The truth, please, about the Covid-19 vaccines

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In the scientific field, caution is needed in using the word “truth”, but this does not justify those who spread blatant lies. Or it also presents as uncertain the conclusions that the scientific community now agrees to consider as established. “Selling doubts” is a well-known strategy, masterfully described in books such as “Merchants of doubts. How a handful of scientists hid the truth, from smoking to global warming” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (translated into Italian by Luigi Ciattaglia for Environment Editions). In fact, this has been Big Tobacco’s strategy for decades, more recently also used by think tanks financed by oil companies, which have denied and in part still seek to deny the role of human activities in the ongoing environmental crisis.

The strategy of doubt

Basically, the technique consists of this: if you cannot deny a truth supported by an overwhelming amount of data, let it be understood that there are backgrounds, that someone does not completely agree, that there are other points of view, that there is a single unconvinced expert, that “other sources” exist.

It is the “you say so” method, as the undersecretary of health retorted on ReStart on Raidue on Sunday evening Marcellus Gemmatoin response to Aldo Cazzullo who reminded him of the values ​​of vaccines, thus trying to assert the authority conferred on him by his institutional role against the objective data presented by the journalist.

The doubt technique is very effective, because without having to bring evidence to support your theses, it allows you to win over the audience of the undecided, much wider than that of the so-called no-vaxes, confirming that their fears are not unjustified and that not acting is a gesture dictated by prudence.

The merits of pandemic vaccines

That, in this specific case, anticovid vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives around the world, changing the history of this pandemic, is a truth that cannot be denied. The exact figure can of course fluctuate within a range of uncertainty, but what experts call “decoupling”, i.e. the fact that each new wave of cases has not been followed by spikes in the number of victims of the same magnitude as we observed before the introduction of vaccines is an obvious fact.

That this change is associated with the progress of the vaccination campaign is equally clear. That in the unvaccinated population the risk of hospitalization and death remains much higher than in those who have been protected is beyond dispute.

The World Health Organization estimate that calculates twenty million lives saved in the first year of vaccine distribution is based on solid data and methods, and the same can be said for the more than 150,000 deaths avoided in Italy according to the Istituto Superiore di healthcare.

On the mathematical models that have led to these conclusions and the answers to the questions that this topic raises, I refer you to the excellent fact-checking article promptly prepared by Aureliano Stingi in recent days to refute the undersecretary’s incautious assertions.

Covid vaccines: why Gemmato is wrong. Without it, it would have been an even worse tragedy

by Aureliano Stingi

November 15, 2022

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A matter of responsibility

Above all, I would like to call politicians, doctors, journalists and pseudoscientists to a sense of responsibility when on television they feed the public’s hesitation towards an important protection such as vaccines. These are lies that can cost dearly to those who believe them because they do not have the tools to refute them.

The anti-Covid vaccines have avoided almost 20 million deaths in 2021. The response of the Foce and FoSSC scientific societies to the Undersecretary of Health

by Dario Rubino

November 15, 2022

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For a few more points of audience or consensus in the surveys, people’s lives are put at risk. We should think about it. Some sensational falsehoods are clearly told in bad faith, to fuel political consensus, earn a TV appearance or the rich business that revolves around the anti-vax movements. Others simply derive from the confusion that has reigned in Italy in the communication on Covid-19 and on vaccines to counter it.

Trying to fix it by claiming to be vaccinated is not enough. While those who propose a treatment are asked for lots of evidence of efficacy and safety, which in any case are never sufficient, to discourage him, it is enough to sow a crumb of doubt.

The traps of our mind

In fact, our mind instinctively when afraid of making a mistake prefers to abstain. He’d rather have regrets than remorse. Furthermore, our perception of the risk towards vaccines is amplified by some of their characteristics: they are products of industrial origin (while germs and diseases are basically something “natural”), they bring profit to the companies that sell them to us ( as if the same were not true for any other consumer good), they may also give us a benefit in the future, but certainly in the immediate future, here and today, they can make us run up a fever and beat us with pain in our bones. Better an egg today than a chicken tomorrow, in short.

We know Covid-19 well by now. Many of us have already contracted the virus and in any case more people around us have had it as a flu than the few who have died from it. We are not good at reasoning about statistics and probability calculation. But we are frightened by the idea that these are vaccines created with new techniques, so we are talking about genetic material, something we associate with science fiction and horror stories. We don’t know what’s inside, and the ingredients have unfamiliar names.

It’s not curious, however, that we don’t ask ourselves what slimming drinks really contain or the inks we get injected under the skin when we decide to treat ourselves to a tattoo. It is useless to repeat how many controls by the company, by regulatory bodies, by supranational and national agencies, each batch of vaccine undergoes. There will always be someone on television screaming: why don’t we analyze what’s in a vial? You do it, ex deputy commissioner Schillirò, you always do it. She doesn’t know it, but it’s the norm.

Covid mRna vaccines, Ema requests the inclusion of a new side effect

by Donatella Zorzetto

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07 November 2022

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The truth and its facets

Having said that, it is true that vaccines in some cases can cause even serious side effects, as happens with all drugs and it would happen even more if commonly used drugs were administered to billions of people. But it is not true that these effects are hidden. They are collected, studied, evaluated.

Just recently, for example, it has been recognized that mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 can increase the risk of having heavy menstruation for a certain period in some women, just as we know that in very rare cases they can cause myocarditis, especially in younger males . Nobody denies it.

Heart risks after the anti-Covid vaccines, new studies from Pfizer and Moderna begin

by Donatella Zorzetto

November 16, 2022

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However, each of these risks weighs against the benefits, not once, but with regard to each booster: for this reason, while the third dose is considered essential to obtain basic coverage for everyone, the fourth dose is recommended above all to those who have reached the age of 60 or have particular conditions of fragility. The others, for whom the risks associated with the infection are lower, can still do it to raise the concentration of antibodies in the blood, knowing that after three or four months they will drop again.

How knowledge changes

However, the short duration of the antibodies induced by vaccination also applies to the disease, which exposes from the outset to possible greater physical damage and does not avoid a second or third encounter with the virus. This poor duration of immunity was discovered over time, and could not emerge until a few months after the first vaccinations.

Indeed, in science, knowledge evolves, each answer opens up new questions, the interpretations of facts can change, as well as the perspectives from which they are viewed. But in a pandemic, the scientific truth of every single moment can also be changed because the very phenomenon it studies is in continuous transformation.

The mutations of the virus, for example, have made it more contagious, rendering useless some measures to control its spread, such as the distance of one meter between people. This does not mean that these measures were useless to begin with.

Covid: vaccines, infections and patron saints

by Antonio Cassone

November 17, 2022

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Thus the vaccine today protects against serious disease, but is no longer able to prevent the Omicron variants from infecting even those who have already developed an immune response for more than three to four months. This does not mean that in the first months of its distribution it was not 80% effective against infection as well. This ability has gradually decreased, but at the time of the introduction of the green pass this still made sense, because the risk of contagion among vaccinated people, although not eliminated, was still much lower.

Today the difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated is not this, and one can become infected by coming into contact with a person who has been vaccinated for six months as with one who is not. But it makes no sense for this to challenge the claims made and decisions made when the reality was different.

What will happen in the future?

Likewise, we hope it doesn’t happen, but, in the current state of knowledge, we cannot rule out 100% that in the future a variant will emerge so different from the current ones as to make vaccines ineffective even against deaths and serious illness.

If so, we will have to have the intellectual honesty to admit that things have changed again, that the vaccine is not enough, that another one will be needed. But that won’t change today’s “truth,” that we know these first vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 saved tens of millions of lives.

Scientific “truth,” in these cases, is more than ever a term with a small v. It can change over time. But at all times it is the most reliable tool we have for assessing reality and making our decisions in these fields.

The article is in Italian

Tags: truth Covid19 vaccines