If you were invited to play Russian roulette would you do it with COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccine?
Russian roulette is a lethal game of chance; you place a single round in a revolver, you spin the cylinder, place the muzzle of the gun against your head before pulling the trigger in hope that the loaded chamber does not align with the firing pin, which would cause the revolver to fire and kill you.
Most people would argue Russian roulette is a voluntary game and that you can opt-out of playing it if you want. This is not the case with COVID-19 Russian roulette. You can either become immune by being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus or by having one of the COVID-19 vaccines. As this virus is going nowhere soon and is likely to mutate and become endemic, i.e. remain circulating in the human population forever, you will at some stage get infected with this coronavirus or one of its variants. Yes, at some point everyone who is not self-isolating as a hermit on a deserted island will get some form of COVID-19. So you need to decide: do you want to take your chances with COVID-19 and the morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) associated with it or have one of the COVID-19 vaccines. In other words, you need to choose your poison.
For example, if you are between 40 and 50 years of age you have about 1 in 1000 chance of dying from COVID-19, a 1 in 300 chance of needing a ventilator or ITU admission, a 1 in 100 chance of needing to be hospitalised and 1 in 10 chance of getting long-COVID. On the other hand, if you have the vaccine you have about an 80% chance of getting a sore arm and some minor flu-like symptoms for a few days after the vaccine and if you have advanced MS you may notice a transient worsening of symptoms, similar to what happens when you have an infection and a temperature. These symptoms can largely be prevented or made milder by taking paracetamol and/or ibuprofen prophylactically. But the risk of the vaccine revolver firing and you developing a major rare potential complication from one of the vaccines is so small (probably in the order of 1 in 100,000 or even 1 in a million) that it can’t be compared to the risks of COVID-19.
Please remember that the very rare reported adverse events such as blood clots, disseminated coagulation. immune thrombocytopenia, transverse myelitis, sudden death, etc. have not necessarily been caused by the vaccine, they may simply be what is happening as part of the background rate of these disorders in the general population. You have to realise that when you are vaccinating the whole adult population shit will still be happening in the background; i.e. people will be getting DVTs, pulmonary emboli, myocardial infarctions, pneumonia, Bell’s palsy, etc. Life and biology continue as normal and all that has changed is that a vaccine is added to the mix. So when the EMA and MHRA say the benefits of these vaccines outway the risks; their advice is based on safety data from tens of millions of vaccinated adults. Their message can’t be any clearer: #GetVaccinated these #VaccinesAreSafe.
The European politicians have been irresponsible and simply stoked the fears people already have about these and other vaccines. This will not only cost European lives but will impact the uptake of vaccines in low and middle-income countries as well. This is tragic as the Astra-Zenica vaccine is the one that is going to play a major role in stopping the pandemic in these countries. Why do politicians employ and pay experts to work for the European Medicines Agency when they simply ignore their advice? Is there a more cynical or political reason to explains their motivation?
Now getting back to the point I made at the beginning of this post; if you are forced to play Russian roulette would you do it with COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccine?
I promised myself not today any more COVID-19 blog posts, but one of our MS nurses asked me to write this post. Hopefully, this will be the last one I do ;-(
Levin et al. Assessing the age specificity of infection fatality rates for COVID-19: systematic review, meta-analysis, and public policy implications. European Journal of Epidemiology volume 35, pages1123–1138(2020).
COVID-19 Severity and ITU admissions:
Pijls et al. Demographic risk factors for COVID-19 infection, severity, ICU admission and death: a meta-analysis of 59 studies. BMJ Open. 2021 Jan 11;11(1):e044640.
ONS. The prevalence of long COVID symptoms and COVID-19 complications. 20-Dec-2020
Around 1 in 5 respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 5 weeks or longer
Around 1 in 10 respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer
Oxford-AstraZeneca adverse event profile:
Voysey et al. Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. Lancet. 2021 Jan 9;397(10269):99-111.