I interned at The Weekly Standard and harbor none of the same visceral anger toward Bill Kristol that his most vigorous critics do — even if I can’t profess to fully understand or remotely agree with the increasingly sharp left turn he’s taken. Nevertheless, I do think it’s worth pointing out that his swipe at National Review this morning is completely without basis, and his attempt to make an example out of Michael Brendan Dougherty is extremely unfair.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 17, 2021
In fact, the evidence is clear: National Review has been emphatic and relentless in extolling the virtues of these medical miracles. Moreover, we’ve advocated the vaccines by being harsh on the demagogues and patient with the laymen — a strategy I would say is both righteous and effective.
Here is a collection of links, followed by excerpts, of articles that have appeared here. They are meant not just to refute Kristol but to serve as a resource for those trying to persuade skeptics to, pun intended, take the plunge.
Now, some will point out that because of how quickly it was developed, there is no way to definitively prove that the vaccine will have no deleterious effects down the line. This is true; there’s no way to prove a negative. That said, there is also no reason to think that there will be complications from the vaccine.
Well, no convincing reason, at least. The coronavirus vaccine will be the first mRNA vaccine ever brought to market, and that has, again, naturally, caused some anxiety over what its side effects could be. What is a mRNA vaccine? Here’s how the CDC describes them:
To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines . . .
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the muscle cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.
Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.
At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.
While these will be the first widely distributed mRNA vaccines, they have been worked with and studied for decades, including for diseases such as the flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Oncologists working on cancer research have also used mRNA.
Much of the concern over mRNA vaccines stems from a mistaken belief that they actually alter the DNA of the inoculated. They don’t. For the Associated Press, Dr. Dan Culver of the Cleveland Clinic explains that mRNA “cannot change your genetic makeup. The time that this RNA survives in the cells is relatively brief in the span of hours. What you are really doing is sticking a recipe card into the cell making protein for a few hours.”
Carlson states hundreds of people have died in four months after the vaccine, versus the meningitis vaccine, about which he states only 1 person died after receiving since 2010 (and notably, even that one death wasn’t directly related, something Carlson doesn’t clearly note). The problem is that Carlson fails to understand the math. That vaccine only is administered to about 3 million people yearly. We provide that many doses of COVID vaccine daily.
In short, the scale and scope of Warp Speed, which has promised to be able to vaccinate every American within a year, is the reason for this “stunning” math, as Carlson puts it, not the threat of the vaccine itself.
Furthermore, the actual number of deaths related to receiving the vaccine appears very, very low. For example, both the European Union and the U.S. briefly halted the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines after the reporting of a few rare cases of cerebral venous thrombosis, an exceedingly rare condition to begin with. In the U.S., total cases amounted to 6 out of 6.8 million doses administered. And as of now, not even one death has been directly related.
The advent of the COVID vaccines is one of the marvels of our time. Yet the message that vaccine-hesitant Americans are getting from the media and public-health officials is that vaccines are highly risky, and even if you take that risk, you can’t go back to your pre-pandemic lives.
This is perverse. The COVID-19 vaccines available to Americans — which, as of this writing, are just the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — are safe. People have reactions to them, of course. People have reactions to all kinds of vaccines, from flu shots to tetanus shots. Those who are vaccinated may experience muscle aches and sore arms, fatigue, chills, slight fever, headaches, and dizziness. These reactions usually pass in a day or two, without any treatment. It’s a small and brief inconvenience for the benefit of no longer being at risk to being seriously ill with COVID-19.
The confusion concerning fertility and the coronavirus vaccines stems from the fact that the protein “spike” that the mRNA causes our cells to produce shares a sequence of five amino acids with syncitin-1, a protein found in placentas. But the amino-acid overlap between the spike protein and syncitin-1 is extremely small relative to the size of the protein, extremely common, and not nearly significant enough to cause an adverse physiological reaction to the placenta.
For some perspective, consider that hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in our blood supply, happens to share six amino acids with the protein spike. Tens of millions of doses of the two mRNA vaccines have been administered across the globe, and there have been no incidents of inoculated bodies’ attacking the hemoglobin in their own blood.
What’s more, if this threat were credible, we’d expect to have seen women who’d contracted the coronavirus and possessed its antibodies experience fertility issues, which they haven’t. We’d also expect to have seen evidence that getting the virus would pose just as great a risk to fertility as getting the vaccine, which we haven’t.
And on the central issue of vaccination and young adults, Rogan is simply mistaken. Not only does he fail to consider the important public-health risks associated with large numbers of young people opting not to be vaccinated, but his risk assessments for young people vis-à-vis the virus and vaccine are also faulty — and wildly so.
If young people do not inoculate themselves in large numbers, the virus will continue to spread among both the young and older, more vulnerable unvaccinated populations. The first-order consequences are serious enough; many in this latter group will die and some youngsters — most of whom Rogan is right to say are not at risk of dying — could suffer long-term effects from the disease that we do not yet fully grasp. Moreover, the longer the disease retains a significant foothold in the population, the more variants will develop. While the vaccines have been remarkably effective at combating many of the variants that have developed to this point, there’s no guarantee that they will be as successful in the future.
But even if we were to consider the question of whether young people should get vaccinated based only on their chances of dying, any examination of the available data would lead to the conclusion that the answer is “yes.” According to the most recent CDC data, 2,097 Americans in the 18–29 age group have passed away with COVID as at least a contributing factor in their death. In the 30–39 bracket, that number rises to 6,089. For Americans in their 40s, it’s 16,507.
Now, these are not especially scary counts, and if you’ve been listening to only the shrillest of alarmists in the media over the last year, you might be shocked by how low they are. But even so, they still represent a threat that is orders of magnitude higher than that which is supposedly posed by the vaccines. The CDC halted distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two weeks ago after only a few instances of severe blood-clotting within a very specific demographic were linked to it. Pfizer and Moderna have had basically no problems linked to their vaccines save for the rare allergic reaction. So Rogan’s thesis fails even on its own terms.
It is in fashion on the left — and in many quarters of the right — to be myopically concentrated on all that is wrong with this country.
It’s an odd time to be down on the old Stars and Stripes, though. Over the last year, the United States has done more than any other nation to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic. And when it does end, it will in fact be American ingenuity that does it.
The American coronavirus vaccines are not the only ones to have been created and mass-produced in less than a year, but they are by far the most effective products doing by far the most good around the world.
What to do, then? The Biden administration should sideline Fauci and begin telling the truth, instead of playing the political expectations game they have to this point. Vaccinations mean herd immunity and herd immunity means a return to normalcy, nothing less. It’s unlikely that it will take this course of action, as COVID piety and absolutism, as well as an unquestioning belief in Dr. Fauci, are popular among the Democratic base. But if bringing a swift end to the pandemic and saving as many lives as possible were truly Biden’s highest priorities, he would pursue this course of action.
Conservatives with credibility among the grassroots, meanwhile — Florida governor Ron DeSantis comes to mind — should make a point of touting the vaccines’ benefits not only to their own constituencies, but on national television and in other media.
Both groups should be approaching the skeptical not with condescension or arguments from authority, but specific facts and figures.
There’s little reason for the coronavirus vaccines to have developed into a partisan wedge issue and every reason for their development and distribution to have been a unifying and joyous occasion. Sadly, while Operation Warp Speed demonstrated the best of what America can do and be, its aftermath has been an advertisement for our political elites’ self-interestedness and disregard for the common good.
Berenson is not only lying about the vaccine being ineffective, but about it being dangerous. His pinned tweet reads:
How much more likely are you to die after getting the #Covid vaccine than the flu vaccine?
300-900 times, based on federal VAERS reports. Yes, 900.
Covid: 1 death reported per 35,000 shots or 10,000 completed vaccinations (so far).
Flu: 1 death per 9,000,000 vaccinations.
He follows up like this:
Source: the federal vaccine adverse event reporting system – 21 deaths this flu season after 180+ million vaccines. (2019-20 was ~ the same.)
That’s a safe vaccine. Those deaths are likely coincidental, a simple result of the number of shots given.
The #Covid vax, not so much.
Can you think of any good reasons why a greater proportion of people who have received the coronavirus vaccine would have died than flu shot recipients? For one thing, distribution of the coronavirus vaccine has been concentrated on older people with a host of co-morbidities. For another, this is occurring during a pandemic that wreaks significantly more havoc on those populations than the flu does. Moreover, the fact that it takes two doses and then two weeks for the vaccine to work up to full strength in our systems means that these populations are still susceptible (although less so) even after they’ve been inoculated. Without pointing to specific causes of death and convincingly linking them to the vaccine, these data points are useless.
It’s difficult to overstate how immoral it is to spread disinformation about a safe, highly effective vaccine during a deadly pandemic. It’s impossible to overstate how embarrassing it is that Berenson has done so as clumsily as he has.
What’s needed now is a global Operation Warp Speed. Of course, this might be a bit easier if President Biden had not decided to memory-hole Operation Warp Speed’s extraordinarily successful public–private partnership and replace world-class industry experts with leaders who have no experience at all in vaccine manufacturing.
Just as with the original Operation Warp Speed, government and the private sector need to come together to do things faster than any of them would normally think possible. The way in which the Trump administration dealt with practical realities rather than ideological talking points — working with the private sector but not shying away from necessary fights — is the right path forward.
Get vaccinated when you’re able, and don’t be like the mayor of Detroit, getting picky about which vaccine you receive. Any vaccine will give you some enhanced protection against the virus, while not having a vaccine means you’re rolling the dice on your own immune system. Given a choice, you’d rather wear a bulletproof vest, right?
It is certainly understandable that any American could feel trepidation about being among the first in the general public to receive a vaccine. But, it’s important to remember, too, that they won’t be. Health-care professionals will obtain the first dosages allocated in any emergency-use authorization, as they are especially susceptible to encountering the disease in their interactions with patients. And in the event that the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective among those who initially get it, those people will still wear personal protective equipment in their dealings with the public and each other. Allowing doctors and nurses in the line of duty to receive the early publicly available vaccines also gives researchers the opportunity to fine tune it further, creating an even safer and more effective vaccination regimen for the general public.
Our patriotic scientists in public service and the private sector alike should be lauded for their work to develop a safe, effective vaccine at breakneck speed. They want to help people, and they care about the integrity of their work. They would never agree to negligently bring to market any vaccine they think would have a chance of hurting people. And they do not deserve to have their integrity and motivations maligned simply because Trump is president.
Any public figure with a platform has the vital responsibility of using it wisely. Needlessly stoking fears about a potential coronavirus vaccine to score political points is breathtakingly sinister and downright shameful. We need politicians, celebrities, and community leaders to support a common cause for the common good: promoting sound science that will save precious lives.
For people who see everything through a partisan lens, this represents a quandary. If you think vaccination against COVID-19 is a good and necessary thing, and reluctance or refusal to get the vaccine represents unreasonable paranoia that disregards extensive trial testing, and/or a nonchalance about the health threat that COVID-19 poses, then the skepticism of both groups should be equally troubling. In the end, someone eligible to be vaccinated who refuses is just another unvaccinated potential patient or carrier; the virus doesn’t care about the color of someone’s skin or the reasoning behind why they refused the vaccine.
Derek Thompson goes through the record, and finds that Berenson is consistently wrong. At best, Berenson doesn’t know what he is talking about and has gotten dug in. An excerpt:
When I asked Berenson to explain his beef with Israel’s vaccine record, he sent a link to a news story in Hebrew that, he said, reported “several hundred deaths and hospitalizations and thousands of infections in people who have received both doses.” I can’t read Hebrew, so I reached out to someone who can, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel. He replied by email: “This link actually shows that the vast majority of those who died were NOT vaccinated.” By Segal’s calculations, the vaccines have reduced the risk of death by more than 90 percent in the Israeli population. Segal also said that “numbers of infections only went down, and even more so among the age groups who were first to vaccinate.”
Berenson is wrong about all sorts of little things when it comes to Israel, but I want to emphasize how straightforward and obvious the big picture is here. Israel is a world leader in vaccinations. Its COVID-19 cases have plunged, and its economy is roaring back to life.
But that’s not the last word Meany has had on the subject. On EWTN last week, he explained that the nightmare scenario has been averted: Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine used cells taken from aborted human beings for their development or production. Both were, however, tested using cells that may have been derived from an abortion in 1973.
The connection between that possible abortion and the vaccines is attenuated. No one who takes them to protect himself and his community from COVID need worry that he is either causing an abortion, encouraging abortion in the future, or conferring approval of it.