An Open Letter from an ‘Anti-Vaxxer’
A brief exposition on my position, which is constantly evolving
I do not self-identify with the pejorative term, ‘anti-vaxxer’, though I am well aware it is one many will choose to label me with, and so I will embrace it. In 2019 I visited Madagascar with two friends. About a month before our vacation I visited a local vaccine clinic to find out what inoculations I needed to travel there. I was told typhoid was required and yellow fever was recommended, and without flinching I asked for both. I did not research these vaccines, I emphatically trusted that it was both safe and beneficial to receive them. Many feel that way about the Covid vaccines, but I do not. So, what changed?
Covid is caused by a coronavirus, a type of virus that is notorious for being difficult to inoculate against. If someone had claimed in 2018 that there was a vaccine for the common cold, most people’s intuitions would be skepticism. Most people are familiar with the seasonality of the cold and flu, and the fact that either can be caught year after year. What is more, most people knew that flu vaccines existed, but likely thought they were unnecessary and ineffective — or at least that is what I thought (and I may be taking it for granted that others thought the same way). Regardless, diseases always fell into these two informal categories for me: curable diseases that my body needs help dealing with in the form of vaccines, and uncurable diseases that I can handle just fine without vaccines (e.g., cold and flu).
To me, Covid always fell in the latter category. As I have learned more about vaccines and viruses over the past two years, as I’m sure everyone has, I have become more convinced of that. There is no cure for Covid, and the risk to me of getting hit so hard with Covid that I suffer serious consequences from it in the form of hospitalization or death is so low as to reasonably think my body can handle the disease on its own. Moreover, the certitude that the vaccines would prevent those consequences would have to be high, such that it is worth bearing the costs.
I want to talk about the costs of getting vaccinated. I think this is something people who are vaccinated overlook. I do not want to spread fear or anxiety about the vaccines, nor make people who have taken the vaccines regret their decision. Getting vaccinated was always a noble and selfless decision, and I do recognize that. But the vaccines are risky. Those risks can come in all sorts of forms — from harmful reactions to the spike proteins, to long-term autoimmune responses to the antibodies, to allergic reactions to buffers and other chemicals in the vaccines, to virological consequences such as antibody dependent enhancement and original antigenic sin. It is not my point here to quantify those risks or put them into a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, but merely to be honest about the fact that such risks are acknowledged outside of conspiracy theory forums on the dark web. Incurring the costs of receiving the vaccines is an irreversible and unknown hazard. I commend the people who were able to confront those risks in order to do what they perceived was best for society, but I remain unconvinced that it will turn out to have been the best thing to do.
There is a lot of data out there. More data than anyone can parse through. I do not pretend to know what the data concludes, but I know enough to know it is impossible to be certain about whether the vaccine program will turn out to be a success or a failure. There are studies that have found the vaccinated carry similar viral load and are more likely to asymptomatically transmit Covid to others. That should worry us all as society increasingly moves into a social world mediated by vaccine passports and the pervasive misconception that anyone not presenting with symptoms is safe to be around. This is just one example of the unintended consequences of a well-intentioned vaccine campaign. We cannot possibly know what other unintended consequences lie in wait.
That is not to say the vaccines have been a complete failure. There is good data that supports their ability to fend off serious disease and hospitalization, particularly in those most at risk from Covid. However, despite that data, excess deaths in vaccinated populations continues to outpace excess deaths in the unvaccinated, even when controlling for age. These data concern me greatly, and they should concern everyone, even the most ardent vaccine proponents. Furthermore, Covid did not stop being a problem even in jurisdictions with remarkably high vaccine uptake, such as Gibraltar and Israel. Again, this doesn’t mean the vaccines are failing, because for all we know those places would have had an even harder time with Covid without the vaccines, but it’s curious data nonetheless.
Lastly, I want to mention vaccine injuries. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of developing myocarditis or suddenly keeling over dead with a pulmonary embolism from taking the vaccine. It remains to be seen that these risks are less than the risks from Covid, or more appropriately if the combined risk of vaccine injury and breakthrough Covid injury is less than the risk of unvaccinated Covid injury. I have not seen any data to support the claim that the vaccines ameliorate the harm done by Covid to the degree that it clearly outweighs the risks of the jab itself. What I have seen are haphazard assessments that Covid injuries are worse or more common than vaccine injuries, but if breakthrough cases become common, whereby people incur the costs of vaccines and Covid, that is not the correct analysis.
I remain unconvinced that vaccines are in the best interest of public health for Covid-19 specifically. For other diseases, the epidemiological argument for vaccines is often clear and obvious. However, that herd immunity can be reached through vaccines for Covid is not borne out by the data. It is clear that people who are vaccinated still transmit the disease, perhaps just as much as the unvaccinated after a few months, that the virus continues to mutate in ways that escapes the vaccine immunity, and that the vaccine campaign has thusfar failed in its goal to eliminate Covid-19.
Now, you can call me an anti-vaxxer or a conspiracy theorist, I may very well be those things, but I am also an empiricist. I love data and I am comfortable confronting data that challenges my beliefs. I have not been stuck in an echo chamber for two years only ever hearing one side of the data on the Covid vaccines. I certainly haven’t consumed all of it, only a small fraction of it, but it’s a reasonably even sampling. If you are still reading this, and are interested in some data from my side of the fence, I will provide a list of references at the end for further reading. I did not want this to be a heavily cited piece, because I wanted to speak freely from the heart. I also would love to see data that challenges my position.
What I call on from everyone is a reassessment. It is time to reassess our assumptions about the moral claim behind getting vaccinated, or the claim that remaining unvaccinated is somehow immoral. It is time to reassess our assumptions about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. It is time to reassess the promise of vaccines ending the pandemic. We must not divide ourselves as team vaccinated versus team unvaccinated — that is preposterous. This is not a pandemic of the unvaccinated, nor is it a pandemic of the vaccinated. It is a pandemic of human beings, some of whom were willing to try the vaccines, some of whom weren’t. It is a pandemic of us. Always has been.
Perhaps the question we should all be asking ourselves is this: is all of this worth it? Social distancing. Wearing masks. Masking children. Keeping kids out of school. Avoiding our friends and family. Staying home, day after day. Fearing one another. Fearing living. Fearing travelling. Sacrificing the essence of what it means to be human in the pursuit of avoiding a small chance of death. Because that is what is on the line. So I ask you this: are you willing to accept the risk of death to begin living? We have that option. We cannot eliminate the risk of death in any aspect of our lives, Covid included. But we have the choice to accept that risk. To stare it in the face with courage. With determination. Not determination to wipe Covid off the face of the Earth, but to wipe its fear from our minds. Determination to go on living in spite of the real risk that is Covid. Courage not to turn on our fellow man, knowing full well they could get us sick with a virus that poses real threat to our life. I would like it if we could all come together in agreement that the benefits of living vastly outweigh the costs of hiding from Covid. Because that is the real risk-benefit analysis. And the tip of the balance is clear to me. Let’s work together to make that clear to everyone.
Further reading (and watching):
Alex Berenson - Unreported Truths
Alexandros Marinos - Twitter
Bret Weinstein - DarkHorse Podcast
Chris Martenson - Peak Prosperity
Dr. John Campbell - YouTube
Mathew Crawford - Rounding the Earth
Dr. Robert Malone - Twitter