Dear COVID Vaccine Skeptics,

Several weeks ago I lined up with a dozen or so other people in front of a modular compound constructed from shipping containers. The whole premises was surrounded by a chain link fence wrapped in plastic banners which served the dual purpose of obscuring our view inside and also advertising job postings from the pharmaceutical company adjacent. It appeared that they were also recruiting trial participants. Evidently you could make some decent money getting injected with experimental drugs.

It had been overcast all day and the pale gray sky began to drizzle upon us weakly as the line moved forward ever so slowly. "Shit," I said softly under my breath, clutching the folder which contained my essential documents even more closely to my side as I saw several people behind me opening their umbrellas.

Those of us in line all wore government-mandated FPP2 masks tightly across our faces. We were spaced apart quite generously, even by pandemic standards. The guy in front of me was visibly nervous. It was hard to tell whether the shine on his flushed face was from the rain or the perspiration. He kept pacing left and right across the entire width of the broad sidewalk. Every few minutes he would wipe the moisture from his glasses with his shirt and then reinspect the documents in his folder.

"What time is your appointment?!" a large man in black fatigues and a fluorescent vest began to demand of the people at the head of the line. The vest had "SECURITY" written across the back, but I didn't see a gun.

"11:00," said the first woman. The guard nodded. "11:00," said the second woman. The guard nodded. "11:15," said the next man in line. The guard nodded. 

The nervous sweaty guy stopped pacing. "My appointment is for 12:00 noon," he said.

"12:00?!" the guard replied. "That's an hour from now. Go take a walk." The nervous sweaty guy wiped off his glasses again and opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but instead he just nodded weakly and left the line. I moved up into his spot. "11:15," I said. The guard nodded.

Shortly after 11:15 I was summoned into the yawning mouth of the open-ended shipping container which served as the entry tunnel into the vaccination center. Another security guard with a face shield used a tactical flashlight to inspect my documents in the dim light. "Is it OK if I keep this one?" she asked. I intuited that "no" would be the wrong answer. "Sure," I mumbled. She gave the rest back to me and smiled. "It's just down there and to the right." I turned and walked further down the corridor. The corrugated steel on all sides made me feel like I was travelling down a cattle chute. 

As I walked up to the plexiglass barrier hanging from the ceiling in the next room, I encountered someone dressed in scrubs for the first time. I filled out some paperwork - most of the sheets were liability release and consent forms. It was a small, rectangular stack, but still a lot more than anyone would ever read standing up, especially with people waiting in line behind them. I scanned the documents quickly for signature lines and filled them in. I could already hear recorded voices booming from the large room next door as I handed my documents back to the woman behind the plexiglass.

The chairs were spaced very far apart in the waiting room. It must have been made from three or four shipping containers, because it was larger than I had expected. The isolated chairs were mostly in the center of the room, all turned towards two large flat-screen TVs. Some sort of low-budget informational video about the benefits of vaccination was playing on a loop. The volume was very high- almost deafening towards the front of the sparse, white room. While the two TVs played the same video, the booming dialogue wasn't quite in sync for some reason, so the narrator's flat voice came out in a nearly simultaneous echo. The light of the twin screens flickered across my face as the cacophonous doublevoice droned on.

I didn't have to wait long before being led to one of many closet-sized rooms, where a gray-haired man in a white coat whom I presumed to be a doctor sat down across from me at a tiny table. He confirmed what I already knew- that I would be receiving the Moderna mRNA COVID19 vaccine- and had me sign more consent forms. Then he opened the other door. I passed through and into a hallway with many white stalls. It reminded me of the changing room at a swimming pool or department store. A young woman in scrubs brought me to my stall and wiped down my left deltoid with a pad. The smell of rubbing alcohol quickly filled the small enclosure as she shoved a hypodermic needle into a vial and pulled down the plastic plunger of the syringe. She told me to expect a slight prick, but I barely felt anything.

I drove home and felt fine at first. I had no problem eating a late lunch with my family that day. But as the afternoon wore on I slowly began to realize that something wasn't right.

It started as a slight ache at the injection site, but quickly progressed to a slightly achier ache. And then the ache went away completely after a few days, and I was like damn, is that how this story ends? That's kind of anticlimactic. Well, I hear the second jab is the getter, so maybe I'll turn into an eel next month. I'll let you know if I do. It'll be hard to type, obviously, being an eel, but I'm sure I'll figure out some means of communication with the outside world. If Stephen Hawking and Pickle Rick could do it, then surely Sebastian Eel can scheme up something.

All eel jokes aside, getting vaccinated was a more nervous experience than I expected it to be. Some of that is thanks to the unfortunate layout of the particular vaccination center I went to, which seems to have been inspired by the dystopian architecture of 1984 and Ready Player One, but part of it was also the fact that my best friend felt very ill for several days after his second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, and I know several people who had more moderate but still unpleasant side effects such as fever and fatigue. And then there are all the people you know who "know a guy"; or have a coworker who's got a cousin who dated a woman who has a son... whose girlfriend had a heart attack two minutes after getting vaccinated. And then if you scroll through the comments on news articles, YouTube videos, and Facebook posts and add up all the reported vaccine casualties - my God; more people have died from the vaccine than there are humans on planet earth. Some of them must have died twice. Either that, or we've accidently been vaccinating three dogs stacked under a trench coat. The ol' totem pole trench coat trick. Anyone could fall for it. 

Top Dog - "Uh yes, we've... I mean, I'VE got an appointment for 12:00." Security Guard - "12:00?! That's an hour from now! Go take a walk!" [Muffled voices from underneath the trench coat] - "Did he say WALK?" "Did someone say WALK?" [Back of the trench coat starts wagging uncontrollably. Security Guard's eyes narrow in suspicion] Top Dog (whispering) - "God damn it. The jig is up. Walk away casually! Walk away casually!"

But those exaggerated fisherman's tales, gossip, games of telephone, and even baseless conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine still exercise a certain vexation on the subconscious mind.

Plus there are somewhat legitimate concerns posed by people like Bret Weinstein, who point out that it is impossible to be certain of the long term safety profile of a pharmaceutical in the absence of a longitudinal study. That would be true of any medical intervention, but perhaps even more so of a fairly new technology such as mRNA vaccines with a scant long-term track record and few closely related analogues.

mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have proven safe and effective so far (the Tenpenny crowd notwithstanding), but "so far" is only a single year at this point. Do vaccine side effects ever emerge spontaneously, years down the road? We haven't seen that in previous vaccines. Are there good, non-tin-foil-hat-wearing reasons to suspect that there will be long-term side effects? No. Is it theoretically possible despite that? Yes. And this is where a risk-averse yet mostly rational person might end the analysis and say, "Well that's a risk I'm not willing to take."

But I think it's a mistake to stop there. Only looking at the risk of a vaccine in isolation is to examine the vaccine's theoretical future side effects without considering its very well established current benefit - immunity to COVID-19. A lot of people seem to forget about the virus while considering whether to take its antidote. It's easy to forget that the "n" in COVID's initial designation (2019-nCoV) stands for "novel." You're not choosing between A) taking a new vaccine or B) living in a parallel universe where the number after 2019 is 2021. If that were your option set then I'd say fuck the vaccine - go to the corner of the multiverse where 2020 never happened instead. [Goes there and realizes Trump is still president. Finds succor in the arms of a sympathetic bat, but accidently starts SHMOVID-19 pandemic]. You're not even choosing between A) taking a new vaccine or B) contracting a virus we understand pretty well like Chickenpox. No, your option set is A) taking a new vaccine or B) contracting a new virus. COVID-19 is endemic. It's here to stay, and we're all going to get immunity one way or the other in the years to come. The vaccines might be new, but we don't know what the long term side effects of COVID are either. If taking any of the new COVID-19 vaccines is like blindly sticking your arm into a hole in the ground, actually getting COVID is like blindly sticking your arm into a hole in the ground in Australia. Pick your poison. They're both risks, but one of them seems obviously greater than the other to me.

Ironically, most of the realistic things that people are theoretically worried about when it comes to vaccines (or are indeed known, low-probability events) are established pathology in viruses.

Basically, any remotely plausible, theoretical downside of the COVID vaccines that you could imagine short of 5G nanobots is something viruses are actually known to do. Will COVID-19 do all of the things listed above? Almost certainly not. But just as with the vaccine, in the absence of a longitudinal study, it's impossible to know for sure.

A lot of people are treating this like a "better the devil you know," situation, but the truth is we don't know either of them, and only one has killed 3.8 million people over the last 18 months.

I know this letter isn't going to change very many opinions. Whether you get or don't get the vaccine will probably have a lot more to do with whom you voted for in November than any risk analysis.

For those drinking the red Kool-Aid, COVID is mostly harmless, every public health strategy to prevent its spread is tyranny, hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin is the cure "they" don't want you to know about, and the vaccines are mind-control poison.

For those drinking the blue Kool-Aid, COVID is so dangerous that kids can never go back to school and even fully vaccinated people should wear two masks while they hike alone in the forest. Convalescent immunity doesn't exist, therapeutics aren't worth thinking about, and neither are unanticipated consequences from vaccinating billions of people.

And it's a shame that so many are leaving the thinking to their tribe, because although some of the variables are unknown, I don't think the risk/benefit analysis is that hard to do.

But unlike a lot of people who voted for Biden, I'm not getting my panties in a twist over the ~15% of Americans who have made it a personal point of pride to show Fauci that he ain't the boss of them. Everyone's going to get their spike protein eventually, one way or the other. And if you are a mask-burning, anti-COVID-vaxxer who thinks the pandemic is a hoax, then there's a pretty good chance you already got immunized the old fashioned way back in 2020. To those vaccine skeptics who haven't contracted COVID-19 yet but will in the coming years I say, "Good luck to you, sir."

Good luck to us all.

Sebastian Braff

A special thanks to big pharma shill & former head vintner at the Stem Cellar - the always vaxed to the max Suicide Sally for her consultation on the science in this letter.


Popular Posts