The ABC released an article on the 28th of February 2021 titled “Your COVID-19 vaccine safety questions, answered by experts”. The article was designed to answer the “questions you asked most” by leading experts in infectious diseases and immunisation. The experts include Professor Kristine Macartney, the director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), Dr Christopher Blyth, the co-director of the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, and Dr Archa Fox, a molecular biologist specialising in RNA. That’s quite an ‘expert panel’. Let’s take a look at some of the expert’s answers to the “questions you asked most”.
Why can’t we just immunise the vulnerable and leave others to fight COVID with their immune systems?
“Everyone knows or cares for someone who is older, or might have had treatment for cancer, or for some other reason will be vulnerable. It’s so important that we think of those people, because if we’re not vaccinated, we’re keeping them at risk”, according to Professor Macartney. Many people will incorrectly assume that if they are vaccinated, they are protected, and that they are protecting others. This is a dangerous and incorrect assumption. “Vaccine efficacy against asymptomatic infection and viral transmission” has not yet been addressed. According to the Australian Public Assessment Report, the following is missing information: “Use in immunocompromised patients; use in frail patients with co-morbidities (for example, COPD, diabetes, chronic neurological disease, cardiovascular disease); use in patients with autoimmune or inflammatory disorders; (and) interaction with other vaccines”. These people are the most vulnerable, yet there is no data on these demographics. The people who could potentially benefit from the vaccine shouldn’t take it due to a complete lack of data, and the people who don’t require the vaccine are being advised to take it. However, as we know, logic is a rare commodity at the moment.
Dr Archa Fox has a different take on this issue. She says that “even if every young person ate well and did exercise and had a strong immune system, if they get infected with the virus, they could still suffer from COVID-19 – some people develop long COVID, and there is mortality in all age ranges, even if you have a strong immune system”. As we know, mortality increases with age for COVID-19. This is primarily due to the fact that as we get older, our immune function decreases, and generally, the incidence of comorbidities increases. Some diseases affect younger people, whilst others affect older people. COVID-19 clearly affects older people. There is also mortality in all age ranges for many different diseases. What has been lost throughout the past 12 months is the advice on how to maintain a healthy immune system, which as Dr Fox mentions, includes eating well and exercising. Fast food restaurants and bottle shops remained open during lockdown, yet people were limited in the amount of exercise they could do. How is this beneficial to our health during a pandemic?
Dr Fox continues by explaining that “you’re playing Russian roulette if you’re going to just rely on boosting your immune system to stop getting sick”. Given that we are exposed to millions of viruses every day, wouldn’t it seem like the logical way to stop you from getting sick? Or should we rely on a vaccine for every single disease? A study in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases claims that “autoimmunity and the opposing condition, metabolic syndrome, are well known adverse events caused by vaccines”. The author explains that “vaccines have been found to cause a host of chronic, later developing adverse events. Some adverse events like type 1 diabetes may not occur until 3-4 years after a vaccine is administered.” Instead of relying on eating well and exercising to boost our immune system, Dr Fox is suggesting that we rely on vaccines, which as we can see, may have far more detrimental consequences than the disease itself.
Another study in Frontiers in Immunology explained that determining “whether cross-reactivity between COVID-19 and human tissue can lead to autoimmune disease development either from the infection or directly from vaccination” is an enormous task because “development of most autoimmune diseases may take 3 to 18 years”. The study continues by stating that “cross-reactive relationships between viral infection and vaccinations have also been found with hepatitis B and myelin proteins leading to multiple sclerosis, human papillomavirus and nuclear proteins leading to systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), coxsackievirus and islet cell proteins leading to type 1 diabetes, etc”. According to the authors, “the possibility of future autoimmune disease is daunting and very real”. Given the complete lack of data on the vaccines, are we instead playing “Russian roulette” by taking the vaccine, rather than boosting our immune system?
Dr Fox also claims that the “studies coming out now suggest transmission of the virus will be greatly reduced by the vaccinated”. Perhaps Dr Fox is referring to two new studies that made headlines recently, that are yet to undergo peer review. One study found that the Pfizer vaccine reduced infections by 89.4%. However, the study did not directly measure transmission. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, stated that the “testing rates were such a hodgepodge, I don’t know how you can make any conclusions about how much the vaccine cut transmission in Israel, let alone assigning a number as concrete as 89.4 percent”. The Australian Public Assessment Report clearly states that “viral transmission” has not yet been addressed.
Have approvals and testing been rushed through?
Dr Fox mentions that “what would previously take five years took one”. This may be true, however, the average time taken to develop a vaccine is 10-12 years. What happened to the other 6-8 years? She continues by stating that “our vaccines have had the full approval process, not emergency authorisation like in some countries”. This is factually incorrect, and we would strongly advise Dr Fox to retract this statement. According to the TGA, both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have been granted provisional approval. This is different to full approval. Provisional approval is valid for two years, and is subject to strict conditions, such as the requirement that the pharmaceutical companies continue to provide the TGA with information on long term efficacy and safety from ongoing clinical trials and post-market assessment. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Fact Sheet for the Pfizer vaccine also states that the “Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine” is an “unapproved product”.
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