A persuasive essay in two parts. Part one is about you. Part two is about everyone else.
So, let’s start with you… Yes, you want to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Two American drug-development firms – Pfizer and Moderna – used similar technology to develop similar vaccines. Both were 95% effective in large-scale, controlled clinical trials.
So, yes, they can save your life…
Just think about 95%. It’s 20-to-one odds in your favor. Twenty times more people on a placebo got infected versus any one person who got the real vaccine, at the same place and same time.
In other words, you don’t need herd immunity – the benefits of the crowd – to save your life. You can save yourself simply by getting the vaccine. This requires two doses of the vaccine, taken about a month apart.
To be fair, it hurts… It’s worse than a flu shot and about the same as a tetanus shot for most people. There have been rare allergic reactions – about one in 20,000, which is equivalent to the lifetime risk of being struck by lightning.
By contrast, the risk of death from COVID-19 is 2%. The risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 is 5%. And there’s no reason to think if you go in the hospital with COVID-19, it’s an easy road from there (if you even come back out).
See, we now have nine-month follow-up data on early survivors of COVID-19 in Asia. Specifically, we have medical records on 1,700 people. And more than half have lingering lung damage that can be seen on X-rays.
The United States has had more than 22 million cases of COVID-19, with 375,000 deaths. Europe has another 18 million cases, and 300,000 deaths.
Now these are excess deaths, compared to prior years. That means these 675,000 people would not have likely died in 2020. All of them were killed by COVID-19, even if this was a complication that put these folks tragically over the brink…
COVID-19 as a lung infection targets people with limited cardio-pulmonary reserves… smokers, very old people, and the obese – or any combination of these three risks.
Now, when you consider that 40% of adult Americans are obese, that’s about 100 million people at risk. An overlapping cohort of 14% of American adults smoke or vape – so up to 30 million more Americans…
Then there’s old age, which means a weakened immune system, plus less-than-stellar cardio-vascular reserves. (The record for the Boston Marathon among 70-year-olds is 50% slower than the best time.)
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Currently, there are 50 million Americans aged 65 and older. Again, there are some overlap with the U.S. obesity group and with smokers. But overall, there’s 180 million people in the U.S. at significant risk.
In other words, a third of the country is at risk… This idea “to shield the most vulnerable and let everyone else frolic” was never realistic as a public health measure because COVID-19 is contagious.
It’s not “malaria” – it’s not “bad air” that’s everywhere. Instead, specifically, it’s exhaled breath coming from other people who are already infected, even if they are not yet showing symptoms.
As a consequence, enclosed spaces that include strangers are the most dangerous, because there is no circulation of fresh air. Moving outdoor air dilutes the concentration of exhaled particles – particles that you can breathe in.
Technically, the risk specifically is of water droplets from an infected person’s lungs or throat, which can carry the virus. Larger droplets can carry more virus, but smaller droplets float in the air for longer.
Now, there are three things we can do to avoid being infected:
1. Social distance at all times.
2. Wear a good, particle-filtering mask every time we are outside the family bubble.
3. Take an effective vaccine.
These directions seem straight-forward, but the reason we have millions of new cases per week in the U.S. is because many folks refuse to wear masks, risking infection themselves and vectoring to everyone else.
Masks work. It’s why doctors and nurses wear them. It’s also why 3M and Honeywell have exponentially increased their production of masks, so that we can get protection from infectious COVID-19 particles.
But nobody wants to wear masks forever, of course. Instead, we need our immune systems to easily win the fight against COVID-19 if we encounter infectious particles. That’s where the two new vaccines come into play.
Both of these vaccines use a “factory order” directed to a human cell’s protein factory to order up copies of the “spike” protein that makes up the crown of the coronavirus. But no other parts are made.
So the vaccines do not include live virus or dead virus… They do not include any virus. Nor can they make copies of themselves. And no, they do not join on to human DNA. It’s just a factory order for the spike protein.
Now, spike on its own doesn’t do anything. It’s an attachment point, just like a battleship’s anchor. And just like the anchor of a battleship isn’t dangerous on its own, the spike is not a danger.
Instead, using spike is a way to teach your immune system the first part of the COVID-19 virus that it might see, as a fore-warning. That’s how every vaccine is designed… They prepare your immune system.
Until a few months ago, we had no idea how well this could work. But now we know both vaccines are 95% effective. Fortunately, that’s only the start of how these two vaccines can help you ward off COVID-19.
You see, how severe the disease got was part of the trials for each vaccine. In one trial, there was no severe COVID-19 cases in folks who got the vaccine. The other trial saw one severe case.
Meanwhile, in the two control groups who received no vaccine or a placebo, severe disease (requiring hospitalization) happened 8% of the time – in 37 controls, out of the 460 controls who got infected. So that’s one person getting severely sick versus 37 requiring hospitalization.
In other words, these two vaccines are 95% effective in preventing illness, but if you do get infected, they are 97.5% likely to prevent severe disease. That’s an additional 40-to-one odds, in your favor.
Selfishly, then, you want this vaccine – either one, actually, as their efficacy, their safety, and their design is almost completely the same. Yes, it will hurt your arm that day. But yes, it will save your life. Is that enough incentive?
If not, let’s look to other people, too… Here’s where I get to part two of my persuasive essay…
Your decision to take a vaccine affects everyone around you – and their decision affects you. And, let’s be specific… I’ll cover how the old and the young get COVID-19 vaccines.
First off, the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines open up the floodgates for everyone 65 and over. This means there are 50 million people requiring 100 million doses…
At least so far, we don’t have 100 million doses made or distributed, nor are these being delivered. So, the fact that the guidelines change doesn’t instantly protect older folks. This will take six months, or more.
Everyone needs two doses about a month apart. This is called “prime and boost,” in order to show off the spike of COVID-19, and then to challenge your system to trigger a response.
That’s partly why the second dose has double the rate of side effects. These side effects are an immune response. And because the whole point of a vaccine is to trigger such a response, we have to accept it.
Again, these triggered immune responses are not much worse than you get with a tetanus shot, and they are less intense than the effects of the new shingles (chickenpox) vaccine designed for older folks.
So the math is, get 50 million seniors into vaccine centers, then get them back a second time, using a vaccine that we have not yet manufactured. That’s why it will take six months – or longer.
Now, because COVID-19 is much more likely to kill or maim older Americans, we can’t just let the virus run its course to spread through the population. That plan would cost 4 million Americans their lives.
This explains lockdowns and why they are crucial… These are desperate public health measures to assure that folks who need oxygen or ventilators or ECMO machines can get them. (Currently, many states’ hospitals are overrun.)
Obviously, lockdowns are not ideal… But what is ideal is a vaccine. And now we have two that both work. They are 95% effective at shielding you from COVID-19, plus 97.5% effective in stopping severe disease.
Seniors should absolutely get this vaccine. Based on CDC data, for every 20 years of life, your risk of death or hospitalization increases by 10 times. And co-factors like obesity or smoking increase your risk by age by 4 times.
This means a 70-year-old smoker faces 4,000 times the risk of death or hospitalization from a case of COVID-19, compared with a healthy 10-year-old.
This bring me to the second point – vaccinating kids.
Right now, neither vaccine is approved for children. Moderna says it will have safety data in children some time in 2022, so it’s likely a year before we can make and distribute a children’s COVID-19 vaccine.
So, you can forget herd immunity for at least a year. “Herd immunity” means that the chain of infections is interrupted by someone who can’t get the virus. But this virus is new to people, globally.
A year ago, when COVID-19 first jumped from bats to people – by someone breathing the virus in – there was 0% global immunity. So far, we have positive test results in nearly 90 million people worldwide.
Given that there are 7.8 billion people in the world, that means only about 1% of the global population has encountered COVID-19 and built up their immune defenses against it – at the cost of 2 million lives.
So, there’s not global herd immunity either. As long as there’s international travel, there’s going to be cross-infections. Testing at the borders helps, but it’s not fool-proof. Only particle-filtering masks work.
But good masks – N95 particle-filtering masks – are almost impossible to come by. Even doctors and nurses are wearing these disposable, one-procedure masks for weeks on end. A vaccine is the answer.
Here’s the good news… The more people in your family, your friend group, your community, and your state that get the vaccine, the safer YOU become.
That’s not national herd immunity, but it’s localized herd immunity. And the more people who opt in to get a vaccine, the safer all of us are. Remember, it’s not just the oldest or the weakest who are at risk.
Imagine a case of a 55-year-old who is overweight with elevated blood pressure. I can imagine this easily when I look in the mirror. My risks of contracting COVID are at least 100 times higher than a healthy 15-year-old.
Overall, we know that there’s an international 2% death rate from COVID-19, and in the U.S., there is a 5% risk per case for hospitalization. But these risks are heavily weighted toward older, out-of-shape people.
Statistically, my personal risks might be half that: a 1% chance of death and a 2.5% chance of hospitalization. That’s a one in 40 chance that COVID-19 wrecks my world, and 1 in 100 to end it.
I can tell you, I want to turn these odds in my favor. By getting a vaccine myself, I cut my risk of infection by a factor of 20. On top of that, I cut my risk of serious disease by an additional factor of 40.
I like those odds, and I hope that you do, too. Because the more people who opt in to a vaccine, the safer that all of us become. We need to break the contagious COVID-19 chain as soon as we can.
Dave Lashmet spent a decade teaching and writing about medicine and technology at major research universities, and he’s done follow-up research at some of the most important facilities in North America. He is also an inventor on multiple U.S. patents. Dave writes Venture Technology, an exclusive letter that takes a “venture capitalist” approach to investing… seeking out small-cap speculative stocks with strong catalysts and outstanding breakout growth potential.