AKIN to Hamlet’s classic soliloquy, “To be or not to be?”, is our current scheme of things hedging us to an enigmatic perplexity of whether to take the COVID-19 vaccines or not?
With the mercurial development, production and distribution of various COVID-19 vaccines already in full swing globally (albeit in the local scene they seem to be coming in trickles), multitudes are yet undecided whether to get the jabs or not.
The latest Pulse Asia Surveys revealed that over 60% of Filipinos do not want to get vaccinated.
One and manifold views, theories and arguments have surfaced aplenty – ranging from scientifically-based to authoritatively pushed, from conspiracy-laden theories to farfetched or absurd ones – on the pros and cons of vaccines.
For one, my 70-year-old, physically fit and management consultant friend, Renz (not his real name), is firm and adamant in not taking the vaccine, contending that “there is no scientific information or proof that these vaccines guarantee efficacy, let alone safety.”
Invariably so, people are polarized into two opposing camps: the pro-vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers.
On one hand, understandably the pro-vaxxers are comprised by the World Health Organization, government administrations, national health agencies, and not to exclude, the big pharmaceutical companies.
Some aver that the mainstream media (including giant social media entities), and other international interest groups or institutions belong to this camp.
On the other hand, the anti-vaxxer camp is represented by the anti-vaccine activists or vaccine skeptics, some of whom are notable scientists and medical experts like Dr. Luc Montagnier (a Nobel Prize winner in medicine), Michael Levitt (a Nobel Prize awardee for chemistry), and Michael Yeadon (scientist and former vice president of Pfizer).
According to a report from the UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch, twelve celebrity influencers within the anti-vaxxer movement have been identified, namely: Joseph Mercola (who runs a multimillion dollar online business selling treatment and dietary supplements), Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (nephew of John F. Kennedy), Ty and Charlene Bollinger, Sherry Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper, and Kevin Jenkins.
And me? Admittedly, I haven’t gotten my jab yet. But I’d like to stress that I’m not anti-vaccine. I’d rather define my position as one of being “precariously cautious”.
My hesitancy, for the moment, is understandably caused by the seeming sparsity, despite of the multifarious pros-and-cons theories proliferating, of honest-to-goodness and genuine scientific claims.
Thus, in my zealous effort of trying to decide whether to be vaccinated or not, I have tried to scour the plethora of opposing views and arguments – threshing, as it were, the “chaff from the grain”, the fact from fiction, the credible from the absurd.
In the process, I came up plotting the following chart or “Comparative Matrix of Pro- And Anti-Vaccine Arguments” according to salient comparison indices like vaccine development duration, infertility, side effects, DNA alteration, and selection of variants, thus:
Comparative Matrix of Pro- And Anti-Vaccine Arguments
Vaccines were developed in only 2 to 8 months, and hence not reliable. Vaccines for small pox, measles and polio were developed and commercialized after at least 10 years.
“Currently, we have vaccine technologies that hasten the analysis and research on the virus the vaccines are supposed to be effective against.” (Here are 8 common COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked, GMA News, 17 April 2021).
“mRNA vaccines can be developed in a laboratory and the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.” (Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, US Center for Disease Control & Prevention or CDC, 4 March 2021).
New technologies in vaccine development cannot discount the “experimental nature” of COVID-19 vaccines given the rush or short development time and, as experts admit, they are an on-going work in progress.
Vaccine side effects are worse than getting COVID-19. Blood clot incidents involving some vaccines. Reported deaths after vaccination.
“Having side effects such as chills and mild fever is normal, and is a good sign that the vaccine’s immune response is active” (Here are 8 common COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked, GMA News, 17 April 2021).
“There have been reports of some blood clot incidents, but these are being studied” (Here are 8 common COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked, GMA News, 17 April 2021).
“Save for rare cases of anaphylactic shock after receiving the injection, there is lack of evidence linking death to the vaccination” (Anti-Vaxxers Wage Campaign Against COVID-19 Shots, Healthy Day News, USA, 29 January 2021).
In the Philippines, “24 reported deaths of vaccinated individuals are not related to vaccination” (FDA Director General Eric Domingo).
Aside from the lack of clinical evidence linking death to vaccination, there is also a dearth of information (or ‘underreporting’) about vaccinated individuals who have suffered adverse effects or even death.
Vaccine will make you infertile because the spike protein it helps create shares some amino acids with synectin, a protein found in the placenta.
“All proteins are made up of a chain of amino acids. The spike protein from the coronavirus and the synectin protein have a tiny little amount of amino acids that are the same” (Dr. Jill Foster, director of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis).
“There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta” (Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines, US Center for Disease Control & Prevention or CDC, 15 April 2021).
COVID-19 will alter one’s DNA.
“RNA messenger vaccines are made from an active fraction of the virus’s RNA which will be injected into vaccinated person. It therefore penetrates the cells of the latter which will manufacture the vaccine proteins from the code of the injected RNA” (Dr. Luc Montagnier, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, in his letter to the President of Israel dated 21 March 2021 supporting the call for the suspension of vaccination).
“The idea that mRNA (messenger RiboNucleic Acid) could rewrite your DNA is utterly impossible. To be able to rewrite DNA, the mRNA from the vaccine would first have to be able to enter the nucleus of the cell, which it cannot. Even if it managed that, the mRNA would require specific enzymes to translate itself into DNA and then integrate itself into your personal genetics, and these enzymes are not present in the vaccine” (Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).
“Both mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions or genetic material to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the material never enters the nucleus of the cell which is where our DNA is kept. This means the genetic material in the vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way” (Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines, US CDC, 15 April 2021).
Dr. Luc Montagnier, medicine Nobel Prize awardee, in his letter, noted that mRNA vaccines would “depend a lot on its success on the PHYSIOLOGICAL STATE of the recipient”.
Selection of Variants
Vaccine cannot provide protection from new COVID-19 variants.
“The production of antibodies induced by vaccination will lead to the selection of variants resistant to these antibodies. These variants can be more virulent or more transmissible” (Dr. Luc Montagnier, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, in his letter to the President of Israel dated 21 March 2021 supporting the call for the suspension of vaccination).
“The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective. In the event any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants” (World Health Organization or WHO website, 1 March 2021).
Indicatively, in the current battle against the COVID-19 and with the unabated spiralling of new variants, it is likely plausible that a protracted VIRUS-VACCINE RACE is in the offing.
Verily, I cannot decide for you. But as for me, whilst yet being “precariously cautious”, two imperatives are definitive: 1) rigorously observing preventive measures and health protocols, and 2) continued effort in boosting my natural immunity through diet, vitamins, sleep, exercise, etc.
Finally, in the current nitty-gritty of the on-going vaccine discourse, let me share the following Persian Apothegm, dubbed “Men Are Four”:
“He who knows not and knows not that he knows not – he is fool, shun him;
He who knows not and knows that he knows not – he is simple, teach him;
He who knows and knows not that he knows – he is asleep, wake him;
He who knows and knows that he knows – he is wise, follow him.”
Have peace, God knows best.