The Vaccine Might Kill You and That’s Fine
Examining Covid-19 Vaccine Fatality Rates and the Government’s Incentive to Hide Them
There’s a hell of a lot of chatter going on right now about whether the vaccines the USA have injected into half the population are safe. Safe is a terrible word, and “is the vaccine safe?” is the wrong question to ask. Walking across the street isn’t safe. Bicycling isn’t safe. Swimming in a swimming pool isn’t safe. There are risks to any activity, and the appropriate way to frame the question mathematically is “is vaccination safer on net than non-vaccination?”
We still don’t know the answer to this question, because this entire thing with Covid-19 is one giant human experiment, and we won’t know the answers of the experiment for a decade. We’re starting to get data, though, so it’s valuable to look at it, and then use our view of it to evaluate the public policy and public messaging decisions around it.
The Covid-19 vaccination experiment, wherein the human population is being coopted into what amounts to a global vaccine trial, is public. The FDA outlines this on their website, where they explain Emergency Use Authorizations. The money line in that link is here:
For an EUA to be issued for a vaccine, for which there is adequate manufacturing information to ensure quality and consistency, FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.
In short, they did an ROI on pushing out a partially tested vaccine against the drawbacks of not pushing it out, as best as they could figure at the time, and voila! We have a vaccine the day after Trump loses the election.
Like any experiment, there is a treatment group and a control group. People in the treatment group should be glad some folks aren’t getting the vaccine, so we have good data on the unvaccinated. People in the control group should be glad other folks are getting the vaccine, so we have good data on the vaccinated. This is how experiments work, although this may be the first experiment of any scale, to say nothing of the national or global scale, where the two groups (treatment and control) seem to hate each other on Facebook. Regardless, I’m glad these two groups exist. I chose treatment group, Pfizer in particular, and some of my friends chose control group, and we are all still friends.
Covid-19 is a super weird disease which kills some people, particularly those over age 65, and is basically harmless to some other people, particularly those under age 25, on an aggregate basis. Infection fatality rates (IFRs) for Covid-19 are approximately 7 to 8 times higher than influenza for every discretized age bracket age 65 and over, are approximately the same as influenza for those in middle age, and are 50 times lower than influenza in the under 25 bracket. Covid-19 can also sometimes cause long term damage to various organ tissues, which doesn’t show up in the fatality numbers, and for which we have no good prevalence data yet as far as I’m aware. Those things are certainly happening, but we don’t know how often at a population level yet.
The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are brand new, never before tested technology that probably would have sat on a shelf for a decade or more before being FDA approved were it not for Covid-19’s dramatic appearance. Their efficacy in preventing Covid-19 infection seems noticeably higher than any other vaccine method cooked up in 2020, and that’s good, but we have no idea yet whether they cause unforeseen long-term damage.
A very deep dive into the science of mRNA vaccine technology was hosted by Bret Weinstein here:
You may want to watch it before Youtube censors it for being anti-science, even though it’s literally an interview with the guy who invented mRNA vaccine technology. Why they might do something so tremendously stupid is covered several sections down. We’ll get there, but first let’s do some math on how many people probably die from the vaccine and what that means.
(post publication edit: YouTube banned Weistein recently after this article was released)
Vax Death Math
I expected people to die from this vaccine. I expected the deaths to be downplayed, and discussion of them to be censored. I expected alternate media to elevate those deaths to generate Handwaving Freakoutery about them and farm clicks. I expected a culture war to erupt around suppression of the numbers. All my expectations were met robustly, because this is the underlying mechanic that drives the sensemaking crisis. Here’s the best take I’ve seen so far on how many deaths there actually are from this, lifted without attribution from one of the places I hide in where we talk about the sensemaking crisis itself:
First off, this could be complete bullshit. It’s a statement on a discussion board with no references and no math shown. I have not independently verified any of these numbers, and if some journalist wants to actually do the legwork to do so themselves, I highly encourage it. But this number, one in five thousand vaccinated people die from the vaccine, seems reasonable to me and I’d like to move forward pretending it’s true to try to figure out whether it’s high or low, scary or benign. One day we might know what the real number is, and we can run back and rework the following analysis.
In February HWFO calculated herd immunity threshold (HIT) may be as low as 55%, based on studying infection waves in US prisons, instead of the 85% trotted out by Fauci and Friends. The Covid-19 crash predictions in that article turned out to exactly match reality, so this number is probably good and we are going to use it.
Case 1: YOLO Fuck It
In the YOLO Fuck It case, there is no vaccine and we all just catch Covid in the same way that the prison system did, generating HIT through natural means. As long as we don’t overshoot, we’re probably landing at a net total infection rate of 55% nationwide, or 181 million people out of our 330 million population. Presuming even mixing of infections across all age bands, and an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.5% as has been chronicled elsewhere, that probably yields a total death count of 900,000 dead people. Just under a million. Our reported death count is currently around 600,000, two thirds of this number, most of which happened before the mad dash to vaccinate.
Case 2: Magic Space Vaccine Fairy Version 1
In Magic Fairy Case 1, Tinkerbell comes down from space on January 1st 2020 and vaccinates the entire USA population at gun point with mRNA technology, killing one out of every 5000 Americans, and preventing Covid-19 entirely. Out of our 330 million population this would kill 66,000 people with mRNA bugs while averting the 900,000 deaths from Wuhan bugs. This is a noticeable difference. 14 times more people end up dead from the Wuhan bugs than the mRNA bugs.
Case 3: Magic Space Vaccine Fairy Version 2
In the second Magic Fairy case, she comes down from space on January 1st and makes the vaccine optional, and 55% of the population takes it. We still reach HIT, but only 36,000 of the brave intrepid volunteers who place paramount trust in Tinkerbell die. This is the best of the three outcomes.
We could derive even better outcomes if we wanted to. Perhaps Tinkerbell brings Shrek the Actuarial Space Orc with her, who decides to gunpoint vax those over age 65 and let the rest either opt in or YOLO, and we’d be down around 15,000 deaths or less. I haven’t done this math, reply in the comments if you’d like to LARP the actuarial science.
The takeaway here is important. Even if people die from the vaccine at a rate of one out of every five thousand, the vaccine still makes sense at a population level. Which creates an incentive for public policy folks to bury the truth in order to avert vaccine skepticism.
The Hippocratic Lie
Two shadowy CDC figures meet at the Clifton Road Boruboru for lunch. One is an evil man, bent on social manipulation of the populace because he earns a fat salary bonus from the Deep State Illuminati for every Covid-19 death he averts. The other is a beautiful kind lady doctor, committed to doing the least total harm because of her oath of profession. “First do no harm.” They’re staring at a Top-Secret CDC report on the table between their poke bowls, a report which shows definitively that mRNA vaccines kill one out of every 5000 people who take them. This evil greedy CDC man and beautiful altruistic CDC woman only agree on one thing: suppress this report.
If the report gets out, people might choose not to take the vaccine. If enough choose not to take it the country doesn’t reach HIT. If the country doesn’t reach HIT then more people die. The obvious thing to do, in both of their positions, is to lie to the public to reduce the death count.
Such a lunch meeting never took place. No two such people exist in the pure. But everyone at the CDC falls along some spectrum between those two, and both of the ends of the spectrum don’t want you to know what the vaccine death count is, because of the nature of their job.
And that is why Bret Weinstein gets censored regularly on YouTube talking about this stuff.
Peanut Gallery Advice
I chose “experiment” group instead of “control” group, not out of a cultural affiliation with either group, nor out of fear of death should I catch Covid-19. I chose it for much more benign reasons. I figured I did enough experimental drugs in college a few decades ago that one more experiment was no big deal, and the vaccine was free, and I’m so busy professionally right now I don’t really have time to get sick. The dice on dying from the vaccine were worth rolling, whatever those dice end up being in the long run.
But there is no way in hell I’m letting anyone vaccinate my kids with an experimental nanodrug, when pre-pubescent children have never once been shown to propagate this disease during contact tracing studies, and children get over the disease very quickly and with relatively small side effects on net. The push to vaccinate children is immoral and wrong until this vaccine moves out of Emergency Use Authorization stage, and anyone who disagrees with that doesn’t understand how science works.
We should continue to expect the official channels to lie out of a desire to manipulate us, because that is almost literally their job, but catching them in lies does not necessarily mean not to follow their advice. What it does mean is that we have to step back and perform our own version of what their job should be, and make decisions untainted by Handwaving Freakoutery on either side of whatever flavor of culture war is hitting Facebook on any given day.
It's really the best we can do.