By XIAOXU SEAN LIN AND HEALTH 1+1
Currently, many countries around the world are promoting the second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the elderly, many of whom have already received their first booster shots. Under these circumstances, the transparency and openness of information about the safety of booster shots has become a very important issue. Amid this discussion, recently, data on the numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths after vaccine booster injections in two Canadian provinces have been removed.
Removed Data: 76% of People Died of COVID-19 Infections Had Booster Shots?
In a Letter to the Editor published in the Prince George Citizen, a long-standing Canadian newspaper, the COVID-19 health outcomes by vaccination status data from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) was cited in a screenshot.
The screenshot shows that in mid-April 2022, 50 percent of people in BC had already received their first booster shots, that is, their third doses of vaccines. Between March 20 and April 16, 2022, 63 percent of all people with COVID-19 infection had received their first booster doses. But what stood out was that among those who passed away, 73 percent of them received booster shots.
Another screenshot was posted on Twitter, showing the vaccination status data from BCCDC for the period between May 15 and July 9, 2022. During this period, 52 percent of BC residents had received their first booster shots, and 76 percent of those who died from COVID-19 infection had received their first booster shots.
The author of the Letter to the Editor article commented, “If you look at the statistics from the BCCDC site, you will see that there is zero scientific evidence for keeping the vaccine passport in place.”
However, on July 28, 2022, the BCCDC website indicated that their “outcomes by vaccination status” data would be removed as of that date. At present, this data is no longer available on its website.
CTV News Vancouver asked the B.C. Ministry of Health for an explanation for the data removal. The Ministry of Health responded with three points:
First, as the more transmissible Omicron variant had been spreading on a large scale, more people had chosen to do nucleic acid testing at home. Therefore, the reliability of the infection data was reduced, and the data didn’t reflect the full picture of the infection.
Second, many of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients already had underlying diseases. And although they tested positive for COVID-19 infection, the reason for their hospitalization was not directly related to their infection.
Third, the temporal association between their vaccination and infection was unclear, and no accurate conclusions could be drawn from it.
However, the above official explanation was not convincing at all. Since the vaccine rolled out at the end of 2020, it is always the situation that many hospitalized COVID patients have other underlying diseases. Those who were admitted to hospital were tested with nucleic acid assays, not the at-home rapid test kits. Meanwhile, it is always a challenge to pin down the exact infection time for a respiratory disease, so the temporal association between vaccination and infection is not always very accurately defined.
Therefore, their explanation didn’t clearly explain why the number of people who received the booster shots was unusually high among those who were hospitalized and died from COVID-19 infection. In addition, the situations mentioned in the official explanation are present in all medical systems globally; why does the Canadian government take this important data down based on these excuses?
BC Situation Resembles Manitoba, UK Data
The situation in British Columbia is not an isolated case.
The provincial government of Manitoba in Canada reported (pdf) in July 2022 that the vaccine booster shot administration rate in the province was 43.8 percent in May 2022. However, people who had received booster injections accounted for more than 70 percent of COVID-related deaths.
This report (pdf) is still available on the Manitoba government website. However, in the week of July 31, the website stopped updating the chart.
Similar data are available from the UK.
On the UK Health Security Agency’s COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report (pdf) published on March 31, 2022, statistics showed that 73 percent of deaths within 28 days of infection were among people who had received their third vaccine doses, before their COVID-19 infection diagnosis was confirmed.
However, on April 7, 2022, the UK Health Security Agency announced that it would stop updating the report (pdf).
Are the Second Vaccine Booster Shots Associated With an Alarming Number of Deaths?
After analyzing the data on COVID-19 vaccination status and COVID-related deaths in the Netherlands, Dr. Theo Schetters, a leading Dutch vaccinologist, discovered that there was a high temporal coincidence between the number of people who received the second booster shots (i.e. the fourth vaccine shots) and the number of excess deaths.
He stated that if more people were vaccinated, within a week there would be more excess deaths; and if fewer people were vaccinated within a week, there would be fewer deaths.
He estimated from the data that, on average, one in 800 elderly people over 60 years of age die from the COVID-19 vaccines. He also suggested that the vaccination program should be re-examined, as the current vaccination might have caused more harm than protection.
‘Vaccine Dilemma’: Good Versus Harm
An article published in 2021 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested that the Pfizer vaccine was “likely” to cause death in some frail elderly people.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency investigated the causes of 100 deaths of nursing home residents who received the Pfizer vaccine. About 30,000 elderly nursing home residents had received the vaccine at the time. According to the investigation, among the 100 cases, 10 deaths were “likely” to be causally related to the Pfizer vaccine; 26 were “possible” to be causally related, and 59 were “unlikely” to be related to the vaccine. The remaining 5 cases were considered “unclassifiable.”
Since vaccines may bring serious side effects and even accelerate the death of some people, why do the governments still promote mandatory vaccination for the entire population?
Their rationale is that the benefits of vaccination “outweigh their harms.” This theory seems to have been widely accepted.
This reminds us of the classic moral dilemma–the “trolley dilemma”.
A runaway trolley is traveling on a railroad track with five people on the track. If the driver pulls the lever, the trolley will switch to another track with only one person on it.
The driver has a choice: do nothing and let the trolley run over the five people, or pull the lever and let it run over the one person on the other track.
The current vaccine policy is like choosing to pull the lever and accepting that a small number of people will die prematurely due to vaccines in order to protect more people.
However, has it ever occurred to people that instead of only two options, there is also a third way?
Maybe the driver could have chosen another way to stop the trolley, rather than having to choose to run over five people or one person.
Similarly, during this pandemic, we don’t have only two options: either getting vaccinated, or getting the COVID-19 infection and becoming critically ill or dead.
We can increase our advocacy of improving the physical and mental health of the general population. We can boost everyone’s immunity–both to defend themselves against the virus and to avoid the risks associated with the vaccination.
In other words, why not “mandate” people to exercise five more minutes every day, “mandate” them to eat 100 less calories of junk food every day, and “mandate” them to go into nature for an hour every month to relieve stress? In fact, there is no need to “force” people to do so. Instead, it would be enough to raise their awareness of immunity with the same intensity as vaccination promotion.
At present, the world is facing a public health crisis. Under these circumstances, it is more important to take a cautious and thoughtful approach to medical ethics than to weigh the interests of the public’s life and health as a mere numerical model.