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There are 23 comments on Staff and Faculty React to BU COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

  1. Totally fine if people don’t want to get the vaccine! Just know that 97% of COVID-19 patients that get hospitalized are unvaccinated and 99.5% of COVID-19 patients that die are unvaccinated. Also remember if you’re not vaccinated you’re still required to wear a mask everywhere you go. If you don’t want to, fine whatever call it your “American freedom”, but actions have consequences and yours could be as serious as death :)

  2. Ari Trachtenberg says, “The COVID vaccines have proven extremely efficacious, but long-term and rare side effects are yet unknown.”

    This is not true, but I’ll let experts speak for themselves.

    The CDC (and many other reputable sources) say: “Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose.”
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/safety-of-vaccines.html

    And it’s never occurred with any vaccine (Dr. Paul Goepfert, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham): “Vaccines are just designed to deliver a payload and then are quickly eliminated by the body. This is particularly true of the mRNA vaccines. mRNA degrades incredibly rapidly. You wouldn’t expect any of these vaccines to have any long-term side effects. And in fact, this has never occurred with any vaccine.”
    https://www.uab.edu/news/health/item/12143-three-things-to-know-about-the-long-term-side-effects-of-covid-vaccines

    In fact, the same type of technology used by the Pfizer/Moderna shots has been used safely in the past: “COVID-19 vaccine technologies have been studied for years and used in other treatments without issue.”
    https://www.muhealth.org/our-stories/how-do-we-know-covid-19-vaccine-wont-have-long-term-side-effects

    I grant you that the vaccines sometimes have side effects, like the rare one with the J&J vaccine in young women, but I wouldn’t qualify that as “unknown.”

    1. Please take a look at the selected medical history I cite in https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-vaccines-must-voluntary-ari-trachtenberg/ for a list of medical interventions that, in their time, were heralded as safe and effective and ended up being anything but, sometimes with a lag of years or even decades.

      Two of the COVID vaccines are entirely novel, in the sense that mRNA vaccines have never been used in humans before. For the other vaccines, it is increasingly hard to causally link adverse affects to a vaccination as time progresses.

      To suggest that one can predict the COVID vaccines’ long-term safety profile with a significant degree of certainty is simply hubris.

      1. Obviously there are historical cases of medical treatments having unexpected consequences, so I looked specifically at the vaccines you mention in your list. This is what I found about the timeframe of realizing issues for these vaccines, or the context of those issues:

        Cutter Incident: “Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programme against polio had to be abandoned.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1383764/

        1970s swine flu: You cite its main issue to be that it didn’t work, which isn’t the case for the COVID vaccines. In any case, based on the link you provided, the vaccination program for this started October 1 that year and the program was ended just over two months later, on December 16.

        Dengvaxia: The hypothesized reason for this vaccine making people sicker is from it causing ADE (Antibody Dependent Enhancement). Here are articles from a Canadian government health website ( https://immunizebc.ca/ask-us/questions/do-mrna-vaccines-cause-antibody-dependent-enhancement-ade-covid-19-disease ) and from the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital ( https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-safety/antibody-dependent-enhancement-and-vaccines ) that explain why this doesn’t appear to be a concern for the COVID vaccines. More commentary on this here if it’s helpful:
        https://health-desk.org/articles/are-covid-19-vaccines-causing-antibody-dependent-enhancement
        https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID/antibody-dependent-enhancement-in-vaccines

        Re: mRNA technology, the same source I mentioned in my first comment about the technology continues by saying, “Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. mRNA vaccines have been studied before for influenza, Zika and rabies. Beyond vaccines, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells.” While relatively new, it’s not as though it is an unknown technology. For example, injections for a phase 1 human trial of the rabies mRNA vaccine took place between 2013-2016 with results published four years ago. (https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/89998 and https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28754494/ )

        There can always be issues, but the evidence points towards these vaccines being safe and effective. And we KNOW getting COVID isn’t safe.

        1. The vaccines for COVID are very different from the vaccines for Swine flu or Polio … it doesn’t make sense to limit your review to just medical interventions called “vaccines”.

          With respect to the mRNA technology, the first incarnation of this led to hypersensitivity reactions only when animals were later exposed to live virus (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0035421, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32785649/). ADE is certainly a concern for the COVID vaccines (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32908214/), although I agree that it has not been conclusively observed in the field so far.

          However, this is all besides the point. You are trying to extrapolate the future for many peole based on limited historical data. This cannot be done conclusively even for extremely systems (see the Collatz conjecture). As a result, there is some risk in the endeavor.

          Where there is risk, there must be choice (or, at the very least, meaningful input).

          1. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the first point.

            I did see the ADE link you cited while I was doing my research, but as that was published over ten months ago, before the general population had access to the vaccine and scientists could collect data from such a large group, I sought more recent data and articles. Recent articles (which I linked) indicate that ADE doesn’t appear to be a concern based on what we’ve seen as the population has been vaccinated. In fact, the pubmed article you linked ending in 649 also supports that idea. I wasn’t able to find any reports of hypersensitivity reactions aside from local reactions related to the vaccination itself that were characterized as “benign” and didn’t contraindicate for getting a second dose. If you’ve found reports that the current version of mRNA technology is causing VAH upon exposure to the live virus, I’d be interested in seeing it.

            It seems we view these risks differently, in the end. There is indeed some risk in the endeavor – those individuals Irving cites below as having had serious reactions would agree, and I don’t argue that. A death from a vaccine is tragic. However, I agree with him in that the risk ratio heavily supports vaccination. Even moreso, we individually bear the risk of being vaccinated, but we all collectively bear the risk of EACH individual who chooses not to be vaccinated. (And VAERS deaths can include drowning or a car crash or anything else that causes death post-vaccination, whether related or not. Those with a relation to the vaccine should be considered — like the J&J clotting side effect — but otherwise saying thousands of people have died according to that system is just a scare tactic.)

            In any case, there are too many people out there who aren’t getting vaccinated when they are truly at individual, serious risk from the disease, because of misplaced fears about long-term side effects. You and I can have an intelligent and civil back-and-forth about the intricacies of these considerations, but I know people who only see “we don’t know 100% if it’s safe” and don’t realize the magnitude of the risk they’re accepting instead. It breaks my heart.

          2. It is well and good that you are carefully considering the unknown tail risks of the vaccines but you should also try to be as attentive to the known risks of COVID as an acute and chronic disease. We know that, at least in the short-term that the vaccines pose little to no risk for most individuals and we have very good evidence that it is likely to pose little long-term risk (although you may disagree); on the other hand we know that COVID poses certain immediate risks (ARDS, autoantibodies, clotting) and also long-term ones (chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, heart damage, lung scarring) even among patients with asymptomatic cases.

            It might also be tempting to compare “vaccination” vs. “no exposure to the virus” but with highly contagious variants like Delta, the latter’s probability becomes vanishingly small.

  3. As usual you give management’s view and interview members of management that support it. BU is required to negotiate this topic with the unions on campus. BU’s version of labor negotiations is issuing demands and threatening to fire people unless they allow management to control their medical decisions.

    George Boag
    President
    UAW Local 2324

  4. @Ari – I find it very, very upsetting that you’re comparing this to the Nuremberg doctors’ trial. You are essentially saying that the extreme and horrific “experiments” that were undertaken in WWII to marginalized communities is equivalent to a safe and effective vaccine that is being distributed for free to stop a pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives. The victims of WWII I’m sure would agree with you in that their suffering and anguish is the same as someone in 2021 who chooses to not get a life saving vaccine, simply because they don’t know what the “long term effects are”. Newsflash – the long term effects of COVID-19 is death.

    This sure is an interesting opinion to say out loud, let alone willingly publish to all of your BU Fac/Staff colleagues.

  5. When motorcycle riders refuse to wear a helmet (because it’s uncomfortable, or infringes on their personal freedom, or might have some long-term side-effect on their happiness), I might think the person is foolish, but I don’t say anything, because they are only putting themselves at risk, not those around them. That, of course, is not the case with wearing a mask during the pandemic, which was always understood to be mainly to protect others from COVID, or getting vaccinated, which protects both the vaccinated and those around them.

    So, how serious, really, is COVID? And how safe are the vaccines?

    Ari (quoted above), an engineering professor, is a numbers guy. So here are the grim numbers and the hope-inspiring numbers:

    * In the mere 15 months, since the first death in the US, one out of every 540 people living in the US has DIED from COVID. 12% of the entire US population has tested positive thus far, and 15-20% of those are “long-haulers,” people who are experiencing long-term illness and morbidities. That is several million people. I personally know a number of them.

    * Of the 186 million Americans who have received at least one vaccine dose (161 million having received two doses -> ~350 total doses), 3 deaths have been possibly attributed to the J&J vaccine (none to the Moderna and Pfizer) and 5 experienced illness that required hospitalization. Thus, the relative risk ratio, of vaccine vs no vaccine, is ~1/200,000, a fantastic risk/reward benefit. As such, compared to the risks of the disease itself, these are damned good statistics, and better than, say, the smallpox vaccine, which is credited with saving many millions of lives. I’ll take those odds!

    * In the 16 months since the start of trials, none of the participants in the trials of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have reported any long-term side-effects.

    * An interesting comparison: on average, 458 people in the US die each year due to acute liver failure from taking acetaminophen (Tylenol).

    So, if you’re worried about unknown long-term effects, or an assault on your personal freedom, try thinking about the wellbeing of your family, loved ones, friends and community.

    1. @Irving is great and smart engineer, but I have issue with his numbers:

      * The standard death rate in the US if 869.7 per 100k (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm), meaning that 1 out of 115 Americans die each and every year! I don’t mean to diminish the COVID deaths, which are horrible and deeply disturbing, but it is hard for a lay person to properly contextualize 1/500 deaths.

      * The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has reported about 400k events in proximity to COVID vaccination, including some 4.5k deaths. There are many problems with the VAERS system: it likely greatly under-reports some adverse events (https://vaers.hhs.gov/data/dataguide.html) and it doesn’t establish a causal relationship between vaccination and report. So, the truth is that we really do not have a good handle on the data so far (e.g., *none* of my friends and family who have had adverse reactions have reported them to VAERS).

      * If causality is established between VAERS deaths and vaccination (and I’ll admit that no one is trying too hard to do this), I would say that death is a fairly long-term side-effect.

      I am indeed worried about my family, loved ones, friends and community … that is why I’m sticking my neck out and catching the arrows. The real test of ethics is not when things are good and everyone is happy … but when things are bad, and people are afraid.

      1. @Ari: I don’t have the credentials that you do, but I will try to properly contextualize 1/500 deaths. 1/500 deaths equals a person who didn’t need to die. 1/500 deaths equals at least one person who has lost a loved one. 1/500 deaths equals multiple healthcare workers who gave everything they had to save a patient but couldn’t. 1/500 deaths equals unnecessary trauma, stress, and losses (financial and otherwise). All of this could be minimized if people get vaccinated.

        You’re right, we don’t know the long term effects of these vaccines. But thinking about the losses and havoc COVID has caused makes me want to do whatever I can to stop it, regardless of that fact. I can’t do a lot. I’m not a healthcare worker. Getting the vaccine is one of the only ways I can do something. It’s a statement that I care about others in our society, and I’m willing to take the risks (long term and short term) to help save lives and help healthcare workers.

        1. Dear Layperson.

          I respect and appreciate your decision. You have every right to act as you see fit to mitigate the losses and havoc of COVID.

          However, what you are seeking to do is to impose your own medical risk assessment on the rest of the BU population. This is where we disagree.

          1. Dear Ari,

            I appreciate your opinion on the matter. More than that, I really appreciate how we are able to have a civil dialogue about this. It’s becoming a lost art, these days.

  6. Dear BU Today,

    how do you know “Initial responses seem in favor—’a great gesture,’ ‘the right decision’—but some dissent”?

    How many are the “initial responses” and “some dissent”? Do you have any data? Could you please shared it with us? If not, why did you choose that subtitle? For example, didn’t those who “dissent” say anything worthy to be quoted in your subtitle?

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for the comment. We reached out to dozens of people for comment, and we monitored social media reaction closely, and without any question, we saw far greater support for the decision than we did objection. We invited and welcomed and sought opinions from people who opposed the decision, and we have published the few comments that we received. But so far, the reaction has been more supportive than objectionable. Doug Most, executive editor.

  7. Who defines “Emergency Use”? And if we are not in USA Emergency State, why are we giving vaccines to people who don’t want them, including children.

    What will the control group be for testing this vaccine if everyone is forced to take it?
    Why the rush on vaxing the kids when the current public data suggests that kids don’t die from it. What are the long term effects of this and why are people willing to risk their kids’ lives on this untested emergency use shot?

    I hope that folks are seeing all data including http://www.openvaers.com/covid-data. This raises concerns and questions for people who read it.

    This should be an open conversation and not a mandate. My body, my choice. Since when does the USA dictate what people put in their bodies so quickly and without flexibility?

  8. Dear Ari:
    Thank you for the courageous expression of your views. With all of the hype, it is important to “remember,” and to allow for the critical analysis of information and data. Again, thank you and stay strong!

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