Mainstream, VOL LIX No 29, New Delhi, July 3, 2021
Wall Street Journal Oped by Senior Doctors Adds to Covid Vaccine Concerns | Bharat Dogra
Friday 2 July 2021, by#socialtags
On June 22 the Wall street Journal published an oped which has added to concerns regarding some aspects of Covid vaccines. This article stated, “Public health authorities are making a mistake and endangering public confidence by failing to report the possibility of harm from certain side effects of (Covid ) vaccines.” In addition, this article said that many of the problems in this context are caused by “deep entanglement of pandemic politics in science.”
This article titled ‘Are Covid Vaccines Riskier Than Advertized?’ has been written by Dr. Joseph A. Lopado, MD, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA and Dr. Havey A Risch, Prof. of Epidemiology at Yale University of Public Health. The writers have stated that there well be lasting consequences of mixing political partisanship with science. Examining the evidence the writers say, “ no published study has shown that patients who have been infected previously benefit from Covid 19 vaccine.” They add—Risks of a Covid-19 vaccine may outweigh the benefits for some low-risk populations such as children, young adults and persons who have recovered from Covid 19.
Various Covid vaccines have been developed in the USA and elsewhere in unprecedented record time . Therefore several experts have been emphasizing the need for very careful monitoring of safety issues.
Very recently the latest data on adverse events following Covid vaccine for the USA was released for the roughly six month period December 14 2020 to June 18 2021. According to this official data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA ( CDC) on the basis of VAERS ( Vaccines Adverse Events Reporting System ) reporting , 3,87,087 total adverse events following Covid vaccines were recorded, including 6113 deaths and 31,240 serious injuries during these six months.
This data has to be investigated further before a causal relationship can be firmly established. Nevertheless it is important that 23% of the reported deaths took place within 48 hours of vaccination while 16% of the reported deaths took place within 24 hours. 38% of deaths took place among people who became ill within 48 hours of vaccination.
Concerned citizens have demanded that as these are significant numbers, there should be more careful research on why some people are more susceptible than others to injury, so that the possibilities of injuries can be minimized on the basis of the findings of such research.
What is more such citizens and groups are also expressing apprehension that the actual number of injuries and deaths is likely to be several times higher as these are widely known to be highly under-reported in the existing Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). In this context attention has been drawn also to a comprehensive, official study conducted in year 2010 which stated that the VAERS system captures only a very small part of vaccine injuries. There are other studies which confirm substantial under-reporting. The recent Wall Street Journal article quoted earlier has also stated regarding this system, “ Previous research has shown that only a fraction of adverse events are reported, so the actual number of cases is almost higher. This tendency to underreport is consistent with our clinical experience.”
This article by eminent doctors has analyzed the data carefully for what it reveals, despite its underreporting. The writers say—The large clustering of some adverse events immediately after vaccination is concerning, and the silence around these potential signals of harm reflects the policy surrounding Covid-19 vaccines. The stigma of such concerns is bad for scientific integrity and could harm patients.”
The writers of Wall Street Journal article say that four serious events follow this arc, according to data directly from VAERS : low platelet count ( thrombocytopenia), non-infectious mycocarditis or inflammation of the heart especially in those under 30, deep vein thrombosis; and the dead.”
This brings us back to the various earlier voices of caution in the USA regarding safety of Covid vaccines in recent times. The USA was among those countries where very massive efforts were coordinated under the directions of President Trump to speed up greatly the development and supply of Covid vaccines in very exceptional and unprecedented ways. Hence there is exceptional need for caution. Keeping in view the substantial under-reporting of side-effects , there should be ways of preparing realistic estimates and in addition the reported data can also be better analyzed to find out higher susceptibilities and to improve safety record on the basis of such careful analysis.
(The writer is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth For Children, Planet in Peril and Man Over Machine ( Gandhian ideas for our times) )