The TV show South Park has inserted a new Covid variant into its animated universe called the Covid Delta Plus Rewards Programme variant. As expected, word of a new variant spreads through the town like wildfire, and the hysterical residents (of which there are many) immediately begin panicking by bulk buying toilet paper and firing up Zoom for remote work/learning.
There follows an extract of an interview published by French news website Entreprendre with Professor Didier Raoult, the Director of the Méditerranée Infection Foundation – translated from French to English by Google. Professor Raoult argues that there should be more clarity about the benefits and risks associated with taking Covid vaccines.
For the moment, the vaccine is not compulsory. Medical practitioners must advise their patients whether or not to take the vaccine.
The most important point is, of course, to ask: what is the balance between the risks and the benefits?
When people tell you there is no risk, that is not true. We are starting to understand some of the risks of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. There are really dangerous risks of allergy due to the compound we use, polyethylene glycol, with people who have anaphylactic shock which may be fatal and people who have thromboses. So the numbers suffering in this way need to be solidified so we know how many people are in potentially fatal accidents. Is it 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 10,000? These are things we need to know so we can say “this is the risk you are taking with the vaccine”.
What is the risk you take when you are not vaccinated? Well, it’s a mix between the proportion of people who are infected and the proportion of people who are infected with a severe form. So, to avoid severe forms, this vaccine is probably of interest. We must give people the choice to think. For those over the age of 75 or 80, the number of sick people who are at risk of dying is significant. Mortality among those over 85 is over 20% so the benefit to be hoped for in a period when the virus is circulating for people over 80 is very good.
And if, in these great times of terror we live in, people are reassured to be vaccinated, they must be vaccinated. But there are more downsides than they say. There is work that just came out in Nature that shows 75% of participants in a Pfizer vaccine trial reported side effects. We have never seen this with another vaccine: it is two to three times more than the flu shot. There are also some lethal effects. Is the risk worth taking? Certainly when you are part of a population at risk, but when you are part of the population without risk, you can ask yourself the question. It is everyone’s choice.
Professor Didier was asked: at the community level, is it worth getting vaccinated to avoid infecting others?
Current data does not allow us to say that we will control the circulation of the virus in England with the vaccine. There is a decrease in the severity of infections when one is vaccinated. As for a decrease in the circulation of the virus, there is, as yet, no work that convinces me. The target of this vaccine is so narrow that it will be very easy to see new variants appear which will resist the antibodies generated by this vaccine. So again, the vaccine is not the magic wand hoped for to keep this virus and its variants from circulating.
I think we have to come back to the idea of what a disease is… We need to maintain credibility with the population if we want to be able to implement effective public health measures.