Unless governments get properly involved, the questions around Covid vaccine safety will NEVER be answered; but governments have every incentive not to get properly involved
I used to spend my days thinking about problems big enough for John Wells.
If you don’t know, Wells is the hero of the series of spy novels that I wrote from 2006 to 2019. He’s an ornery jerk with a big ego, a unique skill set, a willingness to shoot first when necessary, and a sinking feeling that nothing he does really matters. Also he rides a motorcycle. We have nothing in common except the motorcycle, of course.
Where was I?
Yeah, so writing spy novels is not exactly the same as writing detective novels. You can write a successful and fulfilling series of mysteries centered around the same character forever, and even put out more than one book a year, if you’re good - Michael Connelly does. The plots don’t have to be huge, you don’t have to have the world’s worst serial killer every time, though you can throw in one every so often.
Spy novels are different. In general, they want to be high-stakes, especially in a series. And how many world-threatening plots can you devise that aren’t totally ridiculous? How many big enemies? There’s China, Iran, Russia, maybe an al Qaeda type, though those are played by now… and why is your guy involved in all of them? How does John Wells, who doesn’t speak Chinese, end up in China? He works for or at the least with the Central Intelligence Agency, they have a few other operatives too.
The point is this.
Some problems are fixable if you report on them. Not as many as in the old days, when companies and politicians still had some fear of public exposure, when shame still existed as a viable behavioral constraint in the United States, but some.
Bigger problems require legal intervention - regulatory, civil, or criminal. Disclosure requirements, discovery, subpoenas. Administrative penalties, fines and monetary sanctions, jail time. Courts can force testimony when reporters can’t. Police can obtain warrants and break down doors. Police have guns. Reporters don’t, or shouldn’t. A country where a reporter needs a gun is a country that is not functioning well.
(One small but notable example of our growing dysfunction: the death of shame has helped fuel the explosion of defamation lawsuits. People and institutions now lie even after they’re caught, when once they would have apologized and stopped. Those lies force those they’ve defamed into the legal system, even though precedent and what are called anti-SLAPP laws make the courts unfriendly to defamation plaintiffs.)
But some problems are too big even for the courts - unless those courts are backstopped with the full power of a national government.
As an example: Prosecutors can’t touch Vitaly Aroshanov, the Russian soldier who allegedly castrated a Ukrainian prisoner of war and made sure the world saw the video. The Kremlin has Aroshanov’s back, implicitly or explicitly. Only serious diplomatic or military pressure on Russia has any chance of undoing that protection and opening him to punishment. The other alternative would be an intelligence agency-backed assassination, an extra-judicial killing, which by definition is at the margins of the law.
Vitaly Aroshanov is a John Wells problem, or at least the start of one.
(Reality needs you. So does Team Reality.)
You can probably see where I’m headed.
The mRNA vaccines are now a national-level problem.
Under normal circumstances, regulators can collect - or make drug companies collect - data adequate to determine if a drug is safe. The process is imperfect, but it generally works. The pharmaceutical company Merck stopped selling the painkiller Vioxx after data from a clinical trial that Merck itself ran showed that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks.
In the case of opioids, as regulators failed, prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and state attorneys general have stepped in. Opioids remain an enormous problem in the United States, but no one can claim their risks are unknown at this point. The companies that did the most to fuel the prescribing frenzy that began two decades ago have been punished. Among them, Purdue Pharma is bankrupt, and Insys Therapeutics no longer exists, its chairman - once a billionaire - now serving a 5 1/2 year federal prison sentence.
The mRNA Covid shots are a much higher class of problem.
More than 200 million Americans and more than 1 billion people worldwide - the vast majority of the adults in the world’s advanced industrial nations - have received them. Put aside questions of effectiveness, whether the vaccines actually work against Covid and for how long. Look at solely at their safety.
Are they safe long-term?
Under normal circumstances, we would have robust clinical trial data to help answer that question. We would have two groups of thousands, or in this case tens of thousands, of people who had been carefully matched and then randomly chosen to receive either the vaccine or a placebo.
We could follow them for years to see how they fared, whether they wound up getting Covid (at this point nearly all of them have gotten Covid) and even more importantly how their overall health changed.
We can’t do that for these vaccines.
In early 2021, just a few months after the big clinical trials started, Pfizer and Moderna offered their shots to the people in the placebo arms of the trials - those who had initially received saline instead of mRNA. And almost all those people agreed to get the jabs.
That move essentially ended the clinical trials, because it meant the companies and regulators didn’t have a clean comparison group anymore. Everyone in the trial had received the vaccine.
Regulators allowed this move, on the theory that the vaccines had already been proven safe, that long-term problems were very unlikely, as they are with older and conventional vaccines. Thus no one needed to collect long-term data comparing the two groups. Denying the placebo trialists access to the shots would be unethical.
The theory was nice. But it ignored a couple of minor facts. The mRNA vaccines worked in a completely different way than other vaccines. They had shown evidence of toxicity with repeated use. And they had never been used before in humans outside of a handful of clinical trials.
Blowing up the trials was the regulatory equivalent of deciding we didn’t need long-term studies on statins because we already had them on beta-blockers, and those are both heart medicines.
It was a shockingly bad decision, and its cost has risen every day.
The regulatory apparatus failed.
Nor will the courts be able to answer crucial questions about the vaccines or potentially hold their manufacturers accountable. Why? The vaccine companies have complete legal immunity for their products from any civil lawsuits in the United States and elsewhere. There’s no way to sue them. There will be no discovery process.
Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but in reality extraordinarily unlikely. Prosecutors cannot simply open cases on a whim. They need probable cause, actual evidence of wrongdoing. The bar is high, especially when they are trying to prosecute complex (alleged) white-collar crimes against wealthy corporate defendants with armies of lawyers.
In pharmaceutical industry cases, criminal prosecutions have been rare and slow and often followed disclosures made in civil litigation - which will not exist here.
Besides, at the moment we have no evidence that anyone at the companies or anywhere else engaged in criminal conduct. What we have instead is a fact pattern that grows more and more disturbing. Countries that have heavily used the mRNA vaccines now have a seemingly endless wave of Covid, coupled with a rise in deaths from other causes that is historically unprecedented. Non-Covid deaths are up 5 to 10 percent, week after week, month after month. (Births appear to be dropping too.)
(Australia - deaths rose 17 percent in the first four months of 2022; roughly 7 percent of those extra deaths were from Covid, and 10 percent from other causes.)
A rise of 5 to 10 percent may seem like a small increase. It is not.
Death rates are determined almost entirely by population demographics. (To be blunt, people get old, and then they die.) They are extremely predictable in advanced countries and almost never change more than 1 or 2 percent in a year.
For most countries, this 5 to 10 percent change is in the range of the additional deaths which Covid is known to have caused in 2020 and 2021. Those Covid deaths were viewed as a worldwide public health emergency. To combat them, governments instituted travel bans, lockdowns, mandatory masking, and other measures.
These non-Covid deaths have led to… nothing.
Not even an acknowledgement they are happening. (As an added bonus, Covid deaths are still running at 5 to 10 percent of all deaths in many heavily mRNA vaccinated countries in 2022 - so the vaccines appear to be of, umm, limited effectiveness on that front too.)
Meanwhile, scientists and researchers continue to make puzzling and troubling discoveries about the impact of the mRNA shots at the cellular level. mRNA survives in the body for much longer than anticipated, for example. And the shots interfere with a broad-spectrum immune response to Covid and cause their recipients to make a less-than-optimal mix of antibodies against new variants.
Case reports and links to specific conditions continue to pile up too, not just about myocarditis but autoimmune disorders, including Type 1 diabetes.
But this research is incremental, and none of it comes close to explaining the clear demographic warning signs that are flashing all over the world.
It is hard to overstate the oddity of where we are right now.
The crucial questions right now are scientific, not legal. With the clinical trials useless, we do not have a clean pool of data about the long-term impact of the vaccines to call upon.
Even beginning to fix that problem will require a massive effort to identify and follow a large, demographically representative group of vaccine recipients for years. Ideally that group would be prospectively matched with an unvaccinated group (though doing this will be extremely complicated because vaccinated and unvaccinated people likely differ in crucial ways that will be hard to sort out).
Beyond that, we need federally coordinated and independent research into the impact of the mRNA shots at the cellular level. We need to force the vaccine companies to turn over ALL the research they have on their products, everything from the initial lab work they did to their most up-to-date data on each individual clinical participant. We need to examine in detail why all-cause deaths are rising and whether the increases is happening disproportionately in the vaccinated.
And what I’m proposing would only be the beginning of the research. This is a national-level project. Only a government - or group of governments- has the financial and legal ability to pull it off. (Maybe the companies could start the process, but they are hopelessly conflicted.)
But the governments with the power to do so are the same ones that have relentlessly pushed the mRNA Covid shots for the last two years.
Even taking preliminary steps toward this research would be cataclysmic politically, scientifically, and medically. Even if the research found nothing, even if the rise in deaths is pure coincidence or the result of other factors, merely acknowledging that the potential risk existed and was not disclosed or understood would be a devastating blow to public confidence.
So the only institutions with the power to begin to answer these urgent questions will not do so. In fact, even asking the questions is growing increasingly difficult. Twitter, the most important platform for journalism globally, is now aggressively moving to delete the accounts of people who post basic data about vaccine safety.
John Wells is not coming to the rescue.
Maybe if the booster campaigns end, the increase in all-cause deaths will subside. It did in the spring, briefly. Maybe birth rates will quickly return to normal.
Maybe in a year or two, we’ll view this months as a (major) minor anomaly, a question that will never be answered.
Maybe. If not… we are going to have to figure this out ourselves.
I don’t know how, but we are.