No company, over the last twenty years, can be fairly said to have come up with a more memorable marketing slogan than the British wood stain company, Ronseal. Their product, as everybody now knows, “does exactly what it says on the tin”.
That, after all, sums up what it means to put your trust in a product: when you spend your money, you want certainty about what the product does, and what you are getting in return. You do not want any nasty surprises. A product which does not deliver what you expect it to, or is defective, is a product that you, as a consumer, are entitled to a refund on.
Vaccines do not work like that, primarily because you do not pay for them, and in any case, you cannot give them back. If they do not work as described, the most you can do is hope that they at least do no harm.
It would be unfair to the manufacturers of the Covid 19 vaccines to say that their products “do not work”. There is no evidence to support a claim like that: Indeed, every nation which has measured their impact to date has found that a vaccinated person is substantially less likely to end up in hospital, or die, from Covid 19. Have the vaccines thus far proved useful? Sure. Have they “done what they said on the tin”? Absolutely not.
When the vaccines were introduced, just under a year ago, each of us had a decision to make. At the beginning, that decision was, for me, easy: Pushing forty, and overweight, and with a (thankfully mild) underlying condition, the choice was whether to take my chances with Covid as an unvaccinated person, or to take a product which, in its initial trials, was shown to offer 90% protection against infection and almost 100% protection against serious illness.
The safety data in the trials offered me no concerns whatever, nor, for the avoidance of doubt, have I at any time experienced any side effect other than mild pain at the site of the injection, which is a common and advertised issue. As to the reason for taking the vaccines, there was no real fear of death from Covid, in my case, but anybody who has ever had pneumonia will know how unpleasant it is. Avoiding the risk of that kind of infection, if it could be done, did not require much thought. It was an easy decision: Two jabs, please.
But of course, time moves on. As this year has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that the 90% protection offered by the initial vaccine dose wanes, and wanes dramatically. Because that immunity wanes, the initial promise of the vaccine programme has not been delivered.
That initial promise, remember, was simple enough: When we get people vaccinated, the pandemic will be functionally over, and we can get back to normal. Those were not my words – they were, more or less, what those in power told the public. More than anything else, that explains the widespread enthusiasm for vaccines. They promised an end to lockdowns, an end to families not seeing each other, the re-opening of pubs and nightclubs and sporting events, and a normal Christmas. In that spirit, thousands of people who are not at any real personal risk from covid took a vaccine for it anyway – in the name of eliminating transmission, and eradicating the threat. Alas, that did not happen.
And so, we are all being offered a booster, to go alongside our second abnormal Christmas. Last week, a booster was injected into my own left arm, at the Limerick vaccination center. Again, this was not a decision made lightly, or without research: In October, a piece I published about Pfizer’s booster trials read:
As you can see, according to Pfizer’s data, the third jab boosts antibody levels to a level far, far, higher than the second jab did, which suggests both that the initial levels of protection provided would be much higher, and would take significantly longer to decline. If that data is correct, then that makes an unambiguous argument in favour of the boosters.
It seemed to me, on the question of boosters, that there were two questions: First, is there likely to be a benefit to taking one, in terms of avoiding severe Covid? Second, is there a reasonable explanation as to why a third dose might be necessary, when such a dose was not initially advertised? The answer to both those questions seemed to me to be a clear “yes”. But not without a caveat:
We know, for example, that Pfizer’s own analysis suggests that within six months, the effectiveness of the original two-jab protocol fell from about 90% to about 60%. That is a major factor in the increase in covid cases we are seeing in heavily vaccinated populations right now (though, it should be said, the fall-off is much less marked in terms of ICU numbers).
So, isn’t it logical that immunity from the booster jab will wane in time, too?
So, in summary, my decision to take a booster was based on the notion that the booster would substantially improve immunity, AND that this immunity, based on the trials, would decline much more slowly than the immunity delivered by the first two jabs. So, imagine my shock when, just days after receiving that booster, Gavan Reilly of Virgin Media reported this news:
MORE: NIAC is also recommending a fourth dose for anyone who had already been recommended to have three, due to an underlying condition
Also, anyone who previously only got one dose, and then became infected, should get a second dose four weeks after diagnosis/onset of symptoms
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) December 13, 2021
That category – people who have had three doses due to an underlying condition – includes me. But enough. No more.
What we have here is a product that simply does not do what it says on the tin. It now does something entirely different: It is more like an ongoing treatment regimen than a true vaccine. It is worth remembering that safety trials were conducted for the original two shots, and the booster. This writer is not aware of any safety trials in regard to four shots in a single twelve-month period.
At this stage, my calculation is simple: If, having taken three vaccines, I now require a fourth dose to protect me from serious illness and death, this vaccine cannot be said to work as the manufacturers claimed. At all.
And, more than that: Vaccine sceptics may, in my estimation, have over-played the safety issues, but they are not wrong that MRNA technology has not been widely used on this scale before. The notion of taking four doses of it in a single year, for a very questionable benefit, seems to me to be both irrational, and illogical.
There’s also a matter of principle: This is after all a product which we are buying more and more of precisely because it does not work as advertised. If Ronseal, to return to the beginning of this article, produced woodstain that required a new coat every three months, on average, the company would go out of business. Why should Pfizer be any different? Why should we become cash cows for companies that have not delivered what was expected of them? At a pure financial level, pharmaceutical companies are essentially getting a massive dividend from global taxpayers for delivering a sub-par product.
The public have responded to the vaccine programme in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of Thousands of us have queued up to take them. We did not do that because of a love of taking vaccines, but because we were promised that the product would work. In my estimation, if we need four doses of it inside a calendar year, then that promise has been unambiguously broken.
I am not, in any way, anti-vax. But at this stage, I’m out.