086: Beating the Vaccine Scare-Mongers

In This Episode: Now that the coronavirus vaccine is rolling out, there are several important things to watch out for, which may take a little Uncommon Sense to fully get past the scare-mongers.

086: Beating the Vaccine Scare-Mongers

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Show Notes

  • Help support Uncommon Sense: — yes, $5 helps!
  • Recent (21 October) journal discussion of herd immunity: Nature.
  • The CDC’s “v-safe” program information is here, and I urge you to participate.
  • The CDC’s list of the Top 10 Causes of Death for the latest year all stats have been processed (2018), and the number of deaths for each (Source):
  1. Heart disease: 655,381
  2. Cancer: 599,274
  3. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 167,127
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 159,486
  5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 147,810
  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 122,019
  7. Diabetes: 84,946
  8. Influenza and Pneumonia: 59,120
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 51,386
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 48,344

TOTAL: 2,094,893 in the Top 10 (of the Grand Total of 2,839,205).


Welcome to Uncommon Sense. I’m Randy Cassingham.

It’s practically a miracle that the Covid-19 vaccine is already being administered. That was certainly made possible by the application of Uncommon Sense, but that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, there are some things to watch out for.

First, when you get the vaccine you’ll probably feel pretty icky for the next 24-48 hours, but that’s not just OK, that’s preferable: it means your body is quickly ramping up defenses against Covid. But no, it’s not possible to get Covid from the shot.

With more than one vaccine being approved, it looks like we could get as many as 100 million people vaccinated by the end of March. If we’re really lucky, more. But even if we do, that’s nowhere near enough to reach the “herd immunity” we’ve been hearing about. That’s when enough people have the antibodies to the virus to keep it from spreading wildly, which is what it’s doing right now.

086: Beating the Vaccine Scare-MongersTo get to herd immunity we need as much as 70 percent of the population to be immune, either because they’ve recovered from Covid-19, or had the vaccine. So even getting 200 million vaccinated isn’t quite enough.

Because there’s another problem: medical science has had long enough to study Covid to know that the natural immunity brought by recovering from the disease lasts somewhere from 2 to 9 months. So as that immunity goes away over time, others have to become immune to keep to the 70 percent needed for herd immunity. Pretty much, that would be impossible without a vaccine, no matter what some politicians and other uninformed people might say.

And they have been saying that. “Just let up on the controls so the economy can recover, and let people get sick so we can develop natural herd immunity!”

There’s a problem with that, too: that means there would “have to be” about 850,000 new cases a day. It’s estimated that in the process Americans would have to take about a billion days of sick leave from work, and it would result 42,000 people being hospitalized …per day, for nearly a year. There aren’t enough hospital beds to hold them all.

At least some hospital beds would be freed up by people dying: at least 2.3 million would, assuming the case fatality rate wouldn’t increase, but it would since there aren’t enough hospital beds — or enough doses of the effective medical treatments for Covid — to keep that rate down. Deaths would at least double, so now we’re talking nearly 5 million people dying from Covid, which is more than double the number of Americans that die of heart disease plus cancer plus accidents plus chronic lower respiratory diseases plus strokes plus Alzheimer’s plus diabetes plus flu and pneumonia plus kidney disease, and plus suicide in a normal year.

And all of those “normal” causes of death would increase because hospitals and medical personnel would be continuously overwhelmed with patients, so naturally many of those patients would have to be turned away. People who, for instance, could have been saved from a heart attack by a quick trip to the cath lab wouldn’t get that trip to the cath lab. Yet so many are so quick to just spew “Oh well! Too bad!”

The other problem with that is it would probably take longer to get there than by getting there without all the suffering and death and long-term health effects by using a vaccine.

Clearly, the only way to get past this without horrific results is with an effective vaccine. That the vaccines are coming in at more than 90 percent effective is another miracle: the flu vaccine is rarely even 50 percent effective.

OK, all that aside, what are we going to hear when the vaccine really rolls out widely? Things like:

  • “Joe Blow got the vaccine, and that night he died of a heart attack.”
  • “Jane Doe got the vaccine, and a few hours later she had a major stroke.”
  • “Billy Bob Smith got the vaccine, and on the way home he died in a fiery car crash!”

We need to be really careful that we don’t mistake correlation (two things that happen close together in time), and causation (the first thing caused the second thing).

Because let’s go back to those death numbers. Let me rattle them off to you: these are the latest full-year figures from the CDC, which are from the year ending December 31, 2018, of the top 10 causes of death of Americans:

Heart disease: 655,381. Cancer: 599,274. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 167,127. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 159,486. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 147,810. Alzheimer’s disease: 122,019. Diabetes: 84,946. Influenza and Pneumonia: 59,120. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease): 51,386. And Intentional self-harm (suicide): 48,344. That’s a total of 2,094,893 from just those 10 top causes, from a grand total 2,839,205, which means every other cause combined accounted for 744,312 deaths.

The point is, if we’re going to vaccinate 200 million Americans over the span of just a few months, of course a lot of them will die of something in the 24-72 hours after the vaccination, because every day in the United States around 2,000 die of heart disease, more than 1,600 die from cancer, more than 450 from accidents, and more than 130 from suicide! Or, to put it another way, nearly 8,000 Americans are expected to die every day, not even counting Covid.

Obviously, Covid is more deadly to those who have conditions like that — heart disease, cancer, respiratory issues, etc. — so even if 2,000 people die of Covid on a particular day, you can’t really say that the 8,000 expected deaths plus 2,000 Covid deaths = 10,000 deaths, since Covid probably took them out before their underlying condition did. On the other hand, we can’t be callous and say “Well, they would have died anyway!” Probably not that day they wouldn’t have.

The point, of course, is that we can’t let fear get in the way: even if there are hundreds of news stories of people having heart attacks in the days after getting the vaccination doesn’t mean anything regarding causation, because — yes — we expected thousands and thousands of them to die anyway, and the odds are really low that the shot had anything to do with it.

And even if there aren’t such stories in the news, you can bet you’ll see them on social media. There are plenty of scare-mongers who will actively try to raise fears to scare us away from the vaccine. They’re the same people who spew “Oh well! Too bad!” about the millions of people who now have a “pre-existing health condition” to jack up insurance rates, and the hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths we’ve already seen.

As you might expect, the Centers for Disease Control have realized this, and have set up a program to track actual adverse affects from the Covid vaccines. It’s called “v-safe”. It’s for everyday people like you and me, and I urge you to participate.

During the first week after you get your vaccine, v-safe will send you a text message each day to ask how you’re doing. Then you’ll get check-in messages once a week for up to 5 weeks. This way they can quickly gather a lot of data on reactions. The link is on the Show Page, or you can use my short URL: hop2.cc/vsafe — that’s h-o-p, the digit 2, dot cc, slash v-s-a-f-e. hop2.cc/vsafe Or, just click the link on the Show Page.

So what’s the bottom line Uncommon Sense approach to staying as safe as possible from Covid? Well, it’s just as they’ve been saying for months: wear a mask, stay well away from others, wash your hands, limit your exposure. And, get the frigging vaccine as soon as you can.

The Show Page for this episode is thisistrue.com/podcast76, where there are a links to source material, and a place to comment.

I’m Randy Cassingham …and I’ll talk at you later.

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9 Comments on “086: Beating the Vaccine Scare-Mongers

  1. So if 200,000 people are vaccinated monthly in the USA, that means 2.4 M people in a year, way short of 70% of the population. And if the vaccine is effective only for nine months, you easily enter a never-ending loop.

    People have yearly flu shots — instead, yearly Flu-Covid shots will now need to be developed and distributed world-wide.

    Will we “defeat” Covid? Have we “defeated” the flu? Or just learned to live with it? I think we will be wearing masks in public for a long, long time….

    Not sure how you came up with your premise: Pfizer shipped 2.9 million doses the first week of American distribution, and they say they have “millions more” ready to go. And, obviously, hundreds of millions more in various stages of preparation. The podcast doesn’t mention anything about 200,000 vaccinations per month, so I don’t know where you got that. It rather talks about plans for “100 million [Americans] vaccinated by the end of March” and, “If we’re really lucky, more.” My understanding is that was based on just the Pfizer vaccine; Moderna’s has also been approved, and others are in the pipeline. -rc

    • Have we “defeated” the flu? Or just learned to live with it? I think we will be wearing masks in public for a long, long time.

      Covid, like the flu will never be eradicated BUT with flu vaccines, the major amount of deaths from the flu have been drastically lowered. We have learned to live with it and do not need masks to keep from dying from the flu.

  2. I had a discussion with a nurse and we both have a feeling that this will be a ‘good’ year for the seasonal flu, mainly because people afraid of Covid-19 will be taking many of the precautions that should be taken because of flu. The reduced number of flu cases will not, however, be enough to offset the many people that are getting Covd-19. An interesting note is that the nurse I talked to has since gone into isolation because her husband, a medical worker, has Covid-19. Also, my wife and I are now recovering from it. Nine months of religiously wearing a mask, and with one instance of not wearing a mask near someone, outside, who didn’t have a mask or symptoms, and I caught it. That proved to me the importance of masks.

    Wow: a great reminder to be vigilant. Thanks for telling your story. -rc

  3. Great information. I do have a couple comments though. You state that the vaccines will make people immune to the disease. This isn’t so. It means that if someone receives the vaccine, they can still catch COVID, but the symptoms will be less severe, and they can still be a carrier and spreader of the disease. Hence why the government is still mandating those that received the vaccine to wear masks.

    Also, as per the NIH, “Efficacy can be defined as the performance of an intervention under ideal and controlled circumstances, whereas effectiveness refers to its performance under ‘real-world’ conditions.” The 90% you refer to is actually the efficacy of the vaccine. We don’t know the effectiveness as it only started in ‘real-world’ conditions in the past week. This is why the flu vaccine is only 50% effective.

    Thanks for the information.

    Yeah, we’re starting to get into the minutiae here. Even if the Covid vaccine truly is 94.5% effective vs more theoretical efficacy, that still means 5.5% who have been vaccinated (and are even at the peak of protection) “could” get Covid if exposed. To me, that’s the real reason that they should still wear a mask — to protect themselves, but also to protect others should they become infected anyway. -rc

    • Randy, first: thanks for such a concise and dense summary of the problem!

      However, I think Darryl is right: ANY of the vaccinated “can still catch COVID, but the symptoms will be less severe, and they can still be a carrier and spreader of the disease.” That’s *100%* of the vaccinated and not the 5% you mention. As far as I know, neither Pfizer (for the BioNTech vaccine) nor Moderna make any claims about preventing infection or infectiousness, but only about developing clinical signs to the disease (basically they did not PCR every week all of their 30K test subjects). So asymptomatic disease and/or disease-spreading have not been shown to be prevented by these two vaccines.

      Thanks, Alex. I will cover what efficacy and effectiveness mean, and how they differ, in the next episode, which should be out Monday. -rc

  4. One benefit of the anti-Covid measures is that it’s made it a lot easier for me to stay safe while growing a new immune system. (Stem cell transplant to treat cancer.)

    Great! -rc

  5. Question: You spend some time working some numbers on what it might take to achieve herd immunity from Covid-19. My question is: Can you find any example of the human race *ever* achieving herd immunity without a vaccine?

    Comment: I made some inquiries and it looks like Pfizer did not test asymptomatic individuals so they have no data on whether or not vaccinated individuals can catch an asymptomatic version of the disease but still be contagious and/or end up with organ damage. I believe that Moderna did do some testing on asymptomatic subjects and the shot does seem to lower those numbers. They also see some benefit after one shot but since the experiment was not designed to test a one-shot regimen, two are still required (that’s real science in action — you cannot draw a conclusion until you explicitly test your hypothesis).

    My take: I will get the vaccine as soon as my turn comes but will stay isolated until community spread stops. I will also plan for time off based on my experience with the Shingrix vaccine which was brutal (not medically concerning but I felt lousy after the first shot and was sick as a dog for a day and a half after the second shot).

    I will also be wearing my N95 mask and goggles in public for quite a while. We know that aerosols are a primary mode of transmission, why don’t people talk about eyes as an infection vector? The CDC recognizes this risk, and I wonder if some of our mask-wearing leaders who have become ill (e.g., Governor Polis of CO) got it that way.

    Starting from the top: the Herd Immunity Threshold — the percentage of the immune it takes to mostly or completely protect those who are not immune from getting a disease — varies with the disease, depending on factors such as virulence and mode of infection (e.g., airborne causes more infections than having to get infected blood in a wound on your body). Measles, for instance, is a tough one: its is 92–95 percent. Herd immunity was first recognized as a natural phenomenon in the 1930s when A.W. Hedrich published research on the epidemiology of measles in Baltimore, and noticed that after many children had become immune to measles, the number of new infections decreased, including among susceptible children. But it didn’t last, and efforts to eliminate measles were unsuccessful until mass vaccination in the 1960s.

    You’re absolutely correct in your comments re 1 shot or 2. My guess is that now that I have the shot, my resistance is rapidly increasing right now, which helps, but when I reach a significant level of “safety” is unclear. As for “talking about” eyes as a vector, I’ve definitely heard talk of it, but I do spend significant time in medical circles. Your theory about Polis is interesting, but obviously we’ll likely never know. I do wear eye protection when I’m on a 911 callout. -rc

  6. As an 83 year old, I am concerned enough about Covid that I received my 2nd Pfizer shot on Feb 19, as with the Shingrex for seniors shots I had no reaction what-so-ever. Not sure if my non-reactions are good or bad but I’m always wanting to be in line for what I can get.

    I’ve learned not to pick up a hot horseshoe without protection, I figure the same lesson applies.

    I don’t think you’re required to have a reaction to make it effective, so I say it’s good to not have pain or other issues! -rc


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