It is September of 2021. The highly contagious Delta variant is “surging.” According to mainstream news media, anger against “the unvaccinated” is growing. The hope of “ending the pandemic” and a “return to normalcy” is being thwarted by the “stubborn refusal” of people like me who have no plans to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated are now a majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The US government and many universities and businesses have implemented, or are planning to implement, compulsory vaccination. Some universities have begun kicking out unvaccinated students.
Some healthcare professionals are beside themselves as they see an already exhausted healthcare workforce now facing a new surge of sick patients who could have easily prevented hospitalization if only they had gotten vaccinated. It’s easy to understand their anger and frustration when the vaccine is widely available, free, and most importantly, “safe and effective.” I can understand how the vaccinated might see the unvaccinated as uncaring, selfish, reckless, misinformed, stubborn, irrational, or just plain stupid.
Coincidentally, as I was writing this, our President gave a speech in which he promised to mandate vaccinations to whatever degree it is in his power to do so. He had this to say to me:
My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is F.D.A. approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.
In the face of a highly contagious COVID variant that is spreading across the world, is there any good reason to refuse a vaccine that has been proven to be effective in preventing COVID hospitalizations and deaths? For me, as of today, the answer is “yes.”
My reasons for coming out as a “refuser”
I’m not particularly excited about painting a target on my back, as I expect things will get worse for vaccine refusers. I’m not writing this to change anyone’s mind. I’m writing this in the hope of fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding. If you’re a COVID vaccine proponent, I think I’ve demonstrated that I understand your position. Now I’d like for you to understand mine.
I can tell you (and our President) exactly what information I need to see in order to change my mind. Unfortunately for us all, the scientific data that people like me need does not yet exist. There is no data on the long-term effects of the new gene-based COVID-19 vaccines.
Exasperated news reports about the unvaccinated often paint our reasons for not getting vaccinated as a mystery. Maybe we simply need our questions answered, or we need our misinformation corrected, or we need to be prodded by role models we trust, or we need stronger incentives. Some are even suggesting we need to be punished.
None of those things address the issue for me.
Right off the bat I can tell you that my reasons have nothing to do with Donald Trump, or Joe Biden, or political partisanship, or fear of my DNA being altered, or being injected with a microchip, or a tracking device, or with becoming magnetic. My reasons have nothing to do with the Chinese origins of COVID-19, zombies, or the mark of the beast. And I am not an anti-vaxxer in general. My reasons are based on scientifically informed opinion from credentialed experts in the fields of virology, immunology, and internal medicine. I’m trying to follow the science.
I invite correction in the comment section if you see any illogic, misinformation, or crazy talk in what follows.
My reasons for refusing the COVID vaccine
My reasons are pretty simple. A large number of legit scientists and medical experts share concerns about the new gene-based COVID-19 vaccines. I’m neither a scientist nor a medical professional of any sort, so the best I can do is try to carefully look at all sides of the issue and make an informed decision. I don’t think it’s possible for me (or anyone else) to know who is correct at this point, so I’m choosing to wait until more information is known. I don’t see how that is irresponsible.
There may be only a few actual facts that everyone can agree on at this point. One is that the Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, and Europe’s AstraZeneca COVID vaccines are different from any previous vaccines in the history of medicine in that they do not contain attenuated pathogenic particles. Instead they deliver temporary genetic instructions to the recipient’s cells – either via messenger RNA or through a harmless adenovirus. This induces the cells to make spike proteins, which triggers the body’s immune response.
In a nutshell, I am concerned about the long-term effects of these new vaccines.
Many medical experts have expressed a concern: in the development and rollout of gene-based COVID vaccine technology, the possibility has not been excluded that the vaccines will deliver spike proteins to the bloodstream, resulting in damage to the blood vessel lining, and in eventual clotting abnormalities. Spikes will also be distributed widely throughout the body accumulating in organs in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus would not normally appear, such as the liver, spleen, ovaries, and brain. The damaging long-term effects of this could take several years to manifest.
It is a fact that post-vaccine clotting abnormalities have occurred on an international scale, so far in relatively small numbers, but to an extent that several counties stopped their vaccine rollouts for a time. At this point we don’t know if the relatively small number of confirmed vaccine related deaths and clotting abnormalities represent the full extent of vaccine side effects, or if they are a canary in the coalmine portending a future, global medical disaster.
The potential risks described by these doctors are expected to increase with each re-vaccination and with future coronavirus exposures. (See details here.)
I’m not arguing here for the correctness of this position. I don’t know if these guys are right. Honestly, I sincerely hope they are wrong because a lot of people I dearly love have taken the vaccine. But if the long term turns out to prove these docs correct, the result will be a global health crisis potentially far worse than the disease itself. Not only has research not yet ruled out these concerns, according to these doctors recent research confirms their concerns.
So I am left with this. Not getting vaccinated potentially poses a health risk, and getting vaccinated potentially poses a health risk. We are left with weighing the risks with incomplete information. Each person must decide if he or she would rather take their chances with the disease, or with the vaccine. At this point, I would rather take my chances with the disease since I am not at elevated risk.
“But you’re ruining the recovery for everyone else”
I recognize that we’re all between a rock and a hard place here. While I understand the disgust that some vaccine proponents might feel towards me, my hesitancy is not unreasonable. If these doctors’ concerns turn out to be valid, we will be hospitalizing the vaccinated, particularly those who’ve received booster shots. Talk of a recovery will become irrelevant.
If this does happen, (and I hope it doesn’t,) the fact that a significant percentage of healthcare workers have remained unvaccinated would then become an upside. (27% unvaccinated as of last month with 15% firmly opposed). Because, practically speaking, if people’s heads start exploding in 2 years, somebody’s gonna have to be around to care for the sick.
“But you’re enabling new and dangerous variants to develop by prolonging the pandemic”
Possibly. But I don’t see how that justifies potentially putting the worldwide population at risk by forcing healthy, low-risk people to take an experimental vaccine. Even if it were ethical to do so, it’s debatable if a vaccinated population will keep the virus from mutating as we now know that some countries are seeing a very high percentage of fully vaccinated people infected or hospitalized with COVID. If the virus is replicating even among the vaccinated, then there will be new mutations regardless.
Furthermore, could it be an upside to the Delta surge that the millions of unvaccinated who recover will likely have developed natural immunity? Is natural immunity better and longer lasting than vaccine immunity? Probably, according to a new study from Israel. (Even so, this does not suggest that anyone should seek to get sick with COVID-19.)
But if one does get COVID, it is noteworthy that three new American studies suggest that our immune systems do recognize COVID-19 and its variants, according to the doctors cited above. This is contrary to what we were told early on, when media was reporting that the vaccine would be our only weapon against the “novel coronavirus.”
Finally, there seems to be a general agreement that as viruses mutate to become more transmissible, they tend to become less lethal. So, yay. Unless they don’t. Detractors argue that this is also not a hard and fast rule, as a virus might be just as happy to spread first and then kill you.
As an uneducated layperson, I conclude from all this that nobody knows what is going to happen.
“But it’s not fair for unvaccinated people to burden the system when they’ve chosen to reject the solution”
Regarding the gene-based vaccines, I would argue that I at least have a plausible health-based reason for my hesitancy, especially given that I only have impossibly conflicting information to go by. By contrast, most of the leading causes of death in America (of which COVID-19 is now at #7-ish) are largely “lifestyle-related diseases”: Heart disease, cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and stroke to name a few. Americans are notoriously obese, sugar-addicted, sedentary, and drug dependent, and we know better.
Fortunately, we seldom hear calls for refusing to care for people whose poor choices helped to land them in the hospital. But we’re hearing it now with regard to the unvaccinated.
Yet something like 95% of those hospitalized and/or dying with COVID have at least one of these same underlying conditions. True, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are not contagious, but do we want to start down the road of choosing which sick people to care for based on whether or not we agree with their choices?
Weighing Risk and Reward
I wouldn’t say that folks who have been vaccinated are gullible guinea pigs. I wouldn’t say that folks who choose to wait are reckless hillbillies. I would say none of us has the benefit of 100% certainty with regard to what is true with this pandemic.
We are well into the vaccination campaign and there are still many unanswered questions. How is it that we are just now beginning to take the effects of the vaccine on women’s health seriously?
Why shouldn’t natural immunity count as immunity? What can one do for early treatment if one contracts COVID-19? Should we vaccinate children?
I hear that I should trust experts who are smarter and more educated than I am, and I do to a certain extent. But which experts? And regardless, stuff still has to make sense to me on a layman level. I know from experience that even smart people are spectacularly wrong sometimes. The bottom line is that I am responsible for my decisions. If I follow advice that turns out to be wrong, that’s still on me.
We are ultimately left with comparing risk. My personal decision to not get vaccinated does not mean that I think no one should get vaccinated. Further information could change my mind about getting vaccinated. What is best for the people around me must also figure into my equation.
This is true for us all. I have a friend who works with cancer patients. He doesn’t need a mandate from his employer to get vaccinated because he doesn’t want to endanger the lives of his vulnerable patients. So even though he is not at elevated risk, his care for others has compelled him get vaccinated. We should all be so considerate.
Similarly, if you are at elevated risk, the equation is different for you than for a low risk person. Because of the science, If I were 10 years older I would probably get the vaccine. If I were obese, a smoker, asthmatic, diabetic, or otherwise at risk, this would shift the equation in favor of getting myself vaccinated. It makes little sense to wait around for the science regarding long-term effects of gene-based COVID-19 vaccines if it is likely that the disease itself will kill you first.
On that cheery note, thanks for listening. I’d love to hear your respectful thoughts below.
Speaking of the future, you can now view my original children’s storybooks on Instagram, page by page! Follow me @ scottfreeman.books