Saturday, August 28, 2021

HE DECIDED TO GET A VACCINE BOOSTER, AND THEN HE DIED

Last week I attended a shiva house. My friend who passed away, an amazing person, was a very young seventy and in perfect health. He had decided to book himself in for a vaccine booster shot, and later that day he was playing tennis when he suddenly dropped dead. The cause of death is said to be unknown.

No doubt many people reading this would consider it certain, or very likely, that he died as a result of the shot. It would be taken as anecdotal evidence that the vaccine is dangerous.
 
However, in fact it had absolutely nothing to do with his death. I know this with absolute certainty. Because he missed his appointment that morning and never actually received the shot.
 
Can you imagine if he hadn't missed his appointment? The story would spread that a healthy person died after receiving the booster, and likely as a result of it. It would have led people to believe that the vaccine is dangerous, even though that would have been completely baseless.
 
The lesson to be internalized here is that sometimes people die for reasons that are unknown. And in a world with billions of people, this happens quite often. That is why anecdotal evidence doesn't mean very much. You have to understand the statistics of how many people die from various causes. 
 
Most of us don't know or properly understand these numbers, or the science of vaccines. That's why, if we are smart, we rely on specialists such as epidemiologists and immunologists. If you think that you know better than them, or that you can judge that a single maverick knows better than a hundred thousand other specialists, then you're the opposite of smart.
 
BE SMART. GET VACCINATED.

64 comments:

  1. ברוך דיין האמת.
    Please ignore people who tell you to stop discussing the subject of covid on your blog. It really is about being rational (and not stupid).

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    Replies
    1. You can't fix stupid and enough has been said about Covid already. I'm getting a booster, but in order to do so I have to say that it's my first shot.

      Delete
  2. Bde, sorry for your friend, but loved the punchline.
    A great point.

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  3. People make crazy associations all the time.

    An older woman in our building passed away on Friday, she had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago but it had been in remission and she had been healthy for the past several years.
    Suddenly a few weeks ago the Cancer made a serious comeback, and doctors gave her a few weeks to live, and she died on Friday.

    One of the neighbors casually mentioned that she was really a victim of Covid, as there is no way to know whether the Cancer came back because of the vaccine that she took several months ago.

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  4. Sorry for your friend... A similar thing happened in my family. He died of cardiac arrest on his way to his appointment. Had it happened afterwards, we probably would have been very hesitant to take the vaccine, and some people in my family probably would have made a point to tell that story to anyone willing to listen. But sometimes its just completely coincidental.

    I slightly disagree with you on the last paragraph (and not only because it antagonizes people, I guess at this point you're just fed up with trying to convince people nicely). Public health scandals happen. When talking about a vaccine distributed to millions and millions of people, coincidences should be dismissed. But we're not used to new drugs being immediately used by millions of people. They rarely become so mainstream, so fast.

    If we were hearing about the same amount of anecdotes about people dying after another new vaccine that wasn't as widely used, I argue it would be logical to worry. But our brain can't really see the difference between one thousand people and one million. That's why the anecdotal evidence about vaccines being harmful convinces people so easily, and even rational people have to remind themselves that this was normal and expected given how massive the vaccination campaign was.

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  5. My wife told me a true story about a relative in Haifa, where on 4 consecutive Shabbatot, people died from building to building on her street. That is, on the first Shabbat, someone died in #1. The next Shabbot, someone died from #3. After that, in consecutive weeks, also in #5 and #7. Nu, what conclusion would YOU draw?

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    Replies
    1. I'd conclude prime numbers are deadly, but they mixed up 1 with 2.

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Now is not the time for skepticism and rationalism. Now is the time to trust the medical experts, especially the ones who are experts in immunology, epidemiology, pharmacology. Tens of thousands of people are still dying in the US alone. The vast majority of whom would have been saved by the vaccine! Every single bit of vaccine skepticism, even tempered by the "well, I did get the vaccine, BUT..." disclaimer is the opposite of helpful at this point.

      You want to be skeptical and rational about the vaccine? Wait until the pandemic is under control.

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure what a "mystical" belief in vaccines is. I think it's rational to accept what the FDA says. Especially since it's also what the Israel Ministry of Health says, and every medical health body in the world.

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    3. I didn't say a mystical belief in vaccines, but rather a mystical belief in the safety of vaccines.

      I agree that we should get our shots, but only because "Now is not the time for skepticism and rationalism," as happygoluckypersonage wrote. The medical health bodies of the world have decided that it's in humanity's collective interest that we get vaccinated, and therefore decided that the paternalistic way to achieve this is to withhold safety data. This is unquestionably the approach of the CDC and the Health Ministry, and is in fact a contractual obligation to Pfizer.

      I personally think that this approach is backfiring with the vaccine-hesitant (not the anti-vaxxers, who are hopeless). The vaccine-hesitant are deeply distrustful of government, and believe that safety data is being withheld. Releasing the safety data, even if it's not so rosy, might go a long way to convincing them that the risks are outweighed by the benefits. This is exactly what happened after somebody in the Health Ministry leaked the internal myocarditis risk report, forcing the CDC to disclose all of the data. It made headline news in the US, and I think ordinary Americans were reassured that the truth was not being concealed, and that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the high rate of myocarditis in young males because most of the cases are not serious.

      Delete
    4. On a lighter note, happygoluckypersonage, to borrow a famous phrase from former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, is calling for "irrational exuberance"!

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    6. On a lighter note, happygoluckypersonage, to borrow former Fed chair Alan Greenspan's famous phrase, calls for "irrational exuberance" regarding the vaccines.

      Delete
    7. Benjamin, I showed your comment to a vaccine researcher, and he rolled his eyes. He said neither him nor hos colleagues would be remotely afraid to raise concerns if they had any.

      Delete
    8. "I showed your comment to a vaccine researcher, and he rolled his eyes. He said neither him nor his colleagues would be remotely afraid to raise concerns if they had any."

      He rolled his eyes as if he's unaware of virtually every major social media platform striking, demonetizing, suspending, or de-platforming those who express concerns or disagreements about the vaccine, or alternative treatments, or how formerly respected experts have had their Wikipedia pages turned into hit pieces, or the White House personally flagging forbidden opinions on social media, or the Surgeon General advising or threatening different institutions to crack down on "misinformation" which is simply another word for expressing a difference of opinion with government health bodies. I highly doubt he has actually thought this through - understandable, since people who don't disagree with those agencies don't need to. If he claims that despite all of the above, he would be fine expressing a dissenting opinion, then good for him. But don't pretend as if there is no censorious environment.

      The personal feelings of your anonymous expert friends are not substitutes for basic observable reality.

      https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/anti-vaccine-influencer-permanently-suspended-by-twitter

      https://www.facebook.com/help/230764881494641

      https://www.axios.com/youtube-removed-30000-covid19-vaccine-videos-misinformation-a8968086-95a4-4d5e-86da-0e22ddbc1b6a.html

      https://www.westernjournal.com/white-house-admits-flagging-problematic-posts-facebook/

      https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-misinformation-advisory.pdf

      Delete
  7. Get those shots! Because a company making billions off the vaccine says so!

    Get your shots because the CDC and the WHO say so - because Pfizer and Moderna say so because the CDC and the WHO say so.

    Chad gad ya, chad gad ya!

    Anyone else see the lunacy and circular logic?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No.
      Is it possible that you're not very good at identifying lunacy and circular logic, or are you convinced of your infallible skills of understanding?

      Delete
    2. When those companies provide data to CDC and WHO and in turn the CDC and WHO declare the vaccine safe. Then in turn those companies tout their CDC and WHO approval - thats called circular logic. A rationalist such as yourself, should have been able to figure that out. I guess the liberal media did a real good job at brainwashing everyone!

      Delete
    3. Rivka,

      That’s the methodology that drug and vaccine companies have always employed in USA. The gov’t agencies examine the drug and vaccines companies’ testing protocols and determine if the drugs and vaccines are safe and effective based on the data that the companies provide. Everything is in the public domain. That’s how the polio, flu MMR, and most recently HPV vaccines for teens have been approved.
      It’s astonishing how so many folks like yourself have been deluded by so much false information.
      In the age of the internet any fool can present themselves as a knowledgable medical know-it-all’s. And you’re right up there with the most knowledgeable of the know-it-all’s.

      Delete
    4. If Rivka is who I think she is, she's quite adept in the field of lunacy.

      Delete
    5. Let's also remember that while the companies who own the vaccines (and drugs, of course) do bankroll the studies, they are always performed by independent people. (People who I suppose do benefit from this relationship, but not financially. And they all need to release all "conflict of interest" information at the time of joining the studies and publishing.)

      Delete
    6. Also, "gadya" is one word.

      Delete
  8. 1. The unvaccinated people who are dead from COVID now would probably still be alive had they taken the vaccine.
    2. You can't assume that someone who died immediately after taking the vaccine, died from the vaccine. People die from all kinds of things.

    Pick one.

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    Replies
    1. Here's how you sound:

      1. People who died in a car crash in which they didn't wear their safety belt would probably still be here if their had put it on.

      2. You can't assume that someone died because he used to fasten his seat belt. People die from all kinds of things.

      Pick one.

      Delete
    2. Except for the fact that we know the covid vaccine lowers the risk of death from covid. If not for that uncomfortable tidbit, your formulation might make sense! But alas, we do know. And we don't have to pretend we haven't amassed any information on this question.

      Delete
    3. The answer is simple. Compare data of a control group to the group being studied. Excess deaths is a convincing factor in determining that the ones who died with covid would have survived if they had never contracted the virus. Experts have been analyzing reports of side effects and other conditions relative to the population of millions who have taken the vaccine in comparison to the general population. That is how they have determined that a small percentage of those vaccinated develop myocarditis. Do not base a belief on anecdote.

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    4. Um, Anonymous, what's wrong with that? People who died in a car crash in which they did not wear seat belts indeed might still be alive! Sure, unless we see some specific aspects of the accident (like a jagged piece of glass stabbing the driver), there is no way to assume that it is more or less likely that they would be dead, AND SO we follow statistics and say that they would have not died.

      And yes, there are people who (by this analogy) would attribute death to the presence of the seatbelt. ("He could have gotten out earlier and gotten medical attention but for the belt holding him in...")

      What's the problem?

      Delete
    5. To Student V, who claims "we" (undefined) know "the covid vaccine lowers the risk of death from Covid" - what risk of death? See below. Covid is not and never was dangerous to anyone other than the very old or sick. WE know this, WE can see it with our own eyes. It's another reason this vaccine madness is so insane.

      Delete
    6. "Covid is not and never was dangerous to anyone other than the very old or sick."
      Untrue. Dying in general (whether illness, accident, crime or war) is relatively rare in the young. But Covid increases those small chances by some 12%. (Based on old data, but it's to illustrate my point.)
      So if we can expect 100 deaths of the young in an ordinary year- we can expect another 12 dead from covid. How many more dead would we expect from the vaccine?

      "It's another reason...."
      What was the first reason?

      Delete
  9. A polemicist doesn't know the difference between n=1 ancedotes and proper randomised control trials with high N.

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    1. Right. The layperson knows anecdotes. Anecdotal data =/= data.

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    2. As the cutesy (but true) saying goes, "Data is not the plural of anecdote"

      Delete
  10. We need to be careful when it comes to an appeal to authority in the medical community. Much of medical community was initially unanimous that it couldn't have come from a lab, closing borders didn't do anything, masks don't work, this virus isn't airborne...they have reversed course on many of these, but they still hold onto some dogma not based on evidence. The only point is the "armchair epidemiologists" might have some valid points and the facts should be debated, not just an appeal to authority.

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    1. ".they have reversed course on many of these, but they still hold onto some dogma not based on evidence."

      Reversed course AND hold onto some dogma?
      That doesn't make sense.
      They reversed course, because they're not dogmatic.

      "it couldn't have come from a lab"
      And now they do think it came from a lab? Or just a possibility? That's not reversing course, that's adjusting course.

      "rhe "armchair epidemiologists"...should be debated"
      And they have been debated. This blog for example.

      Tell me when did these "armchair epidemiologists" realize it was airborne? Did these "armchair epidemiologists" then pioneer mask mandates in response their prescient knowledge?

      Delete
    2. It blurs, we know. But the appeal is not to the authority of the person, but to the group as a whole. And not even to the group as a whole but to the group who are actively dealing with the studies and have gotten their hands dirty.

      In other words, it's a RELEVANT authority.

      Rather than saying something like Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Gottfried Leibniz, and Gandhi all did not support the vaccine!! So therefore we shouldn't!

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    3. "We need to be careful when it comes to an appeal to authority in the medical community."

      With the exception of Robert Malone who invented the internet.- I mean RNA vaccine.

      Delete
  11. Where has this blog gone??? I much prefer the days of hyrax and betesh than these never ending tribal covid rants jesus

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  12. I’m sorry about your friend, although you seem to be somewhat comforted knowing it’s not the vaccine. That being said. It’s your blog amd you can write whatever you want about but how about some of the important rational or irrational topics in these parshiyos. Like why is it rational to kill out certain nations or why is homosexual activity a death penalty

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    1. There are good rational reasons for both those things. That you don't agree with them doesn't make them less rational.

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    2. By the way, homosexual activity isn't mentioned in "these parshiyos".

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    3. Try explaining. It think I t’s a good blog for such a discussion

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    4. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Rational view on these topics.
      The Torah was given at a specific time to a certain group of people and was written in a language that they understand - while also having within it metaphysical and philosophical truths/values which are ahistorical.
      (The Kuzari uses this idea to explain why the Torah uses anthropomorphic language, the Rambam also uses a similar idea to explain parts of the sacrificial system).
      The same goes for morality and laws - it was given for that time in that format - but within it where the tools and direction how to 'grow' and 'evolve' along with the universal moralities.
      Rav Kook, Rabbi Norman Lamm and others have written a lot about these topics along this train of thought.

      Delete
    5. First, I would express surprise that those two things, of all possibilities, are what offends you, and not, say, the death penalty for Shabbat violation or idol worship or even adultery. But I'm not surprised, because sex and race (each within a very narrow range) are what animates the Left today.

      You want rational? I'll give you rational. The death penalty is a very rational way- the most rational and effective way- of ensuring the perpetrator does not re-offend (against man or God), of deterring others from doing the same, and of expressing society's disgust and disapproval of those who do. You may, for whatever reasons, good or silly, disapprove of the *morality* of the death penalty, and perhaps even of its effectiveness (but you shouldn't do both at the same time, not that people don't try), but you can't argue with its *rationality*.

      Well, there are some things that society- and our religion and God- feels are *so* offensive to the natural order that, in extreme instances, capital punishment is the only moral response. That includes murder, or course, and violating the very fundamentals of the faith, such as Sabbath observance and the exclusive worship of the one true God- and, yes, it includes sexual sins of various sorts.

      Again, you may, due to some Current Day faith, think that some or all of these things aren't so bad. But you can't argue with the *rationalism* of the punishment.

      As to wiping out neighboring nations, well, you can't get much more effective and- yes- rational in dealing with threats (physical and spiritual) from said nations. Wipe them out, root and stem, and your problem vanishes. Again, you may think this is immoral or whatever, but it's a heck of a lot more rational than thinking that coexistence or multiculturalism is the key to societal well-being.

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  13. In addition, large scale studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated demonstrate that those who are not vaccinated are substantially more likely to die from covid.

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    1. Sheer baloney. For anyone other than the very old or sick, 99.92 of people who get Covid will "survive" (a ridiculous word in such circumstances), no different than the common flu.

      Is your point then relegated to only the very old or sick? Of course they should be vaccinated. No one every said otherwise.

      Delete
  14. I don't know what to think about the booster.
    On the one hand it might help.
    On the other hand every dose could have been given to people in underdeveloped countries where (apart from the obvious fact that people are going to die), if the vaccines are not quickly delivered, new dangerous variants are likely to evolve.

    Rabbi Slifkin, I'm not getting the notification for your posts anymore, not even as spam (the last one I got was 'Does Rambam Support Kollel?'). But follow.it assures me I am registered. Is there anything I could do about it?

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  15. At this point there are two rational courses, and only two, for Israel to take: 1) Stop the vaccines permanently, void the contract with Pfizer, and allow herd immunity to progress; 2) Halt the vaccines temporarily, allow at least a year to study adverse effects and longer term effects, and allow herd immunity in the meanwhile to progress.

    The dogmatic religious fervor currently animating the covid and vaccine believers can only be called messianic. Rational thinking people would never have gotten to this point, and at the least would have done one of the two options by now. The wild-eyed fervor urging "More! More! More!" is literally insane. "Rationalist Judaism"? You are out of your mind.

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    1. Schreiber sez: "Covid is not and never was dangerous to anyone other than the very old or sick."
      Schreiber sez: "Stop/Halt the vaccines" until "herd immunity"
      Schreiber doesn't want the at risk and elderly do take vaccines.

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    2. What exactly is your problem, Ephraim? Precisely now. And tell me precisely, without stupid name calling, how it is in any way rational to keep on pressing forward with a vaccine that, at the barest of bare minimums, has never been studied for long term effects? For an illness for most of us no more dangerous than the common flu. Go ahead, we're waiting.

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    3. "stupid name calling"
      Where did this come from?

      "And tell me precisely"
      You wrote stop/halt the vaccines.
      You wrote that covid is a danger for the elderly.
      So, to put it precisely, you don't want to protect the elderly with vaccines.

      You wrote, "allow at least a year to study adverse effects". The Moderna vaccine trials began in March 2020. Pfizer vaccine trials started in April 2020. There's your year!

      " has never been studied for long term effects"
      Has covid been studied for long term effects? What long term effects are you referring to?

      "For an illness for most of us no more dangerous than the common flu."

      Wrong. Covid is more dangerous than the flu for all populations. Flu killed less than 2500 18-49 year olds in the 2018-2019. Covid killed some 30,000 of that age group so far. Of course, that's 1.5 years of the pandemic. You can knock off 2/3 of that number and it's still four times as deadly. (And let's not mention long Covid. Is there something called long flu?)

      "herd immunity"
      You still believe in herd immunity?

      Delete
  16. Ephraim, you do seem very makpid on the kavod of the medical Gedolim as a group.

    It's not helping save lives for you to fight a culture war based on the infallibility of the man who deprecated masks and denied it was a mistake; a man who funded the Wuhan Virological Institute to edit bat Coronavirus genomes to see if they could be altered to bind to human ACE2 receptors.

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    1. Medical experts are not infallible.

      The risk vs. benefit issue regarding certain virus research is an open debate. There are experts are both sides of the issue. That issue has been sensationalized by cranks who play up the inference that NIH was somehow responsible for covid. That NIH funding had nothing to do with the pandemic, does not in any way mitigate the concerns of those who are opposed to such research.
      Only a luddite moron would be opposed to virus research. How far such research should go is a question I'm not qualified to answer. And neither are you.

      Delete
    2. Medical Gedolim, you accept, are not infallible: it's just that you've indignantly denied all their obvious failures as being failures, and labelled mere citizens with qualms about their activities as "cranks" and "Luddite morons" about whom we are both "unqualified" to pass judgement.

      Only someone in thrall to their medical Gedolim would think that funding China to tweak viruses to discover if any could infect humans was ever conceivably an idea that could benefit humanity.

      I am not saying that there is incontrovertible evidence that the virus was funded by Faucci. There is no such clear evidence.

      I am however saying that only a culture warrior would claim there was incontrovertible evidence that it was not.

      The genome funded by Faucci was around 96 per cent similarity to the virus genome, and evolution could conceivably easily explain the remaining 4 percent. https://www.factcheck.org/2021/05/the-wuhan-lab-and-the-gain-of-function-disagreement/ for a pro Faucci read which is still deeply disturbing in terms of the raw facts. The closest natural genome to Covid was only 1 percent more similar to the virus genome than the Faucci sponsored genome (97 percent) and was collected 2,000 miles away.

      Delete
    3. Referring to the "kavod of the medical Gedolim" is revealing in itself.

      To the extent that there is appeal to authority when it comes to public health measures, it exists because those authorities have data behind their decisions. This data is freely available and can be examined by anyone, assuming they know how.

      The authorities make their recommendations based on the best data at hand, and revise it when new data suggests another course of action. But the data is there.

      It isn't like some p'sak Halacha where someone comes with a page-long shailah and gets a one-word answer from the Gadol ha-Dor, which everyone is obliged to follow. That ain't how it works. Fauci isn't a Navi or a Gadol, he's a physician and scientist who makes recommendations based on the data he sees.

      Delete
    4. "It isn't like some p'sak Halacha where someone comes with a page-long shailah and gets a one-word answer from the Gadol ha-Dor, which everyone is obliged to follow."

      Except that RCK has written and told people that his decisions are not meant to be הלכה למעשה.

      Delete
    5. JoeQ,

      There was no hilchos tznius until Rabbi Falk z"l got out his ruler and wrote a tome on the subject. The same could be said and was said at the time about Hilchos Lashon Hora.

      And there is no reasonable quality medical evidence base to support any of the myriad ways medical Gedolim have ordered their chassidish groupies to behave. They literally just made it up.

      What randomised control trials exist to show that masks either don't work (as the medical Gedolim we aren't qualified to question claimed in April 2020) or that they do (as subsequently claimed). The only large scale mask RCT on masks (Danmask 19) found no statistically significant benefit to the wearer and did not test whether others were protected.

      Yet wearing masks is now the law.

      Making up a pesak on face masks is exactly how it worked. So was the pointless hand gell meshugas, the closing children's playground sickness, the 6 foot / 2 metres rule (turns out that was from 1960s research into Tuberculosis in sheep).

      Most importantly there is no randomised control evidence in support of Lockdowns.

      The only decision which has high quality evidence is pharmaceutical interventions like steroids, vaccines, and possibly CPAP Vs conventional ventilation and even those necessarily cannot speak to the long term consequences.

      Delete
    6. Well, I suppose not outsourcing such research to totalitarian regimes with no safety controls is a good start.

      But even allowing for all the theories of how the thing got started, I don't see how that affects taking a vaccine once its out there.

      Delete
    7. I agree: take the vaccine. But also stay informed.

      For example whatever the medical Gedolim claim, not all vaccines are equal: J&KJ and AZ are markedly riskier and inferior to Pfizer and Novartis.

      Delete
  17. It seems that the mere booking an appointment to be vaccinated can kill קל וחומר the vaccine itself

    ReplyDelete
  18. That just goes to show.
    It's not the vaccine that's dangerous, it's the decision to take it that is the problem

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    Replies
    1. Is it enough to be mechaven, or does there need to be a maayseh involved -like booking an appointment?

      Delete

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