Viewpoints about vaccines are an interesting case study in epistemology.
This page is a stub, created on 2021-10-02 (last updated on 2021-11-21). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.
So much to cover...
- fervor of viewpoint versus actual expertise
- effect of categorical statements, motivated by being pro-science, actually being anti-science and being a major factor in anti-vaxxer nonsense
- vaccines are not a monolithic / black-and-white issue
- default is not do whatever is popular / whatever "all the experts agree" on
- the issue of vaccines is not obvious
- individual health concerns and concern for health of friends/family/coworkers/community
- behavioral versus pharmacological risk management
- prevention versus treatment
- can be pro-vaccine and not want to take/advise a particular vaccine in a particular context
- COVID-19 vaccines in particular
- risk factors matter
- lots of rhetoric about how well studied these vaccines are (and yes, we have a huge n), but where are the datasets for more granular cohorts to enable informed decisions by people trying to assess their individualized tradeoffs?
- company "vaccine mandate" policies
- current climate of fear and dogma
- my own approach, given my context
- the data that I want to see
- my risk factors for vaccine and my risk factors for COVID-19
- mom's claims
- dad's reaction to COVID
- my lifestyle and health
- long-term mRNA vaccine studies
A note I sent to Andrew about what data I want to make an informed decision:
So as I was thinking about it, here's basically what I want to know:
Within as granular a dataset as possible (ie, a cohort as close to my characteristics as possible; eg, age, height/weight, other health factors, etc), of all COVID-positive cases, what is the percentage of fatalities? What is the percentage of some kind of long-term effect (eg, indefinite loss of smell/taste, cognitive impairment, etc)? The statements I'd like to see would be like "Within the cohort, x% of COVID-positive cases resulted in death.".
Same dataset, but now looking at adverse effects from J&J and mRNA vaccines (as separate figures)? The statements I'd like to see would be like "Within the cohort, (J&J | Pfizer | Moderna) had x% rate of adverse reactions.", and "adverse reactions" would need to be qualified somehow.
Same dataset, but now looking independently at J&J and mRNA effectiveness rate each at (1) preventing COVID infection in the first place, and (2) reducing death / adverse long-term effect rates of contracting COVID by some amount. So these statements would be something like (1) "Within the cohort, those vaccinated with (J&J | Pfizer | Moderna) had their risk of contracting COVID reduced from x% to y%." and (2) "Within the cohort, those vaccinated with (J&J | Pfizer | Moderna) who had a breakthrough case of COVID had their risk of death reduced from x% to y%." and "Within the cohort, those vaccinated with (J&J | Pfizer | Moderna) who had a breakthrough case of COVID had their risk of adverse long-term effects reduced from x% to y%." for some qualification of "adverse long-term effects".
I know that might be a tall order, but that strikes me as a reasonable desire for information to make an informed decision.
Data for an Informed Decision
Baseline cohort (or as close this as possible):
- 35-40 years old
- 10-15% body fat
- hermetical lifestyle, interacting indoors only with those already vaccinated or negative; no large events with strangers
- no serious health issues / comorbidities, particularly no immunological issues
- no prescription or recreational drug use
- immediate family with prior COVID-19 infection that did not result in hospitalization or long-term adverse effects
- 90+ ng/mL Vitamin D levels
- Paleo diet
Frankly, with how well-studied COVID-19 and its vaccines are (especially given how vociferously its proponents claim that point), as well as how huge our sample size is and how much data I know firsthand is being collected (from participating in lots of surveys), I don't think it's unrealistic to think that this data exists for something very close to the exact cohort I'm looking for. Whether it's readily made available is a different question entirely, but that's an interesting philosophical/cultural discussion.
"long-term adverse effects" may be any of the known phenomena, including
- indefinite loss of smell/taste
- cognitive impairment
And the same principle applies for adverse effects from the vaccines (for which we inherently can't have long-term data), but I think it's fair to lump in hospitalization and death into a monolithic "adverse effects" there.
Ideally, we'd have a breakdown by each different adverse effect.
|risk for sub-cohort →
|long-term adverse effects
|Johnson & Johnson|
And it would be really nice if we could see how much risks of infection, hospitalization, long-term adverse effects, and death are affected by other means, such as Vitamin D levels, zinc, sleep, and other lifestyle choices. And what about effectiveness of treatments in different contexts?