The relative safety of COVID-19 vaccines depends on who you are and where you are, and pending further updates … and other information not known at this time …
A vaccine that’s deemed safe for some people may not be deemed safe for others. Take the Moderna vaccine, which North American governments endorse for those under 30 years of age. If you’re a 29-year-old Swede, your government decided against authorizing its use as of Dec. 1, continuing a pause it began in early October. Finland has a similar prohibition, while Denmark touts the Moderna vaccine for people over, but not under, 18. Iceland discontinued the use of Moderna altogether.
These Scandinavian countries’ authorities fear Moderna causes needless risk of myocarditis in young people, especially in young males and especially after getting the second shot. Their health authorities instead steer people to the low-dose Pfizer vaccine, which provides 30 micrograms of mRNA, the live agent, compared to Moderna’s 100 micrograms.
France’s High Authority for Health not only didn’t recommend Moderna for under 30-year-olds, it also removed its recommendation last month for anyone, of any age, for a Moderna booster, even though it explicitly recommends Moderna over Pfizer for those over 30 for the first two doses. Authorities in the United States and Canada have no such prohibitions, even though for young males Moderna has a myocarditis rate of five times that of the Pfizer.
The Pfizer vaccine has its share of concerns. In November, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center decided to pause Pfizer’s second shot in 12- to 17-year-olds after 16 Taiwanese teens developed myocarditis. Taiwan will restart jabbing youngsters in mid-December, with the recommendation that the second shot be taken 12 weeks after receiving the first shot, but maybe not if the child has an adverse reaction to the first shot. Taiwan recognizes that the Pfizer vaccine increases the chances of contracting myocarditis, especially in young boys, and requires letters of intent and parental consent before a child can be jabbed.
Other concerns over Pfizer threaten to lead to future restrictions. While Pfizer raises fewer red flags than Moderna over myocarditis, it raises more over breakthrough infections, which hit Pfizer vaccinees 57 percent more often than those vaccinated with Moderna.
The mainstream media in Israel, the poster child for mass vaccination using Pfizer, has of late been in open debate about Pfizer’s value, with the medical director of Israel’s leading center for respiratory care stating in early August that Israel’s vaccinated accounted for 85 to 90 percent of COVID hospitalizations at Jerusalem’s Herzog Medical Center.
Pfizer’s failure to prevent breakthrough cases in Israel is compounded by the discovery that it wanes much faster than expected, necessitating two and possibly three boosters a year to maintain immunity. Yet boosters may not work either, says Israel’s National COVID-19 Experts Committee, which warned the government that its policy of relying on a third booster shot in its recent Delta wave was not proving itself.
All the vaccines have had on-again, off-again stints. In mid-April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paused its authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women developed a rare and sometimes deadly blood clotting condition following vaccination. Vaccinations resumed 10 days later, albeit with a warning to women under 50 about the blood clotting. With a new study out last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine conducted by the Mayo Clinic showing the J&J vaccine to increase the risk of developing brain blood clots by a factor of 3.5, and for women by a factor of 5, health officials may once again revisit the cost-benefit.
Slovenia last week did decide to permanently stop using the J&J vaccine after an expert commission concluded a 20-year-old woman’s blood-clotting death in September was indeed caused by the vaccine she received days earlier. That decision followed a high-profile death of the wife of a Slovenian diplomat in May, also within days of taking the J&J vaccine. According to Bojana Beovic, the head of the Slovenian government’s advisory group on vaccinations, Slovenia will “most likely” also discontinue the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose viral vector technology resembles that of J&J’s and which has also been linked to rare blood clots.
The UK in May restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by those under 40 years of age, following a spike of blood clot cases. Though the cases are rare, they can be deadly, with a 73 percent mortality rate when the clots appear in the brain and an average mortality rate of 23 percent for all clot cases. AstraZeneca, the world’s most popular vaccine with authorizations in 184 countries, has been restricted in various countries in diametrically opposite directions. Some countries, such as Italy, restricted those under 60 from taking AstraZeneca because of concerns for younger populations while others, such as Germany and Poland, restricted those over 65 due to concerns for the health of seniors.
When government officials and scientists tell us vaccines are perfectly safe, they mean they’re relatively safe, that on balance, we’re better off risking an adverse reaction from a vaccine than risking COVID-19. When governments fine tune their advice by recommending, say, that a vaccine not be given to those under 60, they’re increasing the odds that the patient will be spared an adverse reaction. But governments rarely go further than identifying broad-brush age-related categories. Take differences in vaccine outcomes by sex, which vary dramatically between men and women.
While men taking either Moderna or Pfizer account for the overwhelming proportion of myocarditis cases, women taking either Moderna or Pfizer account for the overwhelming proportion of anaphylaxis cases. Whether patients are obese or diabetic or have other ailments also loom large. The more fine-tuning, the better the ability of patients and their doctors to determine which vaccine is relatively safe to take for their age, sex, and individual comorbidities.
Most citizens follow the expert advice of their particular government’s health authority, avoid vaccines that aren’t recommended, and trust those that remain. But if all the cautions raised by all the governments’ health authorities were to be taken seriously—if a citizen of the world, say, was to accept as valid all the warnings issued by governments around the world—most of the vaccines would be under a cloud and many of the rest would be unavailable to people of different demographics.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.