Glenn K. Beaton is a writer and columnist living near Aspen. He has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, RealClearPolitics, Powerline, Instapundit, American Thinker and numerous other print, radio and television outlets.
The first vaccine against the Wuhan virus was developed by a German biotech company, BioNTech, in partnership with American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
So why is the vaccination rate in Germany stuck at 4% while the American vaccination rate is now quadruple that? Throughout Europe, it’s much the same story. The vaccination rate is 4% in France, Spain, Sweden and Italy, and 5% in Finland, Greece, Poland and Norway.
Only the UK, now separate from the EU, is doing well with a vaccination rate of 27% after approving the vaccine weeks before the FDA did in the U.S. (with the same data that the FDA ultimately based its approval on, it should be noted).
Unsurprisingly, this dawdling on the Continent has an effect: death. While the death rates have come down from January’s peak wave, daily new cases and daily deaths in the EU remain stubbornly high. In contrast, in the UK where the vaccine is really rolling, daily new cases are down by three-quarters and daily deaths are down two-thirds.
Regular Beatniks know that since last summer I’ve been enrolled in the clinical trials for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Because it’s a “blinded” study, I never really knew whether I’d received the vaccine or a placebo.
The clinic called me last week to tell me that Pfizer was unblinding the study for people in my demographic (translation: old farts) if we wished. Moreover, Pfizer was offering to administer the vaccine to those whom the unblinding revealed had received the placebo.
I accepted Pfizer’s offer. They then told me I’d received the placebo. I suspected as much based on the complete absence of any side effects, as well as the antibody test that I took a week after getting the injection which told me I had no COVID antibodies. (Getting the antibody test was not prohibited by the paperwork I signed.)
Pfizer then offered me the vaccine. I accepted their offer, and received the vaccine this morning.
Although they aren’t exactly scientists, the media said that COVID vaccines would take years or even decades to develop and test and that they would probably be only about 50-60% effective.
It’s not clear whether the media really believed their own dire predictions, or whether they were just rooting for the virus because they thought it hurt Trump and hurt America, both of which they like to see hurt. Although (or perhaps because) they’re not scientists and not very smart, they are Democrats after all.
In any event, the pharmaceutical industry proved them wrong. They developed new vaccines with new technology in a few months, then finished testing them in a few more months. The effectiveness is about 95%.
Expect media reports that in the 5% of the population where the vaccine seems not to work, it’s all Trump’s fault. The headline will read something like, “Although impeached and out of office, Trump is still killing people.”
Now that the scientists, physicians and businessmen at pharmaceutical companies have performed scientific, medical and business miracles, we can conquer the pandemic and get back to watching proper football in sports bars by simply taking the vaccine. Right?
No, not right. Because the simple distribution of the vaccines wound up the responsibility of the people who brought you the Obamacare website and VA Hospitals.
The first act in their comedy of errors was to suggest that the first people to get the vaccine should not be the people over 70 who are dying, but the people who have the darkest skin. Because social justice.
Imagine the vaccination center. Would they have a light meter to measure a person’s pigmentation, or would they just take the person’s word for it? What if they were white, color-wise, but identified as very black, at least on that day?
Ironically, or perhaps intentionally, but probably just carelessly, the effect of this scheme would be more deaths among both older whites and older blacks because the vaccine supplies would be used instead on not-at-risk younger blacks.
But no matter. The point was not to reduce white deaths or even black deaths. It was to feel very, very woke. After a suitable outcry from doctors – the kind with patients, not the kind jockeying for government grants – the government quietly backed off that racist plan.
The FDA finally approved the vaccine in mid-December. That was weeks after Great Britain already had. In the interim, another ten thousand died. The government boasted that we’d get 20 million doses administered by the end of the year. As it turned out, they administered only about 10% of that.
Happy New Year!
What happened? Intra-governmental squabbling between the bureaucratic Center for Disease Control and military brass heading up Operation Warp Speed (why military brass for that task?) consumed months. Eventually, they decided that the vaccinations should proceed in phases.
Fine. But they decided that we cannot go onto a new phase until the prior phase is finished. They never specified what “finished” means. Does it mean 100.00% of the people in the prior phase have been injected? What if less than 100.00% of those people actually want to be injected? Is 90% enough? Or 70%?
They never said. Meanwhile, millions of vaccine does were, and are, sitting in freezers while people continue dying at the rate of about 4,000 a day.
The vaccines are administered in two shots about three weeks apart. The government decided they couldn’t proceed to a new phase until they had in-hand enough of the vaccine to administer the second shot to people who’d gotten the first shot in the prior phase.
But the pharmaceutical companies had already told the government that their manufacturing capabilities are sufficient to manufacture those second shots on-the-fly. The government didn’t need to keep the second shots on ice. But the government did anyway, and still more people died.
Moreover, the data indicates that just a first shot is highly efficacious, so if somehow a person doesn’t get his second shot he’s very likely protected anyway. No matter, the government insisted on reserving a second shot for a person who’d taken the first shot rather than administering it as the first shot to another patient. Meanwhile, thousands more died.
Finally, the government relented and decided to administer that shot to new patients rather than reserving it to be the second shot for earlier patients.
This Keystone Kops routine has literally cost tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives. More Americans have now died of COVID than American soldiers died in WWII. But the government types don’t care because as “essential workers” they personally have gotten the vaccine.
Call me cynical, but are these lazy, selfish and inept government types the people we want running the health care system? Or anything else?
I’m a volunteer in the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine. I knew there was some risk in volunteering to take an unproven medicine. But I hoped that my participation might help me do well against the virus, and might also help me do good for humanity. My efforts to do well and do good have worked out fine, until now.
Understand that these studies are conducted with two distinct groups. One group gets the vaccine. The other group gets a placebo. The placebo is not medicine. It’s a simple saline shot that does nothing at all.
The reason for these two groups is to establish a placebo-taking “control group” against which both the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine can be measured in the vaccine-taking group. The study is “blinded,” meaning that the patients themselves don’t know whether they got the vaccine or the placebo. That’s to avoid tainting the results with “placebo effect” and “reverse placebo effect” symptoms.
Along with 40-some thousand other people around the world, I’m enrolled in the clinical trials for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. All has gone well for me, and I’ve had no side effects. Of course, I’ve followed closely the progress of the trials, and I occasionally receive updates from Pfizer.
Pfizer announced yesterday that its early review suggests that the vaccine is astonishingly effective – over 90%. The FDA has previously said that it will approve a safe vaccine that exceeds 50% efficacy.
These early Pfizer results are based on 94 COVID cases that have been identified in the tens of thousands of trial patients. The company’s 90% efficacy determination suggests that all or nearly all those cases occurred in the 50% of the patients who received the placebo, and hardly any or perhaps none at all occurred in the other 50% who received the actual vaccine.
Pfizer plans to manufacture over a billion doses in 2021. A dozen other companies are also in final testing of vaccines. Scientists say the Pfizer results bode well for the other vaccines.
The end of the pandemic is in sight. The stock market soared and scientists rightly congratulated themselves.