Do the COVID-19 vaccines work? Are the vaccines dangerous, and if so, are they more or less dangerous than COVID-19 itself? Given the costs and benefits, the risks and rewards, should we get vaccinated? The answers to these questions can easily be answered by looking at the data, but the relevant data is rarely present in one place for a comparison. Lucky for you, I had some spare time on my hands, so I will give you plenty of the relevant data here.
First, let’s dispense with the conspiracy theories. Virtually everyone who opposes vaccination against COVID-19 leans heavily on weak conspiracy theories and anecdotes. They paradoxically claim the CDC is inflating the number of COVID-19 deaths, yet use the raw data reported in the CDC’s VAERS database as gospel. This is self-contradictory, and it is transparently done so they can pick and choose the data that fits their ideology. Which is it, can you rely on CDC numbers or not? Regardless, it’s not wise to cite VAERS raw numbers. This is because it’s far too easy to make a report, and in many cases, hospitals are required to make a report regardless of whether it was really an incident likely related to the vaccine or not. For these reasons the CDC explicitly states these numbers reported are likely much larger than the number of cases of death or injury reasonably attributable to the vaccine. That said, even going by the VAERS bloated numbers, the anti-vaxxer would still lose their argument, as the below graphic that I made from scratch shows.
As you can see, for every age group, COVID-19 infection is far more deadly than getting a vaccine. Your chances of myocarditis or pericarditis are infinitesimally minuscule for both COVID-19 infection and for vaccination, but vaccination is still much less likely to cause either problem than COVID-19. There are no known instances of an American dying from myocarditis or pericarditis. As the CDC reports, “most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly.“
These numbers are inline with those virtually every first-world country has reported. So if you want to suggest the CDC is manipulating the numbers, to hold your conspiracy together, you’re also proposing every country is conspiring in near-perfect unison with the CDC to manipulate numbers. If you really believe in a conspiracy like that, your critical thinking skills and grasp of reality are truly too warped for any factual data to convince you. But if you are a person who is genuinely interested the data and what the most probable truth is based on the data, I’m writing to you.
And for good measure, I’ll add another bar chart I made for the people who incessantly say “the vaccine doesn’t even work anyway.” It features an Israeli study, a French study, and a UK report. So hopefully the lazy anti-vaxxers who might accuse pro-vaxxers of cherry picking can move on the the next goal-post.
There are several things a vaccine could be efficacious or inefficacious at doing. Preventing infection and thereby spread is only one thing. Anti-vaxxers usually find the lowest number for this (usually around 30% efficacy) to justify saying the vaccine doesn’t work. Well, 30% is in fact a figure that indicates it is working to prevent infection, just not at as high of a rate as would be desirable. The true number is also probably closer to 55-65%, based on my research.
But most importantly, the vaccines are still extremely effective at preventing or reducing hospitalization and death. So they work very well at that, and no honest person could say they don’t work, given that fact. Even if vaccines didn’t stop infection at all, preventing hospitalization and death would already be more than justification to get vaccinated because it prevents the most obvious problem of the pandemic; overwhelmed hospitals. When a wave of COVID-19 hits, hospitals are driven past capacity. This hurts everyone hospitalized for any reason—cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, traffic accident, construction accident—because all the ICU beds are filled up by people on ventilators, and staff is stretched thin not only because of that, but because of hospital workers home sick themselves from COVID-19. This means mortality goes up for everybody. You can see this by looking at the Excess Mortality statistic, which shows deaths well above what is attributable directly to COVID-19 infection. So get vaccinated.
Yes, therapeutics should also be invested in, not just vaccines. And guess what, they are and have been! Merck just put out molnupiravir to fight against COVID-19. Pfizer just put out Paxlovid. But vaccination is the single most effective thing you could to protect yourself against COVID-19. Even a booster every 6 months (I doubt it will be that often) would be easier, cheaper, and more effective than a regimen of COVID-19 therapeutics. So get vaccinated.
What about mandates? Mandates are irrelevant to the mathematics. Whether you freely do the right thing or do it because you’re forced doesn’t make it any less the right thing. Intentionally doing the wrong thing because you feel coerced to do the right thing is what children do. It’s called cutting off your nose to spite your face, and it’s not rational. The only place mandates are remotely relevant to the scientific facts of the topic are evaluating the seriousness of COVID-19 itself. People who oppose mandates believe COVID-19 is not severe enough to warrant it. I’m not going to argue whether or not that is accurate. I will simply say, if you think mandates are unjustified under any severity—whether the virus killed 1%, 10%, or 50%—you are too drown by a dogmatic religious adherence to ideology or tribalism to have an opinion worth hearing. Actually, I’d say that was the case if you thought as low as 5% was an acceptable fatality rate.
I will also add, there absolutely should be mandates for healthcare workers. No religious exemptions. No personal belief exemptions. The only valid exemption would be a credible medical one. Whether the vaccine reduces transmission by 75% or 10%, if there is any statistically significant reduction in a healthcare worker’s likelihood of spreading the virus to a patient following vaccination, they should be vaccinated. Additionally, we don’t need healthcare workers being put out of commission for two weeks themselves sick at the same time a hospital is already driven past capacity.