public (remember we are told masks are for protection of others, not ourselves). The fact that boosters are being recommended is yet further evidence of this fact as well. The CDC currently states vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections are infectious for a shorter period of time compared to infected unvaccinated persons. That may be, but I’m not sure how that helps on a small scale / individual level. Do we have any way of knowing when a vaccinated person becomes infectious or when they are no longer infectious? Maybe the number of people a vaccinated person can infect can be reduced because their infectious period is shorter, but does that matter when we are talking about the risk of spread to employees, patients, family members, etc.? I would venture to say that a shorter infectious period means nothing in that context. If the risk of spread is there…. then there is a risk of spread, period. It doesn’t matter that the risk is for a shorter duration.
The idea that vaccinated individuals are less of a threat to spread the disease is further complicated by the fact that it has been shown numerous times that the viral loads, as measured by swabbing the nose and oropharynx, are the same in infected vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. This would suggest the risk of transmission would be similar in the two groups. The picture below is just one illustration of this fact, there are many others.
What about herd immunity? Isn’t herd immunity dependent on vaccination? Yes, vaccination can contribute to herd immunity, if it is a sterilizing vaccine. However, the benefit to the herd is greatly reduced when the vaccine is leaky. This is because the virus is still able to spread throughout the herd. This has been seen in multiple places with high vaccination rates. See outbreaks in Barnstable County, MA with >75% vaccination rate, Island of Gibraltar >99%, Israel >80%, and the British navy vessel HMS Queen Elizabeth 100%. We also need to realize that humans are not the only members of the herd when we are talking about COVID. According to the CDC, “Recent experimental research shows that many mammals, including cats, dogs, bank voles, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, pigs, rabbits, racoons, tree shrews, and white-tailed deer can be infected with the virus.” So, even if the vaccines were sterilizing, we would need to vaccinate all of those animals (or at least a large percentage of them) if we hope to reach herd immunity. Another topic to discuss would be the likelihood of the virus to develop escape mutants, but I’ll save that for another day. Suffice it to say for now, escape variants are more likely with leaky vaccines.
One benefit of these vaccines that we have observed is that vaccinated individuals do seem to have a reduced risk of severe disease from COVID. There are some questions about how universal that protection is or how long it lasts. But so far the experience in Arkansas has been consistent with that observation. That being the case, we would have to agree that vaccinated individuals that become infected are more likely to have mild disease. By a show of hands, how many of you have gone to work, to school, to a concert, to a sporting event, to the theater with “a cold”? How likely do you think it would be for a vaccinated person infected with COVID to blow off their symptoms as “just a cold”? Now what about unvaccinated individuals, many of them will have mild disease as well, but we are telling everyone that severe disease is much more common in the unvaccinated. Therefore, if they get sick…won’t they be more likely to stay home and away from others? I think the security some feel by restricting contact to only vaccinated persons is little more than political theater and is really a false sense of security.
After listening to the discussions on the Arkansas House and Senate floors, and in the Public Health committees last week it is clear many of our elected officials are giving these vaccines way more credit than they deserve, and the result is an unnecessary destruction of personal liberties, and countless individuals losing their jobs with no scientific basis. These vaccines do currently provide a benefit, but those benefits are realized on an individual level. There is little benefit offered towards herd immunity, meaning my vaccination shouldn’t give you much comfort that I’m going to protect you. One of the bills that was discussed was a bill that would prohibit employers from asking about vaccination status. One of the objections raised was the fact that there were no restrictions on the size of business effected by the bill. An example given was that if you were to hire a house cleaner you wouldn’t be able to ask them about their vaccination status. Okay, but in light of what I have stated above, what do you gain by obtaining that knowledge? Are you really more protected? Can you be confident that there is no risk of transmission because your house cleaner, coworker, family member, friend, etc. is vaccinated? Does it bring you comfort that your vaccinated house cleaner is infectious for a shorter period of time? Seems to me if the goal is to prevent the spread of COVID you would need to know if the person you or your loved ones will be around is currently infected, and their vaccination status does not give you that info.
A policy of testing everyone would be more consistent with what we know about the disease and these vaccines, but at what point do we stop the monomaniacal focus on COVID and realize there are countless other things to be concerned about, and that there is a life that needs to be lived. Life is more than the avoidance of death and disease. If all that mattered was the avoidance of disease, then a life lived alone in a sterile room would be more meaningful and enjoyable than a life full of sharing time with friends and family, attending the theater, music events, or sporting events, traveling with loved ones to new places, taking risks, and pursuing dreams. But we know that isn’t the case. Humans are social beings; we do not thrive in solitude. There’s a reason one of the worst punishments we can receive is solitary confinement.
I realize extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, but at some point, we need to realize that “zero COVID” is an unreasonable goal. We need to realize COVID is, or will be, endemic and it is just another virus to add to the long list of viruses humans have learned to live with. We can take actions to reduce risk of severe disease, and that may include taking a vaccine for many individuals, but with what we know about these vaccines there is no reason to mandate everyone take them. Nor is there any reason to treat those who choose not to take them any differently than those who have.
If we are so dead set on separating people, let’s at least be consistent with what we know and do it in a way that actually makes sense. Let’s separate the infected from the uninfected, but realize that this has nothing to do with vaccination status. We could also go ahead and create a third group. Call them the previously infected. These are people we can put on a pedestal, give them gold stars, preferred parking spots, bonuses at work, and free passes to shop and travel. These are the people proven to have contributed to herd immunity and pose the least amount of risk to those around them as well as to themselves. These are the people you want to hire to be around your loved ones, if you are wanting to protect them.
We have caused enough damage, destroyed enough careers, and trampled on enough liberties following faulty logic and trusting in these vaccines way more than is warranted. It is far past time we start making decisions based on reality, evidence, and science, and stop basing decisions on fear, false hope, and the word of a scientist.