by Jack C. Askins, M.D.
Something isn’t right in this entire vaccinated vs unvaccinated argument and division taking place in our country. On one side, the proponents of vaccination are labeling the unvaccinated as the cause of the current surge in the Covid case numbers (“a pandemic of the unvaccinated”). Overflowing hospitals and Covid deaths are all the fault of the unvaccinated, so the story goes. President Biden says his “patience is wearing thin”. Vaccines will be mandated and private businesses and government will be the enforcers. Life will be difficult for the unvaccinated. Some have said the unvaxxed should not be treated in hospitals if they become ill.
On the other side, the unvaccinated state vaccines and mandates are about freedom to choose and liberty; “my body, my choice”. They point to an overall Covid survival rate of 99% and cite data regarding complications and side effects from the vaccines. They call attention to how the CDC recently re-defined a vaccine from providing “immunity” to providing “protection”.
They also have concerns about the unique mRNA mechanism of action and how the approval process was incomplete and abbreviated. “If the vaccines work, why aren’t they working?”
For the sake of national unity and promoting confidence in this new technology of the mRNA shots, this should have already been sorted out by the vaccine developers and researchers. Apparently, animal studies were not done and the phase 3 trials were prematurely “completed” last December and the control group offered the mRNA shot. Completion of phase 3 trials was originally scheduled for 2023. The politicians in charge, the CDC, and the NIH have hardened their recommendations into mandates, threats, and penalties which includes loss of employment and financial destruction. Federal regulatory agencies will be turned loose on the unvaxxed.
But all of this confusion and division and rancor and hate could be mostly avoided by truthfully answering one question. One question backed up by 75 years of immunology and virology science and research. The same immunology and virology we all studied in college and medical school and have called upon to diagnose and treat patients in our practices. The same immunology and virology being ignored by the politicians and the armchair doctors at the CDC.
The one important question is “What is more important, vaccine status or immune status?” It is a very simple and obvious question but the fact it is not being asked or explained goes to the issue of honesty and transparency. If a vaccine provides immunity, then the targeted virus will not infect or replicate within a person and thus not be spread to others.
The CDC has admitted the mRNA vaccines do not provide immunity but rather “protection” against serious infection and death. Dr. Fauci has recently stated that in Covid infected patients, nasal viral loads available for transmission to others are similar between the unvaccinated with no prior infection and the vaccinated. Based on this, one could argue the mRNA shots are a “therapy” and not a “vaccine”. This “therapy” may not be all that effective – Israel hospitals have been filled up with sick vaccinated patients and 2/3 of recent Covid deaths in the UK have been in the vaccinated. In both countries, most of the population have been vaccinated and that did not stop the Delta variant surge. Pfizer “effectiveness” is calculated to be down to 39% in the Israeli data and 42% in a Mayo Clinic study.
But here is the salient point about vaccine status vs. immune status: the issue of natural immunity. Natural immunity occurs following an infection with a viral pathogen. Prior to the politics of 2020 and 2021, natural immunity was widely recognized as the most robust and broad immunity one could have. Natural immunity produces mucosal IgA antibodies (stops the infection at the mucosal barrier – nose, mouth, eyes). If the pathogen makes it past the mucosal barrier, internal B cells produce humoral antibodies (IgG and IgM) and cellular immunity is initiated with CD4 and CD8 T cells. The CD4 cells coordinate an immune response and the CD8 T cells are the “killer” cells and attack and destroy cells in our body which have been infected with the virus. Your own cells are destroyed to prevent the virus from using them to make more copies of itself.
And here is the really interesting and important part: after a period of time the B and T cells can transition into a “sentry” mode lasting years to perhaps a lifetime and re-activate if challenged by the virus. Statements that natural immunity is only of a few months duration are ignorant, biased nonsense.
The mRNA shots turn a person’s cells into viral spike protein factories that provoke the immune system to produce humoral antibodies to the specific spike protein encoded by the mRNA. There are no mucosal barrier IgM antibodies produced and the data on CD4 and CD8 T cells is murky at best. One would think all this would have been studied and known in detail prior to unleashing the mRNA injections on an uninformed world. Consequently, we are now having surging Delta variant infections, the appearance of the Mu variant, recommendations for 3rd and 4th and beyond boosters, and thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries attributed to the mRNA shots in our CDC VAERS data and the European monitoring data.
Now that we know all of this, why are we now dividing the country and creating social and financial chaos with vaccine mandates? The “unvaccinated” are not a monolithic group but rather comprised of those who were previously infected and now have natural immunity and those who are infection-naive (no prior SARS Cov 2 infection). Efforts at vaccine encouragement (not mandates) should be directed at the infection-naive who are at risk and have co-morbidities. There now is evidence the mRNA shot, when given to Covid survivors with natural immunity, places them at a several times higher risk for vaccine injury and death. Arterial and venous thrombosis and cytokine storms have been observed. To not recognize those with natural immunity and proceed with discrimination and penalties against them does not acknowledge the science and is illogical, unethical, and immoral.
Hospitals are making the argument that taking the mRNA shot is necessary to prevent over-burdening hospitals with Covid patients. The Israel and UK data mentioned above argue against that and those countries may be a prequel to what is beginning to happen in the U.S. However, educating and encouraging at-risk individuals within the community to take the Pfizer or Moderna shots may lessen the severity of illness presenting to the hospital.
In addition, perhaps hospital administrators and medical staffs could provide bold leadership rather than dutifully following the same CDC “guidance”. There are published studies and protocols from experienced academic and frontline physicians who have demonstrated 85% decrease in hospitalizations and death utilizing re-purposed medications per protocol (see Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance; America’s Frontline Doctors). What if it were only a 25-30% decrease in hospitalizations? Would that not be worthwhile (what do we have to lose)? Why not do an informal observational study with these protocols, including informed consent, on perhaps 25% of Covid patients presenting to the hospital? Expand the percentage if the results are favorable. Following CDC “guidance”, hospitals have been on defense for the past 21 months. How has that been working out? Why not go on offense and try a different therapeutic approach which appears to benefit patients? What do we have to lose?
Reasons given for not trying these protocols have included the drugs are not FDA approved for Covid purposes and there is no CDC approval. Drugs are frequently given “off label” if in the best interest of the patient. As far as CDC protocol “approval”, the CDC provides “guidance” but does not have regulatory power to deny physicians acting in the best interest of a sick patient (“right to try”). In regards to “first do no harm”, the antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs
re-purposed in these protocols have been given millions of times around the world with virtually no significant complications (“what do we have to lose?”).
Hospitals around the country are also mandating mRNA shots for all their employees and staff.
The uninformed and misinformed might assume that is for the protection of the patients. However, there is no evidence health care workers have been a significant source for Covid spread within a hospital. The CEO at a local hospital recently stated there has been no confirmed case of staff infecting a patient during this pandemic. Temperature assessment and early self-quarantine seems to have been effective.
Also, a high percentage of health care workers are Covid-recovered and have natural immunity. A study by the Cleveland Clinic this year revealed that in approximately 1350 health care workers within the Cleveland Clinic system who had prior infection and no vaccination, there was not a single incidence of SARS-CoV-2 re-infection in a 10 month follow-up. The CDC recently analyzed blood from blood banks and calculated that 83% of the country have antibodies to the Covid virus from either the mRNA shots or from natural immunity. Those with only natural immunity comprised approximately 25% of the total in this study. What happened to the concept of herd immunity?
Mandating mRNA injections in hospital employees and staff will obviously not reduce the number of sick patients presenting to a hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Some within the hospital think it is a symbolic and manipulative gesture aimed at the community and will influence the unvaxxed to obtain the mRNA shot. However, polls have suggested this will be counter-productive as both vaxxed and unvaxxed people in communities realize this mandate will not reduce the surge of Covid patients presenting to a hospital. It will, however, reduce the availability of staff to care for them.
The past 21 months have been a difficult and destructive assault on most of our society but politicians have exploited it for their political benefit. To not recognize that is naive. Most would agree this virus and the global response to it is very fluid and dynamic. What was thought to be true 6 months ago is not true now, and 6 months (or 3 or 1) months from now, it will probably evolve into something else. In the midst of all this dynamic change, at a very fundamental level it does not seem ethical or moral to mandate this drug be injected into our bodies. That precedent and the effects of the drug will be forever; the virus probably will not.
Jack C. Askins, M.D.
1. This paper is not written as an anti-vaccine statement and should not be taken as such. High-risk people who have not been previously infected with the Covid virus should be encouraged (not mandated) to take the mRNA shot as it may reduce the severity of an infection and help avoid death, if infected. Mandates and not recognizing the immune status of those previously infected are issues contributing to the mistrust and division within our country. A very large portion of this nation feels like they have been enrolled into a vast experiment involving masks, vaccines, and mandates without their informed consent. Medical science is strongest and innovation occurs when diversity of opinion and criticism are encouraged. That is why Morbidity & Mortality conferences and peer review of journal articles are the historical norm within the practice of medicine. Critical analysis and alternative thought and opinion are now being persecuted and silenced. No matter how one feels about vaccines and mandates and alternative treatments, the silencing and persecution of critical thought and opinion will strangle medical innovation and further divide our country.
2. This was written in a simplistic and conversational style as one would have when speaking with a patient or a poorly informed physician colleague. Considerable technical detail was excluded and references were not formally listed as this obviously is not intended for submission to a journal. The Israel and UK data are easily found with an on-line search and the original papers and articles are available. The same is true of the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic studies and statements by Dr. Fauci and Rochelle Walensky and the CDC.
Jack C. Askins, M.D.
“Dr. Jack Askins is a cardiologist in Wichita Falls, TX. This is the first article in a series of four he has authored that we intend to publish here. His reasoned scientific voice needs to be heard during these times as the COVID-19 Vaccines have become politicized through government mandates. We are encouraged by his boldness and expertise that he brings to the subject.”