One Finite Planet

Vaccines are an Experiment: With People As Guinea Pigs?

Someone recently suggested to me that vaccines represent an experiment, and people are the guinea pigs.

It is a very valid point that vaccinating an entire population is an experiment, and there are risks. The real questions becomes, what are those risks, does the “payback” justify the risks, and are steps to minimise risks adequate.

Why Complain: People Are Often Guinea Pigs?

People become guinea pigs for new things all the time without even giving it a second thought, and very often with zero trials or safeguards.

People were guinea pigs when a whole generation of kids grew up watching tv, and again now with a generation growing up exposed to social media. People become guinea pigs so often that it doesn’t make the news anymore, but we should not just ignore that it happens.

At least with vaccines, there are sound processes, mostly staffed by well intentioned normal people who are not all part of some conspiracy as some believe, to reduce the risk posed by the experiment, but it is still an experiment.

The Safety Experiment: What Are The Risks.

Being vaccinated is far from completely harmless. Vaccines don’t even fight disease or hang around in your body beyond a couple of weeks, but they give your body a look at something that looks a little like the virus, and your body’s own reaction to that triggers your immune system:

  • The immune system fights future infections, not the vaccine.
  • Is ‘primed’ in a way that lasts at least several months and maybe for ever.
  • Can, in admittedly rare cases, can cause problems that make people unwell, or even die.

The assessment is that for most people, exposure to Covid-19 without vaccination is a far, far more risky experiment than vaccination.

Both exposure to the vaccine, and expose to the virus without vaccination are both significant, and dangerous experiments. Both trigger the immune system, which is dangerous, just that the virus does more. The only choice available is to choose between experiments. If there was an option to not run either experiment, this would certainly be preferable. The problem is, for most countries, avoiding the virus is not an option. In fact, those that have chosen to use quarantine to keep the virus out have been subject to significant criticism.

At least most countries have decided that, for over 12s or over 16s depending on country, it is clear enough the vaccination experiment presents significantly lower risks. The young fit and healthy can still die from Covid-19, but their risk is reduced, so at this time, it is assumed that risk/benefit for the very young becomes questionable. If you are under 16, it would seem to be less certain what is best.

Realistically, the risk from either vaccination or virus is quite low for young healthy adults. Yes, the risk from vaccination is lower than from the virus, which means it is ethical to vaccinate, but if the risk is already low, is the expense and effort to lower risks even further justified?

In the end, the assessment the cost and effort of vaccination is justified:

  • By reducing deaths a relatively small amount within young healthy people, as every life saved is till valuable.
  • By reducing the risk of a chains of transmission, which increase deaths within all age groups.
  • By reducing hosts for virus mutations.

Vaccine Risk vs Infection Risk.

(update: I have later page further examining actual outcomes following vaccination)

Getting vaccinated means you will get the vaccine for certain, while it may not be certain you will ever be infected with the virus. There have been situations, like in Australia or New Zealand in early 2021, when there was more immediate risk from the vaccine, than from the virus, because at that time, no one was being infected within those countries. It did not take long for the odds to be reversed, but if you live somewhere that the virus will not reach, then the case for vaccination changes.

So if you live in a location with no Covid-19 around or you are under 16 or not much older, then it can make sense to at least hold off on being vaccinated.

There is the adage “do your own research”, but the cost of the lab, test equipment and medical facilities is quite prohibitive, and allocating friends and family to the placebo group could be problematic. Better to follow properly conducted research. There is the claim that vaccine companies have a financial reason to understate risks from vaccination, but government do run safeguards on that. It is also true that social media companies who have higher profits the more time people spend in the virtual world have far, far greater financial reasons to promote reasons to reduce confidence in the vaccines, and lengthen the pandemic.

For those over 16 in locations where the virus is circulating, the evidence is very compelling from existing research that it is better to be guinea pig for the effects of the vaccine than a guinea pig for the effects of the virus.

The Effectiveness Experiment: The Forgotten Risk.

All vaccine trials check not only for safety, but also for ‘efficacy’. At first I thought if I have a vaccine with 90% efficacy, that must mean I would be then 90% protected. It turn out, no, this is not necessarily the case. Unlike the virus, vaccines themselves are basically harmless, and when there is harm, it is the reaction of our bodies own immune system that causes the problems. You could think of an allergic response as like an anxiety, an overreaction to something that was not really a threat. With the original vaccinus or “from the cow” (origin of the word ‘vaccine’) there was an injection of a real cowpox virus, but most modern vaccines are not just less dangerous than the target disease, they present no threat at all.

There is simply no need for our body to produce any immune reaction to the vaccine at all. The desired response is that our immune system if fooled into responding, even when there is no need.

On one hand we don’t want people to dangerously overreact, but there can also be a percentage people with no reaction at all. If a person’s immune system correctly determines the vaccine is not even a threat, then as within around 2 weeks, the vaccine will be gone, and the person will be no more immune than the were before.

A component of vaccine ‘efficacy’ is the percentage of people have the same risk after vaccination as they did before vaccination.

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