I got the Covid vaccine as soon as I could. I think I might have been vaccinated earlier but for the manner in which the local government picked folks to vaccinate – I wasn’t sitting by the phone when the call came in, and that healthy, outdoors behavior put me a couple weeks later than I wanted.
I’m one of the people who was in line for the polio vaccine – and it wasn’t far out of the experimental stage. A classmate who is with you in kindergarten one day, then gone, and the dread word polio makes for a willingness to step up for vaccination. As a kid, I didn’t know that the Salk vaccine was only 65% effective against one strain, and about 90% effective against the others. Multiplication and division were still challenges back then – but I got the vaccine.
I don’t need a perfect vaccine – the vaccine is to improve my odds. I get flu vaccinations, and the table from CDC https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/past-seasons-estimates.html shows how that works. The important part is “Adjusted Overall VE (%)
Table. Adjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates for influenza seasons from 2004-2018
CDC calculates vaccine effectiveness estimates through the U.S. VE Network
|Influenza Season||Reference||Study Site(s)||No. of Patients||Adjusted Overall VE (%)||95% CI|
|2018-19||Flannery 2020||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||3,254||29||21, 35|
|2017-18||Rolfes 2019||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||8,436||38||31, 43|
|2016-17||Flannery 2019||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||7410||40||32, 46|
|2015-16||Jackson 2017||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||6879||48||41, 55|
|2014-15||Zimmerman 2016||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||9311||19||10, 27|
|2013-14||Gaglani 2016||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||5999||52||44, 59|
|2012-13||McLean 2014||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||6452||49||43, 55|
|2011-12||Ohmit 2014||WI, MI, PA, TX, WA||4771||47||36, 56|
|2010-11||Treanor 2011||WI, MI, NY, TN||4757||60||53, 66|
|2009-10||Griffin 2011||WI, MI, NY, TN||6757||56||23, 75|
|2008-09||Unpublished||WI, MI, NY, TN||6713||41||30, 50|
|2007-08||Belongia 2011||WI||1914||37||22, 49|
|2006-07||Belongia 2009||WI||871||52||22, 70|
|2005-06||Belongia 2009||WI||346||21||-52, 59|
|2004-05||Belongia 2009||WI||762||10||-36, 40|
The important thing is that, in 15 years of data, the best record the vaccine had was 60% effectiveness. The worst was down to 10% effectiveness. If I’m playing blackjack, and I can get a 10% edge, that’s good. If I can get a 60% edge, that’s great. I don’t expect a vaccine -particularly one that had a rushed development- to be 100%.
Smallpox was ended with a vaccine that was about 95% effective – “Effective smallpox vaccines have a vaccinia titer of approximately 108 pock-forming units per mL, and more than 95% of individuals develop a ‘take’ with neutralizing antibodies after primary vaccination. “ It’s worth remembering that it took several centuries to develop that vaccine.
Vaccines are more a statisticians game, or a gambler’s science. Today’s polio vaccine is about as close to 100% effective as you can get. The vaccines aren’t magic bullets – but they are better bullets. It may take a while – but I’m betting the Coronavirus vaccines will become increasingly effective. The problem is that the scientists are working on better vaccines, and politicians and administrators are working on press releases.