One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Covid-19 Vaccine Myths

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There are many many myths about vaccines. Ranging from they are all part of some conspiracy, through to they are a miracle solution to Covid-19. Myths that place too much faith in vaccines can cause ‘Covid-19 complacency’, which could make things even worse in 2021 than even 2020.

This post focuses on myths that place too much faith in vaccines.

  • Vaccinated People won’t may need to quarantine
  • Myth: Vaccines Inherently Prevent Spread
  • Myth: Vaccines freely available ends the pandemic
  • Myth: UK was first to approve a vaccine

Vaccinated People won’t may need to quarantine

This may be possible at some time in future, but we just do not know yet if it ever will be possible. See ‘myth: vaccines inherently prevent spread’.

There will very likely be some vaccines available at some point which prevent people being infectious, but current trials look to measure how ill vaccinated people get when they get infected after being vaccinated.

Measuring how infections people are after being vaccinated is secondary, because first you want to know if the infected person themselves will be ok. We have that first data now for a few vaccines and that news is good, but it is not what we need to know before allowing skipping quarantine.

To provide a vaccines prevents a person becoming infectious is much harder. It seems unlikely all current vaccines would succeed, as it has not been the design,

A vaccine that allows skipping quarantine seems at least 6 months away from being proven, even if there is a solution available within the vaccines already developed.

Myth: Vaccines Inherently Prevent Spread

The following is from one online source, but there are many others.

“These COVID vaccines are preventing clinical disease, we don’t know if they prevent transmission,” Dr. Beyrer said.

It’s important to know the difference between infection and disease. Dr. Moss said just because you are infected or have transmitted coronavirus doesn’t mean you get sick.

“So you know, everyone who gets disease has an infection, and the infection causes the disease,” Dr. Moss said. “But not everyone who is infected has the disease.”

That is where Moderna and Pfizer have aimed their vaccines: preventing people from getting sick.

“What’s being measured in the trials is whether or not they prevent disease, mild, moderate and severe disease,” Dr. Moss explained.

This isn’t rare for vaccines. Dr. Moss said most vaccines don’t actually stop a virus from entering your body.

“That requires a really strong kind of immune response to prevent infection,” he said.

Simply put, we don’t know if these vaccines prevent infection, but we do know their primary job is to stop the virus from becoming a disease or lessen the disease.

VERIFY: Moderna, Pfizer vaccines may prevent disease, but not infection

That quote explains it all about the current status really.

Not only is preventing people getting infected and preventing them becoming infectious a ‘higher bar’ for a vaccine to attempt, it is far more difficult to prove in trials. Current trials observe a vaccinated trial group and a control ‘group’ over a period of time and observe how many people get sick in each group, and for those who do get sick, how severely do they get sick. This is not too difficult. It doesn’t matter if people are asymptomatic, all you have to measure is how many people got sick. You don’t even need to know many people became infected asymptomatically.

But to measure for whether people become infectious, you need a lot more. How can you measure infectiousness? You have to measure people outside the trial to see if they became infected by people within the trial, or keep people within the trial to within a special environment. How could you even design such an environment? More realistically, you need to analyse far more data over a longer time and look for statistical significance within in communities where a percentage of the entire population has been vaccinated.

In summary preventing people becoming infectious was not even in the design criteria for some vaccines, and for others, testing and/or proving effectiveness at preventing people becoming infectious is a best very difficult and likely to take a very long time.

Note: So far novavax claims to prevent spread, and this is not yet proven in humans. Note: the trials for prevention of spread of infection have been with monkeys, because it is easier to get a group of uninfected monkeys to cohabitate, then vaccinate and then infect the vaccinated monkey. Even then, it is not huge statistical significance.

Myth: Vaccines freely available ends the pandemic.

It aint over until it is over. There are many reasons vaccinations may make things a lot better, but not return things to normal.

  • vaccines that do not prevent spread allow the virus to continue to evolve
  • people who do not get vaccinated allow the virus to continue to evolve
  • there has never been elimination of a disease with this number of infected hosts

All of these factors increase the risk of a mutation of the virus bringing things back to ‘square one’. Already there was an outbreak among minks in Denmark that was though to be a strain of the virus that could defeat current vaccines.

The Danish government also announced restrictions for the seven municipalities where the new strain was detected. “The virus has mutated in mink. The mutated virus has spread to humans,” Frederiksen said.Statens Serum Institut, the Danish authority based in Copenhagen which deals with infectious diseases, had found five cases of the virus in mink farms and 12 examples in humans that showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies, she said. Allowing the virus to spread could potentially limit the effectiveness of future vaccines.

Denmark mink Covid crisis

“Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.”

fears a mutated strain of COVID-19

If this has happened already, without the evolutionary pressure of only Covid-19 mutations that can evade vaccines being ‘fit’ to survive, what will happen once a large percentage of the human population, but not all, have been vaccinated? There has long been a belief that if you do not ‘complete the course’ with antibiotics, then the resistant strains will survive and get stronger. With Covid-19, vaccinations just cannot really ‘complete the course’.

Myth: UK was first to approve a vaccine

At the time of writing (December 6th), no vaccine has yet been given full approval during 2020. There have however been a range of ‘limited approvals’, including that in the UK.

Limited approvals are given on the basis that either a specific group can be monitored for symptoms beyond the level of monitoring available to the general public, and/or a specific group has an elevated risk from Covid-19 such that there is less risk from the cure would be worse than the existing risk.

Having the confidence to expose elderly health care workers or others at high risk of infection, is completely different from vaccinating children in country like New Zealand where the virus is currently not circulating. It is always a balance of total lifelong risk from the vaccine vs total lifelong risk from the virus.

Russia gave ’emergency approval’ for ‘Sputnik’ for some health care workers, Aug 11, 2020.

Uk ‘granted temporary authorization for emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTechl’ starting from December 7th.

Consider the UK decision and note the priority of vaccinations.

The general public is not even on the list at this time. This makes this far from a general regulatory approval. The UK is not yet ready to approve mass vaccinations.

Table of Contents


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