After some thinking I decided that I am not taking the COVID19 vaccine that is currently availabe in my country. Because people often ask why I thought I might just write it down for my own clarification and as a reference for those who ask. I am not linkin to any sources or studies. Quite honestly you can find sources for whatever you want to believe nowadays. I suggest you research the topic for yourself and seek the sources you can trust. The topic and its implications are so complex that a fully informed decision is in my opinion currently not possible anyway.
Before I begin we need to set up a few precepts or ground rules. Or else the whole discussion just floats in midair and can crumble at any time. I want to establish a few points beforehand.
- The COVID19 vaccine may have benefits (including prevention of death) and it may have harms (including death).
- The individual taking the vaccine carries the full risk of harm from the vaccine. There maybe monetary indemnification but the damage to an individual’s health may be irrevocable.
- The question of getting the vaccine must always be seen in the context of the next best alternative(s) which are (a) getting infected with SARS-COV2 or (b) somehow avoiding infection or (c) avoiding infection until less dangerous (in terms of sickness) variants dominate and getting infected then (or waiting on better treatment options).
- Vaccination is a medical procedure done with an otherwise healthy individual. It’s goal is prevention and not therapy. Therefore safety is much more important than for medication when the individual is already sick and at a higher risk of health damage or death.
Reasons for taking the vaccine
1. Prevention of sickness or death for myself from COVID19
According to most scientific sources and official data it seems that the vaccine does reduce the likelihood of severe cases and death from COVID19. This is a benefit. How much this benefit weighs depends on how high the disease risk is in the first place. COVID19’s danger is highly age stratified, which means the risk of severe sickness or death rises exponentially with age and especially with advanced age. Median age of death in Germany for COVID19 is 83 years with most victims already suffering from several other severe health issues. Young and middle-aged people who suffer from severe sickness or death very often had other health issues like diabetes, obesity or cancer. Children and teenagers were extremely unlikely to die or to suffer from severe sickness.
2. Prevention of transmission, protection of others, “herd immunity”
The official government rationale for getting as many people vaccinated as possible is currently twofold. First to protect those who can’t get vaccinated or are otherwise immune-compromised and second to prevent a collapse of our health care system due to an inrush of COVID19 patients.
Experiences, studies and official numbers from many countries that have a high percentage of vaccinated people (i.e. Israel, Gibraltar, UK, parts of the US, Iceland, even from British warships) seem to indicate that vaccinated people can still get infected and are able to infect others. Now even official sources in Germany say that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus. Maybe to a lesser degree so in vaccinated people than in the unvaccinated but it makes the point of getting the vaccine to prevent spread of the virus moot. It seems herd immunity is unreachable and that SARS-COV2 will most likely stay with us like all other respiratory viruses.
The German health system did not collapse in spring of 2020, winter 2020/2021 and now with more and more people vaccinated or already immune through infection this scenario seems even more unlikely. Besides hospitals have been temporarily overwhelmed during “flu season” for the last decade now. This is nothing new and nothing we have not handled before.
3. “Getting back our freedoms”, removal of restrictions, “back to normal”
Many vaccinations campaigns center on the “jab” as a way to get back to our normal way of living, to reclaim our freedoms, to see friends and family again and to open up society once more. This argument never made much sense to me. Most restrictions were put in place by government decree and they have to be removed the same way. Assuming the vaccine does not prevent transmission then this argument makes even less sense because no matter your vaccination status you are still able to transmit the virus. So we either still need restrictions for everyone or nobody at all.
Reasons for not taking the vaccine
1. Side effects
It seems these new vaccines cause a lot of side effects. There might be a lot of reporting bias going on. Checking the official vaccine safety report for Germany shows are a lot more reports for the COVID19 vaccines than for all other vaccines together. Despite my overall good health there are some medical issue that might make an adverse reaction somewhat more likely. How likely, I don’t know yet.
2. Insufficient testing
Obviously the vaccines are not as well tested as other vaccines. They are still only legal under an emergency use authorization. Long-term harms are not known yet. Most COVID vaccines are of a completely new class with which we have very little experience. These new vaccines do not work like the standard vaccines most of us got as children.
3. My own disease risk
COVID19 is most dangerous for old and frail people. About 4000 people under the age of 60 have died with or from COVID19 in Germany until August 3rd 2021. In my age bracket (40-49) there were about 700 deaths. I am in good health, I have no other co-morbidities and looking at local statistics my risk of death or even severe disease seems very low.
4. Efficacy of the vaccine / natural immunity
Official data from ever more countries indicate that the effectiveness of the vaccine diminishes with time. There is now talk of boosters or even regular vaccination campaigns similar to “flu shots”. So it seems for my risk of side effects I am not getting a very long protection effect which means I might have to take the side effect risk again and again. On the other hand it seems that natural immunity through infection provides much better immunity for a longer time.
5. Treatment options and prevention
Even though we focus mostly on vaccines there are treatment and prevention options for COVID19. It seems that getting enough Vitamin D3 (amongst others) seems to have beneficial effects for the immune system in general especially in winter. Sun exposure and exercise have a similar effect. In those under 65 who died from COVID19 many were overweight or had diabetes. Treatment options and medical experience is getting better each day.
My personal evaluation and decision
- The COVID vaccines can not prevent transmission. Therefore any argument about herd immunity or protecting others falls off the benefit side.
- I consider the risk of a severe case of COVID19 or even death very low for myself. Therefore the vaccine seems to offer only a small benefit.
- Natural immunity through infection seems better than the protection provided by the vaccines.
- There is simply not enough known about side effects and long-term risks of the vaccine. The current state of the debate, the lack of proper testing and the historical track records of new pharmaceuticals make me distrustful of what the authorities and many media outlets say is a safe and and effective vaccine.
- “Getting my freedom back” is not part of my considerations. Vaccination is a medical decision.
Eventually the decision rests on taking one risk or the other for one benefit or the other. We can’t live risk free but we are able to choose and mitigate. There are a lot of unknowns but I still need to decide.
For me the risks associated with getting infected are better knowable and more manageable than the risks associated with the vaccine. The natural immunity acquired by infection seems better than the one provided by the vaccine. I am not taking the COVID19 vaccine. Discrimination, vaccine passports or public shaming will not change this equation.
This decision is valid on the day of posting. I will reevaluate the topic periodically and update this post if changes arise. Please share your opinion or comment if you like. Maybe I have missed something so I am open for new information.