People: guinea pig?

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Humor is healthy, especially during a pandemic. We all need it, together with a positive attitude in this world calamity that has afflicted almost 113 million people and claimed about 2.5 million lives around the globe.

Perhaps I find some of the fake news on social media amusing because I am a physician, more scientific and objective in my thinking, totally relying on evidence-based data about diseases, and can separate medical facts from fiction more readily.

A few examples of these ridiculous claims include the following: That there is actually no corona virus, no pandemic; That billionaires like Bill Gates are financing a “project” to lessen the world population; That masks and distancing do not work; That getting the COVID-19 vaccines will change the person’s DNA; That the vaccines contain fetal tissues, microchip, and that it causes infertility; That the vaccines are causing brain and spinal cord injuries; That is it safer to get COVID-19 instead of receiving the “dangerous” vaccine; That after receiving the shots, people do not need masks and distancing any more….The misinformation goes on and on. Adding insult to injury, all these false data are e-blasted on the internet to countless viewers around the world. And many disseminated the same falsehood to millions more, and the cycle continues. Of course, wrong information is dangerous. During a pandemic, it could even be deadly.

The other popular assertion is that we, the people, are being used as guinea pigs in this massive experiment, which further stokes fear among the innocent, ignorant, gullible people, who think everything on social media is a gospel of truth.

From the medical point of view, yes, to some extent the current therapy/vaccination administered to people is partly an “experiment,” an exploration to find out more facts, the truth about the long-term effects of the vaccines to protect the public, with no better clinical alternative than using us as “guinea pigs,” metaphorically speaking. But it is not in the evil sense.

Before drugs or vaccines are released for public use, they have to undergo extensive sophisticated research and development, and at least 3 phases of clinical trials, using thousands of human volunteers, until the scientific results show the drugs or vaccines are effective and safe for human use. On top of this, they have to pass the rigid and stringent FDA requirements, even for emergency use, like the current COVID-19 vaccines. So, if we, the people, are being used as “guinea pigs in this experiment,” it is for observation of the long term (future) behavior of the vaccines we received. This is the only way to get those facts.

Since these vaccines are new, the only things we know about them are that they are safe for majority of people and 52 percent effective after the first dose, and 95 percent after the second dose, both for the Pfizer-BioNT vaccines. We also know that those with a history of allergies could develop a sensitivity reaction (some serious) to the vaccine within 30 minutes. These patients are advised to seek a consultation with an allergist/immunologist prior to getting the vaccine.

How long after receiving the first shot will it confer immunity to prevent the person from getting infected and could vaccinated individual still able to transmit the virus, science still does not know yet. How about after the second shot? These data would be available only with the passage of time, the reason why I said, to this extent, this is an “experiment,” using us people as “guinea pigs.” But this is only proper, necessary, and prudent. We need the vaccines soonest as an urgent measure for our survival. And there is no other scientific way. The unwise option below is unacceptable and criminal.

The alternative is not to use the vaccines now among people; limit it to laboratory animals for another 2 years from now, and know all the answers first, allowing more people around the world to get infected and exponentially raise the number of deaths from 2.5 million to 50 million or more while waiting, like the death toll from the 1918 Spanish Flu. After two years of added “experimentation” and observation of the laboratory animals, the answers we do not know today, we would know then. But by then, we could most likely lose billions and not only millions of lives globally. This would be irresponsible and inhumane.

So, it is obvious that after the extensive R&D and 3 phases of clinical trials and due diligence on the vaccines, we cannot afford to wait until they are perfect or 100 percent safe. That is a fantasy, an unwise and a misguided option. The reality is that there is no medication or vaccine today that is perfect or 100 percent without possible side-effects among some people. Even aspirin has potential side-effects, which have killed some people. The remaining unknowns about the vaccines today will be obvious in a few months or a year or two. That is the reality. We simply have to be wise, understanding, and patient.

Our imperfect vaccines against SARS-CoV2 virus of COVID-19 are not perfect or 100 percent without risk, but they are already doing wonders. They have been administered to around 70 million people in the United States (about 21 percent of its more than 332 million population). Globally, over 300 million doses have been given in 110 countries, with the world population of 7.85 billion. Too slow, indeed. There is no doubt that getting the vaccines, in spite of their potential side-effects, is wise, a lot safer than getting infected with this killer virus.

The country with the most efficient COVID-19 vaccination program is Israel (with almost 8.743 million in population). It has vaccinated more than 35 percent of its population, the world’s highest per capita rate of vaccination, which has lowered its cases and deaths by 93 percent because of people discipline and the vaccination. Israel is expected to have herd immunity by next month, most probably the first in the world. The next three on the list of highest rate includes the United Arab Emirates, followed by UK, and then the USA, in that order.

Facts: The vaccines are effective and safe. The Benefit/Risk Ratio (Vaccine versus COVID-19) is crystal clear: The benefit from the vaccine is high, 95 percent or better; the risk very low, less than 1 percent. The benefit from getting COVID-19 is zero; it is all risks, at least 50 percent among seniors. Do your math. How many (of the more than 300 million around the world who got the shot) died from the vaccine? How many died from COIVID 19, globally? Your answers are correct! I rest my case.

Let us all do due diligence and get the facts straight, and not help the apocalyptic scaremongers on social media spread false data (pouring gasoline on the fire) because forwarding the fraudulent disinformation could get people infected and killed. Let us help end this pandemic soonest. Together, we can do this.

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Public Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Visit our websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com    Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

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