I had that rare experience of a cordial disagreement with someone today: in this case over the COVID-19 vaccination.
Essentially, a Facebook friend shared the below image, posted publicly by another Facebooker.
Having briefly surveyed the original image and accompanying post text “And that’s just in one week.”, it was immediately pretty obvious that the figures were questionable, but it was apparently a government source and the original poster had at least included the source, so I couldn’t resist taking a look.
In the interests of openness, the report source is
Worth noting first of all is that the image doesn’t appear to originate from the source, which is far more detailed on specific side effects of the Pfizer vaccination (64 pages).
The source reports on the vaccinations separate out increased reporting of a side-effect from fatalities, but, as with reports on COVID-19 deaths, it’s clearly stated in accompanying documentation that there isn’t necessarily a causal link.
In other words, somebody had these reactions after they had been vaccinated and not necessarily because they’d been vaccinated.
These are clearly raw data from which any obvious large incidents of adverse reactions could be drawn. It’s also important to state that most of these reactions are short-term and not at all atypical for other vaccinations.
Most importantly, the figures are NOT just for one week, as the original post claims, but since the start of the vaccination programme in December, from 8th December, 2020 to 7th March, 2021.
I immediately get suspicious when someone misrepresents data, as the original poster has, whether wilfully or otherwise. What’s their reason for doing so?
So, from the source, for the specified time frame, since the start of the vaccination programme to early March, these are the numbers:
For the Pfizer vaccination, 35,325 reports have been filed, in which 1,008 reactions of any kind have been reported and 237 deaths.
For the Astra Zeneca vaccination, 61,304 reports have been filed, in which 228,337 reactions of any kind have been reported and 289 deaths.
There have been a total number of 22,377,255 first and 1,142,650 second doses issued in the UK during the specified time frame.
It’s also worth remembering that one person can have multiple reactions, so a headache and nausea in one person counts as two reactions. Some of the reactions are also extremely insignificant and short term (e.g. bruising on the arm).
“For both vaccines, the overwhelming majority of reports relate to injection-site reactions (sore arm for example) and generalised symptoms such as ‘flu-like’ illness, headache, chills, fatigue (tiredness), nausea (feeling sick), fever, dizziness, weakness, aching muscles, and rapid heartbeat. Generally, these happen shortly after the vaccination and are not associated with more serious or lasting illness.
These types of reactions reflect the normal immune response triggered by the body to the vaccines. They are typically seen with most types of vaccine and tend to resolve within a day or two. The nature of reported suspected side effects is broadly similar across age groups, although, as was seen in clinical trials and as is usually seen with other vaccines, they may be reported more frequently in younger adults.”
We should also keep in mind that more elderly and vulnerable people have been targeted for vaccination first, who, one would expect, would be far more likely to experience side-effects.
Also, regarding the fatal outcomes following vaccinations, the report states:
“The majority of these reports were in elderly people or people with underlying illness.”
Finally, for comparison, there have been 4,285,684 COVID-19 infections reported in the UK since the start of the outbreak (https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases) and 126,026 deaths within 28 days of a positive test (https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/deaths) — that’s distinct from those who died with Covid noted on the death certificate, which was a higher number (146,487).
To summarise, from the above, we can see the mortality rates, and I guess our biggest concern should be to avoid deaths.
Deaths: COVID-19: 126,026 deaths following 4,285,684 diagnoses = 2.9%
Vaccinations: 526 deaths following 23,519,905 vaccinations = 0.002%.
Having replied with the above, my interlocutor quite reasonably responded with:
“I just wonder why you would have a vaccination before it’s been thoroughly tested and proven to work? Most people I know are having it to ‘get back to normal’ or go on holiday but the way I see it, it’s not actually going to change anything – it doesn’t protect you or stop the spread etc so I really do struggle to see the logic.”
I’m satisfied that it has been sufficiently tested for me to be prepared to take it. Granted, it has been unusually hurried – we’re not in a standard situation and so tests have been conducted concurrently in places, where historically they were conducted sequentially and there was not so great a pressing need. But nothing I have seen makes me think that corners have been cut and when researchers themselves have been prepared to subject themselves to the vaccinations, that speaks volumes.
Unless of course we don’t believe that has happened. People are equally welcome to believe that.
We know that hospitalisations and deaths significantly decreased immediately after the roll-out of vaccinations (94% decrease in hospital admissions, if my memory serves me well), and I am far more concerned about the potentially fatal aspects of COVID-19 than I am worried about side-effects. There are side-effects of many if not most prescription drugs.
The one benefit we know of vaccination based on the above figures is the personal benefit, in decreasing the likelihood of death if we catch it.
It doesn’t mean everything just goes back to normal immediately, and it certainly doesn’t stop the likelihood of transmission, but the more people are not susceptible to the worst effects of it, the sooner we are likely to get back to some semblance of normality.
Over time, sufficient numbers of people will have developed resistance to it from either catching and recovering from it, or from the vaccination (both effectively teaching the body’s immune system about the virus and how to fight it), or by killing the person who catches it. A virus which can kill its host isn’t particularly smart, as in killing its host, it cuts down its own chances of transmission.
Ultimately, by one of those three ways, we’ll slowly build up resistance as a society. People can choose to vaccinate themselves, or run the risk of catching it and recovering from or dying from it.
They may be lucky and never catch it, but I won’t personally take the risk. The stats look pretty favourable to me in terms of the vaccination route.
The issue of the vaccination and people’s reluctance aside, I actually found the exchange refreshing.
Neither of us exchanged insults or resorted to personal attacks. We simply had a polite exchange of views and agreed to disagree.
I know it’s easy to descend to insults on social media, but this exchange ended maturely.
And that in itself was a refreshing change.