How, some readers ask, can this column, written by a mere layman, assert that the COVID-19 vaccines aren't very effective?
First, it's because the COVID-19 vaccines are not really vaccines at all as vaccines were defined prior to the current epidemic.
That is, vaccines previously were defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as inoculants that "produce immunity to a specific disease."But last September, as the failure of the COVID-19 vaccines to "produce immunity" was realized, the CDC changed the definition. Now the CDC defines a vaccine as "a preparation that is used to stimulate the body's immune response against diseases."
The new definition contains nothing about the sufficiency of the immune response stimulated by the vaccine. Presumably a preparation that produces even an insufficient immune response can be considered a vaccine now.
The CDC acknowledges that fully vaccinated people can become infected with the COVID-19 virus and, even while without symptoms, can infect other people. Indeed, last week more than 30% of the people in Connecticut hospitals who were being treated for COVID-19 were fully vaccinated, and state government has recorded more than 80,000 cases of fully vaccinated people who still have come down with the virus.
This doesn't make the COVID-19 vaccines useless. Those 80,000 cases were only 2.3% of all people in the state known to have gotten the virus.
Rather this makes the COVID-19 vaccines not very effective as vaccines were defined until recently. It makes them therapies that, at least for now, prevent or mitigate symptoms for most infected people. Even so, these therapeutic vaccines produce far more adverse reactions than traditional vaccines, and as adverse reactions keep being discovered, the COVID-19 vaccines remain experimental. So they are less effective on their own merits as well as less effective than traditional vaccines.
Second, the COVID-19 vaccines are not very effective because they require more booster shots.
Just last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shortened from six months to five the duration between the first two inoculations and the third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, since they are losing effect faster than first thought.
Meanwhile concerns are growing that such frequent boostering may damage the human immune system.
Even leading medical authorities in government admit these deficiencies.
Last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined two other doctors in writing: “As important as these vaccines are, however, their protective efficacy wanes over time, necessitating booster doses. Vaccination has also been unable to prevent ‘breakthrough' infections, allowing subsequent transmission to other people even when the vaccine prevents severe and fatal disease.”
Because of these deficiencies, Fauci and his colleagues wrote, “We urgently need universal coronavirus vaccines” – that is, vaccines that don't have to be tailored to particular coronaviruses.
Last week the chairman of the British government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, said booster shots should be suspended. “We can't vaccinate the planet every four to six months,” Pollard said. “It's not sustainable or affordable.”
Pollard said there is no point in trying to stop all infections. Instead, “We need to target the vulnerable.”
Indeed, while the polio vaccines have been widely available for more than 60 years, the planet is not yet fully vaccinated against that crippling disease. Prosperous Americans may consider boostering every four or five months to be no trouble, but residents of the developing world probably won't. Frequent boostering in Connecticut's poor cities probably won't be so effective either, since vaccinating people there even once has been a struggle.
By contrast, because of their ease of delivery, certain therapies against COVID-19, especially those taken by mouth, can be quickly effective. Several such therapies, cheap and safe, have been successful against COVID-19 outside the United States, far from the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. People who advocate these therapies here are censored and blacklisted.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.