Moonshot

From The Wall Street Journal:

We have heard so much about vaccines in the past 18 months that we may not welcome still more. But “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible” is well worth looking at closely. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, boasts of saving millions of lives while restoring the otherwise tarnished image of the pharmaceutical industry. Yet his victory lap races by a hard truth: Covid-19 continues to cause disruption and challenge our confidence in science.

To be fair, the number of new cases did decline by 85% during the first few months after the vaccines hit the market in December 2020. But when cases hit a low point, in February 2021, only about 5% of the U.S. population had been vaccinated. Although it is easy to blame recent surges on the people who decided not to get vaccinated, current data show that states with the highest vaccination rates also have the most cases, hospitalizations and deaths. (Because hot spots move around, such statistical profiles change from month to month.) The current wave of new cases is hitting the unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted alike. This is not to say that vaccines don’t work. They do reduce the severity of infection, but they haven’t delivered the promised herd immunity that would end the pandemic.

Pfizer’s ability to develop, test and distribute a vaccine in less than a year is, without doubt, a stunning accomplishment, and Mr. Bourla is right to feel proud. But he overdoes it, dropping the names of the presidents, prime ministers and world leaders who have sought his counsel. At times, he praises his colleagues and advisers, yet often in a context that shows them being subservient to the CEO. He quotes Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, who relays a long-ago comment from his brother (who led the 1976 Entebbe Raid and was killed in action): “There are not good or bad soldiers. There are only good or bad commanders.” Mr. Bourla seems to take this maxim to heart.

Mr. Bourla stresses the importance—for Pfizer and, in general, for the battle against Covid—of high ethical standards, complete transparency and trust in science. Yet “Moonshot” shows, sometimes inadvertently, the difficulty of meeting these admirable goals. Well into the pandemic, in March 2021, Mr. Bourla canceled a trip to advise Israeli researchers. Why? Because Israel denied entry to anyone who was not one week beyond his second Covid jab. That’s right, one of the most prominent vaccine promoters in the world wasn’t fully vaccinated at the time. “Getting vaccinated had created a crisis of confidence for me,” Mr. Bourla writes. “I chose to wait until my vaccination might be used to encourage those with vaccine hesitancy later on.” Does this claim meet a high ethical standard? Mr. Bourla thinks so; others might not. An aghast Mr. Netanyahu said to him: “My wife, who is sitting next to me, is asking when you plan to vaccinate yourself. What shall I tell her?”

How transparent has Pfizer been? In the book’s more than 200 pages, one topic is not explored in any real depth—side effects. Although the vaccine is generally regarded as safe, side effects do appear to be more common—and perhaps more severe—than for other widely used vaccines. In the 2020 clinical trial that provided the basis for FDA emergency-use authorization, more than 83% of 18- to 55-year-old participants (in comparison with 14% of those injected with a placebo) reported arm pain after their first shot, and approximately a third had a fever in reaction to their second (in contrast to less than 1% for a placebo). More serious side effects, like myocarditis, are rare, but they happen slightly more often following vaccination. Mr. Bourla might have paused to address the concerns of those who worry about side effects, if only to put the matter in proper perspective.

Mr. Bourla asserts that, ultimately, “science will win.” Who could argue with that? The problem is that science is a process that works best when research findings are peer-reviewed and when calculations are verified by independent scientists with no vested interest in a commercial product. Pfizer skipped this step. Instead it used internally controlled trials and first made the results public through highly curated press releases that showed its evidence in the best light. “In the past,” Mr. Bourla explains, “politicians and governments would pressure us to share data and learnings more quickly than we were comfortable.” This time, he says, Pfizer held off on sharing data lest it fuel a counternarrative. Even now, Pfizer has not released data that would allow independent scientists to verify its analyses. If the evidence is in the public interest, shouldn’t the data be in the public domain?

At a Dec. 10, 2020, hearing on emergency-use authorization, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, several of the presentations and a number of comments from the general public raised concerns about how long vaccine protection would last. But the one clinical trial used to justify the authorization followed participants for only two months, and Pfizer was so confident of the vaccine’s durable benefit that it vaccinated the placebo group, calling the decision the only “ethical” option. By June 2021, however, Pfizer understood that protection against infection declines after only a few months. When it acknowledged this fact, Mr. Bourla says, officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and at the FDA feared that the disclosure would provoke more vaccine hesitancy. Perhaps it did. But it also helped Pfizer gain the authorization and public financing for a third dose.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

13 thoughts on “Moonshot”

  1. In general, unvaccinated people just make less fuss when they catch covid. Perhaps a sense of shame, at least in my case. Omg I caught this stupid disease, which turned out to be no worse then a mild cold. Certainly the flu 4 months later felt worse.

    In australia they have moved on from get vaccinated to prevent covid, to get vaccinated to prevent long covid because you caught covid. But I have not seen any numbers on % of long covid, vaccinated or not. with 90-99% vaccinated almost everyone has caught covid at some point.

  2. The article seems to be going out of its way looking for things to gripe about, re: side effects, when it focuses on “arm pain! OMG!” or even mild fever. Makes you wonder if the author bothered to research how vaccines work. You jab a needle in the arm and of course the nerves are going to get annoyed. And of course the immune system is going to react, prompting an increase in body temperature, aka “fever”. Like, duh!

    As to the rest, Covid now more than ever looks to have been tweaked at least, engineered at worst, and definitely an escapee from its creators. The ongoing nature of the war against it has proven it to be the fastest mutating pathogen yet, at levels of no purely natural virus. It has also boomeranged spectacularly on said creators who have found the vaccine they created against the original strain (minimally effective to start with) is totally useless against the steady stream of mutations.

    This has combined to paint the autocrats into a corner, leaving them with total lockdown as the only effective tool. Repeated, total, and hair-triggered. It has combined with demographics and other emerging forces to break the extended supply chain model of globalized manufacturing centered on China.

    At last report, a CCP spokesman admitted their lockdown “zero covid” policy will likely last at least five more years, through 2027. Mostly because Big Pharma has long been serious about protecting from industrial espionage and the core mRNA tech remains decades beyond China’s reach. One player not heard from of late was the PLA General who a decade ago suggested a global pandemic would ruin western economies, facilitating CCP domination. (“What goes around, comes around”.)

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/chinas-covid-outbreak-flares-fueling-fears-of-wider-spread/ar-AAZcj3q

    Another point to remember about the Pfizer/Biontech mRNA vaccine: it was solely privately funded. Moderna did rely of funds from OPERATION WARPSPEED but Pzizer developed its vaccine on its own dime, which explains its reluctance to give away its IP under IdiotPolitician™ pressure.

    Covid is still evolving towards increasing infectiousness and declining lethality but the process continues. Like influenza, it will be with us indefinitely. In fact Moderna has been working on a dual Covid/influenza product for deploying later this year and indefinitely afterwards. As with tbe original outbreak, the ultimate protection lies with the individual, rather than just tbe (still useful) vaccines and boosters. No magic bullets.
    Social and cultural ramifications are still evolving.

    This too is life in the 21st century.

  3. I think I’ve mentioned this before.

    I got the J&J shot[1] in April of 2021. A month later, I had a bad reaction[3] to the shot. My muscles ached. My back muscles hurt like hell. My legs would kick and shrill pain. I simply put up with everything because “life is pain”. Though I did wonder what the hell was going on. It wasn’t until the evening that I took my temperature. I had 3 degrees of fever. The next day the pain was less and only 2 degrees of fever. The third day was just the memory of pain and no fever.

    – I have daily pain at the injection site. It does not hurt all day long, but it will hurt throughout the day, with varying intensities of pain.

    In November they called for booster shots. I went through a bizarre Rodeo, literally, and they did not care that I had daily pain in my arm or had a bad reaction to the first shot. They only cared if it was “serious”[3].

    A month later I had a bad reaction to the booster. For three day I had the shudders, as if I was freezing, yet I was perfectly warm in bed. No fever.

    – I still have daily pain at the injection site.

    If they come up with another booster, or any new shot that uses the mRNA technology, I will not take it. The bad reactions and daily pain are not worth it.

    BTW, I have done vaccinations my whole life, these “shots” are not “vaccines”.

    [1] It’s a “shot”, like a “Flu shot” rather than a “vaccine”. A vaccine by definition[2] gives “immunity”, that’s why all my life they would call these injections as part of standard “immunization”.

    [2] They literally changed the definition of “vaccine” in online dictionaries to avoid saying “immunity” since people could still catch Covid even after getting the shots. There was never a chance of me catching Polio, or the Measles, etc…, after getting “immunized” because the vaccine gave me clear “immunity” from the disease.

    [3] When you get the shot they worry that you will react to the ingredients and have a “serious” reaction. That means anaphylactic shock, the need of an epipen and a 12 hour stay at hospital. A “bad” reaction apparently does not interest them.

    • Yes, they are vaccines.
      And yes, they do confer immunity.

      But vaccines *do not* confer eternal immunity. All vaccine immunity fades over time; just at different rates. Some immunities last decades, some last months.
      Influenza immunity lasts several years but no vaccine (to date) offers immuity against all strains of tbe virus families. Covid is a hyperactive virus (thanks to the gain of function chinese experiments) and it has been reconfiguring within months, not years, or decades.

      Also, not all vaccines are created equal.
      J&J is, like the russian Sputnik V, and the various chinese vaccines, crafted from inactivated chunks of the virus grafted onto a similar virus. But they use the version dominant at tbe time it was crafted. That is why those vaccines are effectively useless against tbe “omicron” variants.

      Pfizer and Moderna were crafted differently: they both selected a section of the surface of the virus and encoded it in an artificial chunk of messenger RNA. The virus internals can mutate at will but as long as the chosen fragment doesn’t change too much the vaccine will still be (at least partially) effective.

      (As for side effects, they are most often due to the transfer fluid carrying the active elements of the vaccines, not the elements themselves.)

      A little known fact is that most classic vaccines are only 50% effective in fighting the pathogen but it is sufficient for non-lethal ones. Others require two shots and even an entire series of jabs, like rabies.

      The mRNA vaccines both started at 50-70% and required two shots to hit 90%+. This fades over time but even after months they are still more effective than classic vaccines. And for all that Covid has mutated, they are still well above average despite being two years old:

      https://www.healthline.com/health-news/by-the-numbers-covid-19-vaccines-and-omicron

      Note that the boosters drive the 50% immunity back up to the 70-80% range against the newer mutants. They don’t restart it from zero.

      As we learn more, the need for added boosters is being better understood, particularly by age group.

      Nonetheless, Covid is no longer a single virus but a family of related variants, like influenza. And like the flu, “living with Covid” looks to require a single annual shot of an mRNA vaccine. (Hence Moderna working on a dual shot.)

      Alternately, quick testing upon experiencing sympthoms followed by an intense treatment of a Covid-targeting antiviral. We now know a lot more about the virus than two years ago so vaccines aren’t absolutely required (politicians aside) but they remain highly reccomended. And cheaper.

      Finally: mixing vaccines (especially adding mRNA to J&J) is not only allowed but actually recomended.

      • HA!

        What I love is how so many people ignore what I am saying about having “bad reactions” to the shots and being in “daily pain”.

        If I am the only one in the world having problems, that is remarkable and I should be studied, not ignored. The reality is, there are people who had worse reactions, including death, and someday there will be a reckoning.

        What’s interesting, is that the woman who helped develop the mRNA technology worked for years to make it “less toxic”. They are clearly not there yet.

        I will be in pain the rest of my life because companies want to keep making billions at my expense, and they control the media and the politicians who should be addressing this.

        So, no thank you. No more mRNA shots for me.

        • Having worked a quarter of a century in healthcare and litigation law firms (Epstein Becker & Green, WilmerHale), I have seen so many confidential and privileged documents that I was less fearful about vaccines or viruses than I was the manufacturers of the product being mandated. Iatrogenic or medically induced morbidity and mortality is already the third annual highest cause of American deaths. These are not accidents or mistakes, but the effects of a general “standard of care” applied to individuals. You made the right decision to stop receiving this medical procedure.

        • Didn’t you say you took J&J?

          J&J isn’t mRNA.Different tech, different effects.
          Like I said, you have choices now that weren’t available before.
          But like I also said, all Covid vaccines aren’t the same.

          • This is like Betamax vs VHS. I of course went with Betamax.

            At the time it was the best choice.

            Now I’m paying for it. Glug.

            • Any medical people know if there is a test one can take to determine if individual side effects will be benign or lethal? I know there are allergy tests, but that’s about it.

              • Not in the business, but: There isn’t one. Not beforehand.

                Just statistical reporting and correlation, after the drug is in use over time. With enough data they can guess risk level range. (That’s what clinical trials are for: building a database.)

                Problem is, side effects vary by person. Genetics, environment, history, condition, the phase of the moon…
                …well not tbe latter but pretty much anything else. Even drug batch.

                Every drug has *some* side effect for somebody somewhere. Nobody is at zero %, few are at 100%. Established drugs, like aspirin have very low risk but not even that is 100% safe, just *usually* mild side effects for most people. That’s the best we can hope for so far.

                The question always comes down to what is worse, the risk of side effects or the condition to be addressed. Most cases the condition is worse.

    • Anyone who told you that getting vaccinated against a disease meant that you wouldn’t get the disease was a liar.
      What it means is that your body can react faster to the disease, thereby making being infected by it less likely to kill or injure you.

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