Coronavirus vaccine refusers: Anti-vaxxers or simply cautious?

Some doctors say that the newest vaccines might not be for everybody.

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe, October 30, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO)
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe, October 30, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO)
The first Pfizer vaccines have landed in Israel and already the prime minister and health minister have volunteered to be the first to be inoculated.
There is a group of medical professionals, however, who are urging the country and the public to slow down.
“There is still no confirmation from a body other than the drug’s manufacturers that the so-called vaccine is free of side effects, safe for all, old and young,” wrote Prof. Yoel Donchin, a retired Hadassah-University Medical Center doctor, in an article published Wednesday on the popular professional website Doctors Only.
He said he believes that because the country – and the world – is looking for a vaccine to be the “light at the end of the tunnel,” some professionals are overlooking what might be obvious questions about the long-term effects of a vaccine that was developed in record time and is based on new technology.
Senior doctors who would not even accept a sandwich from a drug agent for fear it would bias their evaluation of the clinical data being presented to them are this time he said “accepting without hesitation, and even happily, the revolutionary idea that injecting a new protein that enters directly into the cells will cause the nasty coronavirus to commit suicide, since this is the solution that the human race has been waiting for.
“Do they not imagine the possibility, even if it is remote, that there might be penetration into the reproductive cells as well? Maybe the vaccine will affect the brain after a year?” Donchin asked.
Dr. Uri Gavish, an expert in algorithm analysis and a biomedical consultant, who leads what is being called the “Common Sense Model,” told The Jerusalem Post that the vaccine was developed in record time and that it is getting approved only for emergency use – hence, it should be used first on that population, and nobody should be coerced to take the vaccine.
The Common Sense initiative was formed by a group of Israeli scientists, researchers and doctors to help solve the coronavirus crisis based on scientific findings, using a long-term model they say has been adapted to the Israeli reality.
There are no short-term serious side effects to the vaccines, he said, but there are no data on possible medium- or long-term effects.
“This does not mean that you should not use the vaccines,” explained Moshe Feiglin, a politician who now runs the Israel Tomorrow movement. He supports the Common Sense Model. “Of course, you should. It means that you need to weigh your options correctly with full knowledge about your decision.”
Moshe Feiglin (Credit: Lior Yado)Moshe Feiglin (Credit: Lior Yado)
In general, Feiglin said that initially, the vaccine should be aimed at the older population and people with preexisting conditions who are at high risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19, and not the masses, although he said it should be available for everyone.
“If someone under 65 wants to take it, he can,” Feiglin further explained. “But we should remove the pressure on all of Israel to coerce them – we should not make people feel bad if they choose not to vaccinate.”
The average age of people who died from coronavirus in Israel is around 80 years old, and people over the age of 65 make up around 11% of the population, which would mean that if the elderly vaccinated, a million Israelis would be immune to coronavirus. In addition, it is estimated by health professionals that another million people likely have had coronavirus, which should mean they also have antibodies.
Although it is assumed that herd immunity would occur only when between 50% and 70% of Israelis have had the virus or have taken the vaccines, as was pointed out by Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, “You cannot talk about herd immunity like you need to reach 70% and anything below will not work – it is just not true. The more people get vaccinated, the less COVID we will have.”
On Tuesday, MK Ofer Shelah lashed out at those who are considering refusing vaccination. He said that “it’s time to take a firm stand against the coronavirus vaccine terror campaign.”
He also warned that “it would be made clear” that whoever does not vaccinate will not be able to travel abroad or go to a show.
But as Donchin wrote: “I do not refuse.” He took the flu vaccine every year in confidence that it would contribute to his ability to serve his patients in the intensive care unit where he worked. And he wrote that if he felt convinced that it was safe, he would vaccinate against coronavirus, too.
“The use of the term ‘vaccine refusers’ is intended to empower decision-makers and support a very dangerous campaign,” he concluded, “both because of the uncertainty that exists in the meantime, and because of rising hopes, as with shipwreck survivors who see the shoreline in the distance, which often disappears at dawn.”