It's time to follow the science about the vaccine

Monday, August 24, 2021, was an exciting day for the Pfizer vaccine.  Not only did the Food and Drug Administration fully approve it, but it will also be marketed under a new name.  Going forward, it will be known as Comirnaty.  It should be a day for celebrating.  Finally, a vaccine for the coronavirus has won the coveted FDA stamp of approval!  Now everyone can be vaccinated with complete confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine that has come to be the gold standard for fighting COVID-19.

Not so fast!  In December 2020, Israel launched a campaign to vaccinate its entire population.  The country has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 80% of its population over the age of twelve fully vaccinated with both shots of the Pfizer vaccine.  By June 2021, there were whole days where not one COVID infection was reported.  Hooray!  The Pfizer vaccine has crushed COVID, and it will never rise again!

Except that two months later, in August 2021, Israel's highly vaccinated population has one of the highest rates of infection in the world.  Today, roughly one in every 150 persons in Israel has the virus.  The miracle-working Pfizer vaccine waned in only six months, and the vaccinated seem peculiarly vulnerable to Delta, the new COVID variant that has caused almost all the infections in Israel.

Not to be daunted by little things like waning immunity, mutated viruses, and a population rapidly sickening from a dangerous new variant that seems to have evolved to avoid the vaccine, Israel is demanding higher vaccination rates.  Hospitalizations are increasing, people are dying, and health officials are floating the idea of vaccinations every six months.  The fact that a dangerous variant evolved six months after the first mass vaccination effort seems to have eluded the government of Israel, which is starting a nationwide campaign for booster shots.  That will make three shots for the most vaccinated and, now, the most infected country in the world.

Pfizer maintains that two doses of vaccine are sufficient to prevent illness, even as it claims that a third dose might be helpful as well.  It would seem, looking at real-world results, that the vaccines are not 90% effective after all and that breakthrough infections are more common than was previously admitted.

It would also seem that COVID is especially good at evolving to get around vaccines, which raises a frightening question: if delta emerged only six months after a heavy vaccination program and started attacking the vaccinated, is it possible that boosters every six months will produce even more virulent mutations?

Perhaps it would be wiser to focus on treatments for COVID rather than a universal vaccination program.  AIDS was once a death sentence, and a vaccine against the disease remained elusive, but thanks to research into treatments, AIDS patients now can hope to live relatively normal lives and even marry and have children.

Perhaps this approach is the way to beat COVID.  It is possible that instead of vaccinating large numbers of people, we should be focusing on treatments for the disease and reserving vaccinations for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of Future Slave, a story about a 21st century black teenager who is sent back in time and becomes a slave in the old south.

Image: Vaccine booster in Israel.  YouTube screen grab.

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