The ethics of vaccine testing

The only way to be sure you have an effective vaccine is considered not ethical. You may have read that one of the participants in one of the phase three trials has died. This is especially true if you are watching the Matt Drudge “I hate Donald Trump” show as he counts the daily number of deaths.

The prior phases of the trial should have caught if the administration of the vaccine by itself causes significant health damage. Some of you may remember the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine that caused neurological damage. The virus had never escaped out of the military base where it was discovered, so that damage was completely unnecessary.

The remaining question is to whether the vaccine actually protects you from the virus. Death rates is only one metric. This virus can cause permanent organ damage that does not kill you right away, but still shortens your life.

If you deliberately exposed all participants to the virus, you would know within 2 weeks if you had an effective vaccine. Without deliberately exposing the trial participants to the virus, you are relying on random exposure, which could take a very long time to become statistically significant, especially if the participants are following the rules to not be exposed to the virus and are not at high risk of exposure to begin with.

The news story stated that patient privacy prevents them from telling us much, beyond that we don’t know if it was a placebo or the real vaccination because it is a double blind study. They also didn’t tell us if the cause of death had anything at all to do with the virus. All that they reported was that someone had died and the trial was not stopped. They might have died in a car crash or they might have died from suicide for all we know.

We know that around 1% of the placebo group will die for no reason or suffer organ damage other than preserve the sanctity of double blind testing..

If you provide the placebo patients with very aggressive care which the general population is not going to receive, now you have distorted the death rate. The same is true if the participants are self-selected because they believe they are in good health.

If the participants in the trial found out the cause of death of others, they might change their behavior and distort the outcome of the trial. If you are given a vaccine and told that it probably works, will you engage in riskier behavior than you otherwise would?

If the person had a placebo vaccine and died from the virus, that supports the idea the vaccine might be working, but you are trying to prove a negative. If the person who received the vaccine got the real vaccine, and still died from the virus, that one death does not prove that the vaccine doesn’t work.

No vaccine, especially one for a corona virus that is mutating so quickly, is going to be 100% effective. The reason that measles and polio have an effective vaccine is because the virus mutates very slowly.

How long are you willing to wait until there is a critical mass of people who don’t die to get the answer? People not dying is the proof that the vaccine is working – but only if you know that they were exposed to the virus.

The vaccine itself may cause antibody test to say the person was exposed to the virus when they were not. We already know that people will turn antigen positive from taking the vaccine. That is in fact the point of the vaccination.

The urgency for the vaccine is for medical workers who need to get herd immunity so they don’t spread it further, and highly vulnerable people like those on anti-rejection medications following organ transplants.

With political candidates blaming each other every time one more person dies, it is going to take a lot of courage to release the vaccine and gather the statistical information to be certain that the vaccine works and the country can somewhat return to normal. China and Russia have already taken risks for us, but we don’t trust them to tell us the truth.

There are definitely people who intend to wear a mask for the rest of their lives, and demand that people be put in jail who don’t comply with their fear. In many cases, those are the same people will refuse to take the vaccination because they don’t actually believe in science.

Prisons might be the ideal testing ground, since viruses spread like wildfire. However, that won’t work because very early on we found out that 80 to 90% of prisoners have already been exposed to the virus and survived – and now have herd immunity. That news very early on was a strong indicator that a societal lockdown was not only not necessary, but counterproductive. Herd immunity is the cure.

The most stupid thing being done is releasing prisoners from jail because you’re afraid they might get the virus. Well, the second most stupid. The most stupid was put in known infectious people into nursing homes that killed thousands of people in New York

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3 Responses to The ethics of vaccine testing

  1. fhiggins says:

    Is herd immunity possible with Covid 19? I have read that immunity after recovery may not be for long. And the fact that it is mutating so quickly.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      That is still speculative, and frankly at this point I believe very little.

      The one thing that is clear is that Vitamin D deficiency is the main factor why some people descend into the more difficult complications. People who live further North, have darker skins or spend little time outside are most at risk.

      Medcram has lots of useful information.

  2. Fred Stiening says:

    The flip side is – what is to prevent a vaccine maker to claim their vaccine is 90% effective if it is a placebo and 80% are not susceptible to infection.

    The election is over after all. The Trump pandemic is over.

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