The Relative Risk and Absolute Risk of the mRNA vaccines may be clearer if we first look at an example from another field of public health. After a chemical spill or a nuclear power plant accident, the public will want to know how dangerous the situation is. In this hypothetical example the relative and absolute risks might be something like this:
Relative: After the nuclear accident, the rate of cancer in children increased ten-fold.
Absolute: Before the accident, one child in 10,000 got cancer every year. After the accident, ten children in 10,000 got cancer every year.
Regardless of what you think about the wisdom of using nuclear energy, or what you think about the criminal responsibility for those nine extra cases of cancer, reporting only the relative risk is misleading. A full, honest discussion of this hazard requires an understanding of the absolute risk. In this example, the nine extra cases are probably too high to be considered a random variation, so they must be linked to the nuclear accident. However, it is important for everyone to know the absolute numbers. An increase from one to ten is not as serious as an increase from ten to one hundred, or one hundred to one thousand.
Understanding vaccine risks and virus risks
There has been a lot of talk about the “efficacy” of vaccines. Media reports say, “Trials show the vaccine is 94% effective,” for example. Such reports refer to the Relative Risk Reduction (RRR) but not the Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR).
Here is a report on how one of the vaccine trials was conducted. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) review of the Moderna vaccine trial:
The trial began on July 27, 2020 and enrolled 30,420 adult volunteers at clinical research sites across the United States. Volunteers were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive either two 100 microgram (mcg) doses of the investigational vaccine or two shots of saline placebo 28 days apart. The average age of volunteers is 51 years. Approximately 47% are female, 25% are 65 years or older and 17% are under the age of 65 with medical conditions placing them at higher risk for severe COVID-19. Approximately 79% of participants are white, 10% are Black or African American, 5% are Asian, 0.8% are American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.2% are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 2% are multiracial, and 21% (of any race) are Hispanic or Latino.
From the start of the trial through Nov. 25, 2020, investigators recorded 196 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 occurring among participants at least 14 days after they received their second shot. One hundred and eighty-five cases (30 of which were classified as severe COVID-19) occurred in the placebo group and 11 cases (0 of which were classified as severe COVID-19) occurred in the group receiving mRNA-1273. The incidence of symptomatic COVID-19 was 94.1% lower in those participants who received mRNA-1273 as compared to those receiving placebo.
According to this description, in the group of 30,420 volunteers there were 15,210 people in the control group (group A) and 15,210 people in the group that received the vaccine (group B). Both groups were released “into the wild” for four months and checked later to see if they developed a symptomatic infection of SARS-Cov-2. In group A, 185 people had been infected, with 30 of them described as severe cases. In group B, 11 people had been infected, with none of them described as severe cases. This result allowed the vaccine makers to claim that the vaccine was 94.1% effective (11/185 = 5.9%, 100-5.9 = 94.1), which is a statement of Relative Risk Reduction. In absolute terms, in group A, 185 cases out of 15,210 is a1.2% (12 in 1,000) risk of infection, and only 30 cases were described as severe, which is a risk of 0.2% (2 in 1,000). The risk of a severe infection for unvaccinated people in group A is still quite a small number, but of course the risk became lower in group B. The risk of infection in group B is 0.07% (11/15,210, just below 1 in 1,000), which is a good relative risk reduction, but not a very significant absolute reduction—the difference being a change from 1.2% to 0.07%, or 0.2% to 0% if we consider only severe cases.
Thus, to eliminate the 0.2% risk of severe infection, it was necessary to vaccinate 15,210 people and impose on them the unknown risks associated with the vaccine itself. For the majority, the corona virus poses very little risk, so when they take the vaccine, they are doing so mostly for others—that is, they are contributing to stopping the spread of the virus, hopefully. They are also giving up the possible benefits of gaining natural immunity through infection. Healthy people, especially young people, can give their innate and adaptive immune systems a good workout by recovering from infections naturally. This will be a benefit to them in the future when they encounter other corona viruses. The mRNA vaccines trigger only the adaptive immune system, and they train the immune system to defend against only one protein—the famous spike protein. What happens if the spike protein evolves into a new form to evade the vaccine weapon?
When the vaccine is given to much larger numbers of people, dangerous effects might become apparent. For example, there could be deaths or serious effects on the scale of 1 in 50,000 or 1 in 100,000. There could also be “breakthrough” severe cases in the vaccinated group, which actually happened when more people in the real-world laboratory were vaccinated. The study involving 15,210 people may have been too small, and a major concern is that the study included no people under the age of 20, and no people over 65 with serious health conditions. Many countries are beginning to administer the vaccine to young persons even though this under-20 age group was not studied in the trial, and adverse reactions and deaths from myocarditis are now being reported in young people. One might say this small risk is worth it because the vaccine will prevent many deaths, but that is no comfort to parents who lost a teenage child to myocarditis shortly after her second vaccine shot—a person who, based on statistics for her age group, faced zero risk of death from the corona virus.
Many educational institutions are also coercing and essentially forcing children and young adults to get vaccinated. The under-20 age group faces almost no risk of developing a severe infection, yet they are being exposed to the unknown risks of the vaccine. The long-term risks and efficacy of the vaccine for people of all ages remain unknowable at present. It may prove to be too risky for some people (failure of safety) and new virus variants may emerge that the vaccine will not be able to defeat (failure of efficacy).
The benefits also decrease if effective treatments are discovered. In fact, effective treatments do exist, but they have been suppressed by the pharmaceutical companies who want to reap profits from vaccines, advance the use of mRNA injections for other applications, and sell new patented drugs. Effective anti-viral drugs that are off-patent, with established record of safety, are being suppressed by the enormous financial influence of the pharmaceutical companies that can control the information put out by national governments, international health agencies, the mass media, Wikipedia, and social media platforms. It is naïve to think this degree of influence and wall-to-wall message control is not possible. The average citizen might think, “No, they wouldn’t do that,” but the response to such thinking must be, “No, you wouldn’t do that, but they would.”
If you don’t believe private wealth and hundreds of billions of dollars in potential gains can buy such influence, consider another motivation for cover-up. Governments and corporations placed all their bets on vaccines and failed to promote effective treatments as early as the spring of 2020, so if the truth gets out, they face a total loss of political legitimacy and they are legally liable for prosecution and lawsuits in hundreds of thousands of cases of negligent death. They have to suppress the truth about effective treatments because various private and public officials were first and second-degree principals in the crime, or accessories before and after the fact. They are in a hole, and they have decided to keep digging. See Dr. Pierre Kory’s interview with Bret Weinstein for an in-depth discussion of this issue: Covid, Ivermectin and the Crime of the Century (June 2021, 2 hours, 32 minutes). The anonymous inquisitors at YouTube decided to delete the video, but portions of it are now back (as of 2021/06/17). It is still available on Vimeo and other podcast distributors.
For most people, the ARR for Covid vaccines is extremely low because for most people the risk of being badly harmed by an infection is very low to begin with. Because they sound far less impressive, you rarely hear ARRs discussed. Yet they are crucially important. The Lancet article shows the ARRs for cases (not serious illness or deaths) for the various vaccines based on clinical trials. These are as follows:
J & J: 1.2%
Let’s have a look at the ARR for children.
In the UK, the probability of a child of school age dying of Covid in a 12-month period (the time vaccine antibodies might be expected to last) is about 1 in 700,000. (source: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3259).
Other things being equal, this means 700,000 children need to be vaccinated in order to prevent 1 child Covid death. Leaving aside the absurd cost (i.e. huge profits to pharmaceutical companies), just one blood clot or other vaccine-induced death in 700,000 vaccinations would cancel out the benefit. Never mind the unknown long-term effects.
Yet impressive-sounding headlines like “Covid vaccine is 100% effective in kids ages 12 to 15” say nothing about the almost zero ARR. (source: https://www.cnbc.com/…/covid-vaccine-pfizer-says-shot…)
Understanding Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR)—not just the quoted efficacy—is key to weighing up the pros and cons of the vaccine for different people. For many, the vaccine risk won’t be worth the near-zero Covid risk reduction.
And it’s the ARR for deaths and serious illness, not cases and mild symptoms, that matter.
Another factor mentioned in the article in The Lancet is that risk calculation is different in different times and places. The risk of the corona virus depends on the health of the population, the quality of their health care, diet and nutrition, the average age of the population, and various other factors. Throughout the world there have been large differences in case numbers and mortality rates between countries.
Another facet of absolute risk is that during this pandemic, the risk of dying over the next year does not come only from the corona virus. The vaccine trial showed that the risk of contracting a severe corona virus infection over four months was 0.2%. 30 people developed severe cases, and no one died, but let’s speculate a little and say that over one year perhaps 6 of those 30 would have died. That’s 0.04% of group A’s 15,210 unvaccinated volunteers. (And by the way, did this placebo group stay unvaccinated to be tracked over the long term?) Most of those deaths would be in the over-60 age group because the risk of dying from the corona virus increases greatly after age 60—but so does the cost of life insurance! The actuarial tables have always been like this, long before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. Thus, the rational person over age 60 has to consider all the risks of death he or she has faced every day since birth and how much these risks are going to increase dramatically in old age.
The rational 60-year-old will also keep in mind how much these dangers never stopped him or her from moving about in the world and enjoying life. In any case, one’s fear of death in this age group must be a calculation of all the possible ways of dying over the next year. The 0.04% risk posed by the corona virus has to be added to the risk of dying of heart failure, cancer, accident, stroke etc. According to the statistics posted by Finder.com for 2014, an American male sixty-year-old had a 1.15% chance of dying within a year. Based on the results of the mRNA vaccine trial, Covid-19 made that statistic go up to 1.19%, and for that fearsome 3.4% increase in absolute risk (0.04/1.15), entire nations upended life and devastated the livelihoods of all members of society, most of whom faced risks much lower than that of the over-60 crowd. Even if my estimates are a little off the mark, the general point is valid. The Covid-19 danger added almost nothing to an individual’s overall danger of dying.
The perception of risk changes completely when you change your perspective this way and look at absolute risk. Just in case anyone wants to reject my analysis here because it is based on just one study, one small sample of 15,210 Americans, then that person also has to reject the conclusions that come from it about the efficacy of the vaccine. Come to think of it, the 30,420 volunteers in the study seem to be quite a healthy group of Americans. There were only 30 severe cases and no deaths among the 15,210 in the placebo group. This doesn’t match the impression of widespread devastation that was given by the mass media. The NIH review mentioned that 17% were under the age of 65 with medical conditions placing them at higher risk for severe COVID-19, but there were no people over 65 with medical conditions placing them at higher risk. This was precisely the cohort in which most of the Covid-19 deaths occurred, so their absence from the trial is a curious omission.
Finally, consider the argument that people should get vaccinated as a service to the greater good, as a way of ending the spread of the virus. This view holds that any healthy person who does not feel endangered by the corona virus should be coerced into getting vaccinated regardless of their concerns about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy for them personally. This is a form of coercion to undergo medical therapy for the benefit of others. It should be obvious, though it hasn’t been obvious to many, that the same principle, when applied to other medical interventions, would seem appallingly immoral.
“Doing it for the team” seems like a great, altruistic gesture. All people who have feelings of group empathy or socialist leanings should be proud to do something so selfless, apparently. However, the ethical argument for sacrifice for the collective does not include sacrificing of bodily integrity and health. People should not, for example, be coerced or forced enter a “losing lottery” for kidney donation or surrogate pregnancy just because there are people who need or want such donations. There are other infectious diseases that could be wiped out if everyone took antibiotics simultaneously or got vaccinated. A vaccine for gonorrhea is under development because the bacteria is now resistant to anti-biotics and asymptomatic cases are widespread. According to the source linked above, the US CDC has “listed antibiotic resistant N. gonorrhoeae as one of the top three pathogens that pose an immediate threat to public health that must be urgently and aggressively addressed.” There are as many as 600,000 active cases in the US and likely an equal number of asymptomatic cases. In spite of these large numbers, I suspect there will be no worldwide campaign of coercion for universal vaccination. Unlike the present approach to the corona virus, health authorities will probably take the smart approach that focuses on at-risk individuals followed by collecting data on how vaccination is affecting the prevalence of the disease.
Compared to other forms of medical intervention, the new mRNA vaccines may seem relatively safe and a small imposition to ask of people, yet the principle is the same as it is with kidney donation, reproductive rights or eugenics: my body, my choice. Coercion and inducements are ethically reprehensible, as is expecting that friends and strangers must tell you their vaccination status when you ask. If some people decline the vaccine because they already survived the infection, or they prefer to rely on their natural immunity and avoid possible risks in the future from an experimental biotechnology, they are entitled to make that choice privately without suffering any form of discrimination or deprivation, or even pressure from friends telling them to “do the right thing.”
It should also be obvious that coercion, vaccine passports, and privileges for the vaccinated lead only to more “vaccine hesitancy” and social discord. How many of the hesitant might have come around to taking the vaccine if they hadn’t been insulted and threatened while having legitimate concerns and questions about this rushed and novel biotechnology experiment on millions of people? Millions of people in “developed” countries live in economic despair and already feel neglected and trampled upon, so a mandatory vaccine is just one more imposition that takes on symbolic meaning of everything they resent.
Furthermore, coercion is unnecessary because it is wrong to think that the pandemic will never end without 100% vaccine coverage or total elimination of the virus. It is well known that once 70-80% of the population creates a combination of naturally acquired and vaccine-acquired collective immunity, the virus cannot spread. It will probably fade in strength and become endemic like other corona viruses. So many people, particularly among the elderly, have been eager to take the vaccine that there is no need to worry about the minority that does not want it. If the vaccine is as good as they say it is, the burden on hospitals will end and there will be no severe cases or deaths. The pandemic will be over. The rabid calls for punishment of the unvaccinated will, hopefully, be recognized as a shameful aspect of a mass psychosis. Like Germans after 1945, many will prefer not to talk about how they became complicit cheerleaders for ill-advised policies during a period of deranged fear and loathing.