You spoiled Americans need to reset your expectations when it comes to the COVID vaccines. That’s the message coming from a variety of health authorities interviewed by USA Today this week. They also spoke to some patients who expressed their shock and surprise after testing positive despite being fully vaccinated, boosted, wearing masks religiously, and avoiding crowds. But these same health officials were quick to point out that your chances of requiring hospitalization or dying as a result of contracting COVID are still significantly lower if you’ve received the shots. Even then, however, the odds of the worst outcome hitting you are still a non-zero number.
It’s no longer unusual to hear of someone getting COVID-19 even though they’re fully vaccinated and boosted. Yet, many Americans are still shocked when it happens to them.
Early data showed the mRNA vaccines were highly effective against infection, but experts say the virus has changed over time and people need to reconfigure their expectations. The vaccines may not prevent all infection, but they still protect against the worst consequences of the disease.
“That’s what we need to emphasize,” said Dr. Philip Chan, an infectious disease specialist and an associate professor at Brown University. “The fact that these vaccines are still effective against these emerging variants – in terms of severe disease, hospitalizations and death – is definitely a public health win.”
So why are people’s expectations so much higher than they should be? The study suggests that the early clinical trials from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna could be to blame. But another factor has to have been the government’s propaganda campaign and the media’s willingness to go along with it. Perhaps the endless advertisements describing the vaccines as “safe, effective and free” should have been modified a bit to say, ‘mostly effective.’
I suppose there are two ways to look at this. The more snarky among us might initially respond by saying, ‘if I’d gotten four vaccines against smallpox in one year and I still came down with smallpox, I’d have some questions.’ And given the declaration of war on the unvaccinated by the government, a bit of snark could readily be excused.
But at this same time, this analysis doesn’t sound all that unreasonable. Even people who get a flu shot every autumn occasionally come down with the flu anyway. There are a couple of reasons for that according to most epidemiologists. First, the virus that causes the flu is constantly mutating. The pharmacological companies have to come up with a new version of the vaccine every year and some years it turns out to be a better match than others.
Similarly, the novel coronavirus is already mutating significantly since being released into the wild. The original vaccines were probably far more effective against the first strain of COVID that emerged, but not as good against the latest variants. But whether it’s the flu or COVID, both are believed to significantly reduce your chances of both hospitalization or death.
But if the primary concern of these health officials is that Americans’ expectations of the vaccines are too high, they should look in the mirror. It was the CDC, along with elected officials and their media water bearers who painted the vaccines as our last and only hope against extinction or whatever they were saying.