Don’t be afraid to study the side effects of vaccines | My opinion


Inundated last week with practical questions from friends and family about COVID-19 vacation protocols for testing and quarantine, it reminded me of the Doctor’s Creed: primum no noxious, first of all do no harm.

There’s a reason we call it the art of medicine. Doctors and other healthcare workers do their best to anchor prevention practices and treatment options in scientific research. There is always a gap between research results and implementation in clinical practice. And the results sometimes evolve quickly, as more knowledge is acquired.

It is the nature of complex studies that translate into concrete recommendations. And the art arises in deciding the analysis of the risks and benefits of a given treatment for a specific diagnosis in a particular patient. If not a cure, will a designated drug – despite the inevitable side effects that each bring – actually improve quality of life and long-term outcomes? Will some recommended preventative measure – having a mammogram or regular PSA test, for example – lead to earlier diagnosis and less mortality, or create a lot of anxiety and unnecessary medical procedures?

The pandemic has certainly brought these types of health issues to the forefront of our awareness. I have a few friends who are not vaccinated. One of them regularly sends me articles or videos highlighting the negative effects of vaccines or deeper conspiracy-type rants on the virus itself. While my scientific mind immediately wants to reject such material, the part of me that really wants to understand where it came from is willing to consider at least part of it.

We still lack public health, because no data are being collected on the adverse effects of the recall. And not enough on the vaccines that are now going to children. Many of us (why not all of us?) have already received a number of easily answered text messages about vaccine sequelae. This is an essential aspect of the use of these substances which have indeed been “accelerated” throughout the approval process.

We need to know and be transparent about the true impact of side effects, otherwise we are simply playing into the fears of the anti-vaxxing community. Huge opportunity was lost because after my recall I did not receive any text requests regarding side effects. The system was already in place; why not use it to collect more critical data?

Within a day of her third injection, my wife’s tinnitus increased markedly, similar to the second injection; I have experienced an increase in benign paroxysmal vertigo. Others I know have had other side effects, some of which have not yet been linked to the recall. Why do we fly blindly when we have the ability to collect this information and see? Especially in the future, when we are all asked to continue to receive booster shots due to waning immunity or new variants.

If we are to make science-based decisions – given all the inherent limitations – we need to have a great system in place to look at the daily data on vaccine side effects.

Victor la Cerva is a retired pediatrician and public health physician who worked for the New Mexico Department of Health for many years. He is the author of numerous books and a weekly podcast on important topics.


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