Responding to COVID vaccine comments

We are all feeling our way on how to handle COVID-19. Expert recommendations on vaccines, vaccine mandates, treatments, social distancing, etc. will keep changing as more information emerges, as new variants evolve, as new treatments and vaccines are developed, and generally as we learn from our collective experience. This post consists of current consolidated responses to some of the comments on my posts How we think about COVID-19 vaccine mandates and “The Real Anthony Fauci.” I appreciate everyone’s engagement on this issue.

Responses to Political Comments

Let’s stay away from labels.

People opposed to vaccine mandates come from a lot of different places. Some are vaccinated but do not believe in mandating vaccines. Others are hesitant to get vaccinated themselves. Some of those who are personally hesitant about vaccines have experienced illness or injury which the health care system failed to cure or actually caused. They have experienced real trauma, their faith has been broken and they are struggling to put together a world view in which they can feel safe and move forward. I admire the bravery in these people, even though I disagree with them about vaccine mandates and some of them are very critical of me. Others have somehow come to a broader cynicism about American leaders in all fields; I’m willing to keep working to earn their trust. The only people who disappointment me in this conversation are the handful of public figures who have discovered that they can build a following by willfully spreading misinformation.

Remember the health care workers.

For me, the central motivation to vaccine mandates right now is to protect our health care system and our health care workers. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the probability of hospitalization for serious illness (and the FDA views this as true net of any risks of side-effects, see below). Right now our health care system is nearing collapse in many places. That is a human tragedy for patients with all ailments, but especially for the health care workers who have chosen to put themselves on the front lines (read fresh observations here). At least for now, broader vaccination is the only realistic route to reducing hospitalizations (see below regarding alternative outpatient cures).

We do respect bodily autonomy.

No one in public life today is advocating that people be physically forced to submit to injections. That would be a direct physical violation. Vaccine mandates do not force vaccination, they just impose civil consequences for non-vaccination. That is a meaningful distinction. The Mayor’s vaccine mandate is a completely common-sense measure. For their own good, people who are not vaccinated should not be entering crowded indoor spaces like restaurants, theaters and gymnasiums. And they should not be adding to the crushing burden on our health care system by taking those risks.

I do not support denying health care to unvaccinated people.

Some have urged that unvaccinated people be denied COVID-19 treatment or be forced to pay for their own COVID-19 treatment. I do not support that. The unvaccinated person is taking a higher risk of illness. But personal choices affect risk for many illnesses and injuries. The health care system cannot be in the business of blaming people. I support the several public and private vaccine mandates we have in Massachusetts, but I do not support denying care to unvaccinated people, regardless of why they are unvaccinated. I am profoundly grateful to the heroic doctors and nurses who labor every day to rescue us from our worst mistakes.

We will only go so far.

Vaccine mandates are not the tip of the spear. They are not a step down a slippery slope to fascism. They are a limited public policy measure introduced in the face of a public health crisis. Reasonable people can disagree as to the balance to strike between public health concerns and personal liberty (e.g., Klingsworth) and that balance will evolve, but this is still America: Individual liberty will remain a core value.

Responses to Science Comments

In responding to the comments about the science and medicine which some people made, I am not suggesting that I personally possess scientific or medical expertise. I am just identifying broadly (if not universally) respected scientific sources that speak to the comments.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines really vaccines?

Sure, in the sense that they strengthen immunity against a disease. It is true that they are different from traditional vaccines. As the CDC explains, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines don’t contain any portions of a microorganism. Rather they include mRNA that teaches cells to produce a fractional part of a protein which, in turn, teaches our immune system to recognize COVID-19 viruses.

How does the CDC define a vaccine and why did the definition change?

In 2020, the CDC’s web educational materials defined a vaccine as a “product that produces immunity therefore protecting the body from the disease.” That is a good and clear definition. Protection does not imply 100% protection — many vaccines are less than 100% effective; the flu vaccine being a familiar example. At some point recently, the CDC’s web educational materials changed the definition of vaccine to something that contains “a suspension of live (usually attenuated) or inactivated microorganisms (e.g. bacteria or viruses) or fractions thereof administered to induce immunity and prevent infectious diseases and their sequelae.” The definition change does seem awkward and inconsistent with how the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work, but I don’t see the definition imperfection as having any policy implications. A comparison of the current glossary to the July 2020 glossary reveals a couple of dozen minor changes that also seem insubstantial.

Where are the safety studies for the COVID-19 vaccines?

All of the vaccines that have been offered to the general public have been through clinical trials in which they were evaluated both for efficacy and for safety. That is the process which forms the basis of FDA approval. The documentation of the FDA approval process is voluminous and much of it is publicly available. See the document collections for Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson. The risk of adverse events related to the vaccine is a central focus of the review process and the ultimate judgment call that the FDA makes before approving use is whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Is anyone looking at long term consequences of COVID-19 Vaccines?

Follow up of clinical trial participants continues. Risk profiles are periodically updated with information from that follow up as authorization scope is revisited. See the document collections for Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson. Note that long term follow up also has the potential to reduce estimated risks of the vaccine, because as adverse events occur in the placebo control group, it can be determined that the vaccine was not the cause of those events.

How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

As much as 95% effective — based on the initial trials. Effectiveness at the 95% level means that in a population context in which X of out of 100,000 unvaccinated people get symptomatic COVID, the symptomatic COVID count among the vaccinated will be 5% of X per 100,000. As time goes, by the immunity fades at an unknown rate (hence boosters). And, as new variants emerge, the effectiveness may go down. Still, according to recent results from Denmark, unvaccinated people who get Omicron are 6 times more likely to end up hospitalized than vaccinated people who get Omicron.

How come some vaccinated people are getting breakthrough infections?

Protection is not 100% so some breakthrough is expected. Yet, in a Massachusetts study released in December 2021, people who were unvaccinated were 31 times more likely to get symptomatic/identified COVID than those who were vaccinated and boosted. See also this research summary from the CDC. The data in the preceding two links mostly reflect the behavior of the Delta variant.

With the highly infectious Omicron variant, infection will be more widespread, but those who are vaccinated will still be less likely to become hospitalized even when they get infected. Dr. Fauci’s summary appears below:

I think, in many respects, Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody. Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.

Unfortunately, those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this, and although it is less severe on a case by case basis, when you quantitatively have so many people who are infected, a fraction of them, even if it’s a small fraction, are going to get seriously ill and are going to die, and that’s the reason why it will challenge our health system.

Dr. Fauci interview of January 11, 2022 with Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Can vaccinated people transmit the virus?

The latest posted CDC science brief is dated September 2021, before Omicron. At that point, the ambiguous summary was:

[V]accinated people who become infected with Delta have potential to be less infectious than infected unvaccinated people. However, more data are needed to understand how viral shedding and transmission from fully vaccinated persons are affected by SARS-CoV-2 variants, time since vaccination, and other factors, particularly as transmission dynamics may vary based on the extent of exposure to the infected vaccinated person and the setting in which the exposure occurs. Additional data collection and studies are underway to understand the extent and duration of transmissibility of Delta variant SARS-CoV-2 in the United States and other countries.

CDC Science Brief Downloaded on January 12, 2022, but last updated September 15, 2021.

With Omicron’s infectiousness we have to expect that the results will be worse. Most believe the Omicron wave is going to reach a lot of people. At this point, the central motivation for vaccination may not be to avoid infection but rather to reduce the consequences of infection. See Dr. Fauci’s comment above.

What about natural immunity for people who have had COVID-19?

Getting the disease provides some protection from reinfection, but the protection offered by vaccines is stronger and the protection available from the combination of natural immunity and vaccinated immunity is stronger still. The same caveats as to lapse of time and variants apply to both natural immunity and vaccination. See this explainer from Johns Hopkins or this explainer from the CDC.

What about nutraceuticals and off-label treatments for COVID-19?

Right now, vaccines remain the main evidence-based strategy for reducing the risk of hospitalization from COVID. There is hope that better treatment options will emerge.

The National Institutes of Health publish extensive treatment guidelines which summarize the available evidence on various currently available strategies for treating COVID. Those evidence-based guidelines offer no support for supplements like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, or for off-label drugs like Ivermectin and Hydrochloroquine.

Is blood clotting a risk from mRNA vaccines?

No. There does not appear to be a risk of clotting from the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. Clotting has been a rare side effect with the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines which are based on a viral vector instead of mRNA. Blood clots can be a complication of COVID-19 itself, and the overall cost-benefit analysis for the viral vector vaccines is still positive, but not as positive as the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.

What about vaccinating people under 18 — do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Yes. CDC continues to recommend that everyone ages 5 years and older get vaccinated for COVID-19 using the Pfizer vaccine.

Myocarditis is an apparent slight risk for young men receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The CDC, having reviewed this risk against the benefits continues to recommend Pfizer vaccination for children over 5. The issue got lengthy analysis in the FDA’s recent decision to extend booster eligibility to 16 and 17 year olds for the Pfizer vaccine — the FDA noted that most vaccine-related myocarditis cases resolve with “conservative management.” The benefits of vaccination depend heavily on the prevalence of disease — the Omicron spike moves the needle towards vaccination. Yet, the risk of myocarditis in young men may be higher for the Moderna vaccine than for the Pfizer and the FDA has delayed its decision to authorize Moderna for children 12-17.

Comments were closed on this post on January 31, 2022.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

98 replies on “Responding to COVID vaccine comments”

  1. Honesty it has been disappointing to see an elected representative waste so much time refuting disingenuous stances by a loud tiny minority of anti-vaxxers.

  2. Thanks for this clear, concise post! I have a related question: I’ve been wondering why the governor hasn’t ordered the field hospitals to reopen, given the shortage of hospital beds and the increasingly large numbers of Covid patients that are expected to need treatment in the coming weeks. Is it because there aren’t enough health professionals available to staff them?

  3. Will, as ever, I truly find you to be the voice of reason. You are much more reasonable than I would be in your position! Thank you for this excellent summary and reference guide (complete with linked annotations!).

  4. Thank you, good sir, for your time in composing and the content of your composition! I very much appreciate all of your thoughts — you once again, continuously, earn respect and merit your position of leadership, to me.
    Thank you, sir!

  5. At this point in the pandemic there is absolutely no legitimate reason not to be vaccinated and we shouldn’t be making excuses for the unvaccinated (except those with real medical reasons). I actually took a risk and was in the Pfizer vaccine trial. They are completely safe. The evidence is in. The unvaccinated are not only fueling the spread of covid, they are overwhelming hospitals. They are a public health hazard.
    They shouldn’t be denied treatment, but anyone over 18 who is not vaccinated should be at the end of the priority line.

      1. I’m not ok. I was severely injured by a schedule of vaccines I took 30 years ago, in my mid-20’s. I’ve lived with chronic disease ever since. One consequence of being injured by vaccines was that I had to give up my career as a full time public shcool teacher in Belmont (where I received my tenure, and where I also had the pleasure to have one of Will’s daughters as my students.) Since I was injured by the series of vaccines I took while working as an educator, I have not had the physical strenghth to work at any rigourous full time on site job. And I never got any compensation for my injuries. Because all vaccine makers have complete liability protection per the “Prep Act” that congress passed in the 80’s. Lots of incomplete and erroneous information in this new blog post by Will. That’s not an attack on Will personally, just an observation. He repeats “feel good” talking points often touted to us by Federal Government officials on mainstream media, but Will has little understanding of the devastation that many individuals, including myself, suffer daily as a result of vaccine injury. I have attenpted to educate Will about the issue of vaccine injury in general, but my experience has been a frustrating one. I have emailed Will at lenght about the issue of vaccine injury, and I have held three zoom meetings with him on this topic. I have shared with him a plethora of opinions from various practicing MD’s and well credentialed scientists, and have had MD’s and other professionals present at the zoom meetings I held with him. It has been an excercise in frustration. I have come to the conclusion that Will is invested in ignoring and/or discounting all evidence I present him about the issue of vaccine injury in general.

        1. I also had a severe reaction to a Hepatitis shot years ago. After doing my own research learned quite a lot on the industry. Unfortunately, many people are completely closed minded on this issue. Resembles a cult. You must too drink the kool-aid.

        2. Curious, how does one tell the difference between causation and coincidence? So many people who say things like this drug caused this or that reaction. Science doesn’t work that way. Just because you had a personal experience that you assume to be true does not make it true. This is the root of your not being able to understand why Will and others do not see thing the way you see them. Assumptions are not facts.
          I wish you the ability to see this for yourself.

            1. No. That’s what a disinformation proponent would say.
              I am for statement that have verifiable information. Not assumptions based upon what somebodies gut feeling is. As any doctor (a person who studies health) will tell you, there are many symptoms that can have very different causes and it’s far easier to make the wrong conclusion than the right one.

      1. VAERS is an unvetted, uncontrolled source of information and has no more intrinsic validity than some random blog post. This is clearly spelled out on the VAERS web site. Its only purpose is to generate hypotheses about possible vaccine side effects. Any such hypothesis requires controlled epidemiological studies to validate or disprove. Citing VAERS for anything except hypothetically shows no understanding of it.

        1. Ignorant disinformation. VAERS is the official system for collecting post marketing adverse event data for all approved drugs and is THE source for picking up risk signals in the general public for follow up by manufacturers and regulators. It has been deemed reliable since its inception for thousands of medications until the mRNA vaccines appeared when it suddenly became meaningless. In point of fact, the data in VAERS has been analyzed and 80% of the reported vaccine-related effects were in fact reported by healthcare professionals, in line with long term statistical norms.

          Stop the lying.

      2. Are we disregarding “The Experts” at the World Health Organization now?
        Who knew?
        Cognitive dissonance abounds.
        Truth hurts for those who hate the truth.
        Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but try to avoid shooting the messenger, I wasn’t the one that moved the goalposts again, that was “the experts” following the science. No?

        1. ***CLARIFICATION***
          There is confusion here. My name is also ‘Steven’ but my above post that was addressing yesterday’s WHO pronouncing the end of their recommendation to NOT continue to administer booster doses ‘in their present form’ somehow made it to your thead.
          It was supposed to be directed to the Senator, sorry for the confusion.

    1. There have been over a million adverse events as a result of this vaccine, including almost 40,000 people permanently disabled. There is no recourse for victims of this. The vaccine was never meant to be preventative.

      1. Sorry, I missed the link to facts about what you stated.
        Was that from Tucker Carlson or something?
        Not to be dissing you personally but it seems there are a few MAGA informed people making claims like Rudy Tooty Giuliani would do.

    2. It looks like I triggered a lot of crazies. I didn’t expect so many in this district. I love how they are trying to co-opt the term “deniers” for people who aren’t part of their cult of ignorance, stupidity and misinformation.

  6. Will, I do appreciate you clarifying you are not in favor of denying health care services to people who cannot or will not be participate in this experiment. I think it’s important to diffuse the hatred that has been created by this new form of segregation. I feel these policies are going to lead to great strife in society. Taking away peoples jobs and causing financial ruin can be upsetting.

    I do disagree with almost every point you outlined. You continue to rely on data for CDC/PFizer/Moderna and Fauci, which are not credible sources. There are much fairer sources of independent data available which give an honest assessment. Information is coming out daily on the ineffectiveness of these shots and the recently released documents from DARPA on Fauci’s involvement in gain of function should give pause to anyone who looks at this without a political lens.

  7. It’s extremely refreshing to have an elected official clearly state a science and evidence-based position on anything, but particularly such a vital issue as a sane approach to our response to COVID.

    1. Kerry, I assume you approved of Baker’s FLU mandate last year.

      Would you approve of one this year too?

      Please, let us know your answer.

  8. Virtually none of your conclusions about vaccines are supported by actual data. All are supported by appeals to already-discredited authority. Do you know the chair and cochair overseeing vaccine products at the FDA resigned their posts over vaccine mandates? What authorities do you blindly follow when they start arguing among themselves?

    Covid is one of the most cleanly risk-stratified diseases in memory, making mass mandates obscene. Most obscene is the mandated vaccination of children, especially male children. You seem completely unaware that the US is badly out of step on this issue not only with the WHO but with countries with better healthcare systems. In the UK, in Ontario and a number of other jurisdictions it is illegal to give Moderna to males under 40. A recent study indicates risk for myocarditis from the vaccine is far greater than the risk from the disease in younger age cohorts by over 200 to 1. Healthy children are not at risk from covid, period. Only a few hundred have died out of a population of 75 million persons under 18, and those overwhelmingly had serious comorbidities. And no, omnicron isn’t sending hundreds of thousands of kids into hospitals, despite what uninformed MSNBC addicts may think.

    It’s true that hospitals are grappling with staffing shortages, but it’s awfully convenient to omit the fact that states like New York went on a rampage sacking 77k clinicians who refused the vaccine.

    Please stop with the nonsense that you’re not forcing the vaccine on people. This is the language of privilege. For most people, a job loss means a loss of housing, medical care and more—all the penalties you say you’re against. Of course you’re forcing compliance.

    The hepatitis B vaccine was in use for two decades before hospitals made it mandatory for employees. The covid vaccines have barely been out a year. Even Anthony Fauci stated that a year of data was far too short to determine if a vaccine was producing ADE or other serious medium to long-term side effects. There is no precedent for forcing medication with such limited data behind it on unwilling participants.

    You say this isn’t a slippery slope to fascism. You’re right. It is fascism. The Nuremberg code explicitly forbids giving experimental treatments like these without informed consent. (And yes, these vaccines are still being given out under a EUA; the approved versions of the vaccines are not being distributed, as that would require more analysis, e.g., oncology studies.) But as long as it’s our side doing it, it’s fine?

    Many will fall in the blowback to come. It will still be too late to protect the children.

    1. Everything you say is WRONG!

      “Not at risk” is an absolute assessment, and is obviated by a single case. Since there have been some deaths and literally thousands of cases in people younger than 40, you are spreading dangerous misinformation.
      You also have no understanding of fascism. Nuremberg does NOT forbid proven, effective public health measures. The whole point of the CDC and FDA drug approval processes is to move drugs from “experimental” to “approved” after appropriate clinical trials have proven their safety and effectiveness (or to disapprove them if they are shown to be unsafe or ineffective.) Pfizer has passed this process and Moderna and Jansen (with some restrictions) are well underway to passing. Due to the unprecedented Covid pandemic, far more (orders of magnitude more) doses have been administered than is typical for a new drug and side effects are extremely rare.

      Your post shows no understanding of how viruses and diseases evolve. Omicron is far more infective than earlier variants, and the next variant could well have far greater morbidity and and mortality rates in children. Preventing the evolution of new variants is one of the major reasons (but not the only one) for vaccinating as many potential carriers of a disease, even those at low risk of serious complications, as possible.

      You expect blowback based on absolutely no evidence, and your goal is apparently to protect children from staying alive.

      1. Pure disinformation. Paid, perhaps?

        You don’t even seem to know what Cominarty is or who has received it. The cdc does not approve pharmaceuticals. Non-sterlizing vaccines do not suppress variants. Side effects are not sufficiently “rare” in younger cohorts and no sane society imposes needless risks on children and teenagers to reduce risks for fat 80-year-olds.

        Word salad, with a dressing prepared out of the back end of a horse.

        1. Look at his wife Carolyn’s linked in page. She lists her “interests” as Pfizer, J&J, Moderna, and Astrazeneca. Maybe she’s holding the stocks?? Will, do you or your wife have any financial interests in these vaccine companies?

          1. Do you not see that your desire for a certain truth, born of some unrequited desire to be validated clouds your ability to see when you are wrong?
            This attack is completely out of place. A reasonable person, not operating based on anger and hate would simply ask a question of the individual they had an assumption of.
            I can have no respect for someone who makes accusations based on assumptions. That seems to be the only thing people like you do.

      2. Well laid out facts which no doubt will fall on some eyes that are blinded by anger and hate. Some will only chose to see what they want to see and refuse anything else. Look at the fact that some thing tRump is still president.

    2. “…despite what uninformed MSNBC addicts may think.”

      You nailed it right there, unfortunately every fact that you posted will never be read by many here. After your 1st paragraph they tuned out. Doesn’t fit the narrative.

    3. Falsehood upon faksehood. It is NOT illegal to administer Moderna to anyone age 12 or older in Ontario. Age 12-30 require informed consent. So does general anesthesia and a thousand other things. Readers: if he’s wrong or lying about this, what else is he lying or wrong about? Beware dangerous misinformation.

  9. Thank you for the measured and reasonable summary and response. (Far more measured than I would be!)

  10. Thank you for these thoughts and for leading with exemplary compassion and respect in your “Let’s Stay Away from Labels” paragraph. Am taking it to heart.

  11. Will, I am not sure it’s worth posting any science if you don’t really understand it. Being a policy guy is why you’re hired. So, if it’s health policy you’re working on, learn the science. Or don’t go there. You may be able to win favor by going into it and placating zealots, but it won’t easily be forgiven as science evolves to know more. It’s disheartening to watch. I said two things over the pandemic that got me in hot water. The first thing was “Data takes time.” I got attacked for being anti-vax for saying that in the context of people complaining it was taking so long to make a vaccine. Dim people want to believe in magic, not science, because they don’t really know what science is or does. Both “sides.” Succumbing to peoples desire for magic to save them from the pandemic isn’t a look that wears well, in my book. I am getting frustrated, watching. Would you please try to catch up on the science?

  12. I appreciate your efforts in replying with facts to these questions. My own experience has unfortunately been that facts don’t achieve anything with the conspiracy-inclined. I asked one acquaintance, who believes horse dewormer is a rational treatment and that Dr Fauci is overthrowing the government, if there was anything that would change his opinion. He said no.

    There are more than 800,000 people dead from Covid in just the US. Our doctors and nurses and healthcare system are breaking from trying to help people, many of whom deny the science they turn to when they get infected.

    The house is on fire and these people are endangering us all by arguing with the firefighters.

    1. Dear Constance:

      I bet your favored Gov. Baker’s FLU mandate last year for ALL students through college.

      Or at least you did not object.

      You’re like Will: you’ve never seen a mandate you did not approve of, and not just for Covid but Flu too.

      Please name the next mandate you will approve of.

      This is America, Constance, in case you haven’t noticed.

    2. Do you imagine you sound rational? Horse dewormer? Seriously? Have you ever taken tetracycline? OMG you’re taking fish tank cleaner!

      Ivermectin is an antihelmentic drug with known antiviral properties with over 4 billion human doses given and a superior safety record. It has been shown effective in dozens of randomized controlled trials against covid. More data at larger scale may show it is or is not effective, but smugnorant dismissal of a Nobel-prize-winning drug has no place in the conversation.

    3. Constance, there is a human dosed version of Ivermectin..You’re buying the narrow horse past narrative. Why is it that anecdotal experience is so discounted? So many people have testimonials on this-but we’ll leave it to the ‘experts’, who are often funded by drug companies. And natural immunity, if you notice, has many conflicting reports. Why not more studies on this? Check out (sorry for lack of link). I’m not saying limits aren’t important in dealing with this crisis, but how limited do we need to be in thinking broadly on this.. There is a company from Cambridge that can provide/produce tests at @ $2.00 each and were refused FDA approval even though their clinical trials we exactly the same, but smaller than larger companies that did get approval for $25-$30 a pop..Whew! Yes, Will, we’re getting burnt out on year three. A broader approach, please!

      1. Dr. Stephen(? I’d have to look it up) Mina at Harvard School of public health has spent most of the pandemic trying to persuade the FDA to take an interest in super-cheap super-fast tests. He says they had no interest and directed him to their website. He was completely befuddled. I’m not.

        Although at this point it’s too late to use texting for public health purposes other than general surveillance.

  13. Will, thank you for taking the time to provide your thoughts on vaccinations and to obtain those of constituents. Breaths of fresh air in today’s political smog.

    I agree with most of your well-reasoned conclusions, and found the comments in previous posts quite illuminating. I am triple-mRNA-vaxxed with no side effects, wear a mask in public, and have avoided covid so far.

    Still, some of the skeptics did raise valid points worth investigating. Some of them: long-term safety of mRNA vaccines, their risks for children, whether CDC and FDA yielded to industry pressures in fast-tracking vaccine development and distribution, and whether Omicron, which tends to be a mild illness, will spread widely enough to confer long-term immunity or resistance to it and future variants. Nothing you said assures me that we know the answers, although some commenters seemed to think they do.

    I would also like to see more investigate efforts to follow the big money being made by pharma, test labs, and test suppliers. I suspect there’s been much profiteering. NPR had a segment on how widely the costs of covid tests varies for little rhyme or reason (“market forces” was a commentators blunt explanation).
    “SHAPIRO: How profitable is this for testing companies?”
    “TANNER: Well, the big medical testing labs and companies are making literally billions of dollars, so it is a very big business. Now, of course, this is an essential service. We should be really thankful for the people who, on the ground, are doing this testing on the front lines. But there is big money when combined, and the biggest makers of this big money are the big companies that do the testing, that do the medicine.”

    1. Matt Taibbi is working on a book on pandemic profiteering. Expect it to be equal parts illuminating and depressing.

  14. It’s very easy to prove Will has never seen a Covid mandate he does not approve of.

    In 2020 Gov. Baker mandated FLU vaccines for all students THRU college (yes, college). That is draconian.

    **Will did not object as far as I know**
    Flu has nothing to do with Covid, and certainly was draconian. Yeh, yeh, we know: Baker claimed it was to stop hospitals from getting overcrowded. Obvious nonsense and even if true was overkill.

    The whole thing was absurd. Yet Will was OK with it. Why?

    Because he’s never seen a mandate he does not approve of, even if it does not involve Covid.

    What Will does is he does not announce harsh mandates ahead of time, but then no matter what mandate comes up, he subsequently rationalizes the reasons for it.

    Remember it: Will favors *mandatory* flu vaccines.

    The problem, Will, is that 90% of your constituents are Dems and liberals. And thus you rarely get any push-back, so you think you’re always right. And you’re a shoe-in for re-election. Breeds arrogance.

    1. Oh you little whiners about personal freedom.
      I suppose if you were crossing the street and there were no law associated with stopping at the red light to tell people that they have to stop for you you would be OK with that. Right? Since when did it become OK or fashionable to do away with laws or mandates to protect people form other people?
      Grow UP

      1. I know….Freedom is such a 20th century thing. I prefer the a social credit scoring system – Chinese style preferably. Mandate me harder.

        1. yay Mark! Thanks for standing up for freedom! Who wants government interfering with our rights to run over those idiots who dare to cross the roads when we are driving? My freedom is sacrosanct! Thanks! Yipee yay!
          Frankly, you lot who are vaccine deniers, are an ignorant lot – you do not understand science, have no knowledge of history, but possess an incredible amount of arrogance, ignorance and privilege. You guys disgust me.
          Senator Brownsberger, you’re wasting your time posting blogs like this: anti-vaxxers are an ignorant, arrogant lot, who will not be convinced by any logic or facyt. All they are capable of recognizing is hate, and their own idiotic skewed world view, and the only thing they propagate is idiotic views, spiced with malicious hate. There is no point in trying to reason with these people who will only think you’re brainwashing and then glorify in their own “superiority” over “brainwashed sheeple”. Their level of ignorance is only matched by their level of arrogance. I’ve had it with these stupid, arrogant, ignorant, supremacist, conspiracy theorists. Stop trying to reach out to these idiots.

          1. May peace be with you Niranjan. It sounds like you have a difficult time with people who disagree with you. Take 10 deep breaths.

  15. Thank you Will for taking the time to research and respond to the comments. I greatly appreciate your integrity and humanity. After reading today that California, as a last resort, may ask healthcare workers who test positive for COVID and are asymptomatic to come into work, appropriately masked, in the hospitals overflowing with omicron cases, I am not as compassionate as you are to the unvaccinated. We’re so fortunate to have you in Government.

  16. Pass the popcorn…..watching this ongoing food-fight just makes my day, lol! The definitive studies on this pandemic, and the various responses to it, will probably be published sometime around 2060. Long after the statute on limitations has expired in most cases. And that’s a pity. Anyhow….until then: so long and thanks for all the fish.

    1. Kenneth,

      Can you please tell everyones what the “science” is on older people at some risk for heart disease taking a baby aspirin per day?

      I ask because the “science” on it has changed drastically, whereas my impression is that you feel that if there is a study or studies on something then that is the absolute truth and won’t change.
      How about the theory of cholesterol and heart disease? Has the science evolved on that or not?

      Any FDA drug ever been recalled? How has that happened if the “science” said it was safe?

        1. Ken, did you wear your triple-layered N95 mask, plastic shield, and hazmat suit while riding your bicycle today for ultra safety and to protect your fellow Democrats?
          I hope so
          That was just ordered by the Watertown and Belmont Boards of Paranoia, and I wonder if Will is considering whether to endorse it.
          For the sake of public safety, of course, and to keep society’s medical costs down.

  17. Thank you for this measured and thoughtful summary. As you point out, we have to acknowledge that the science is evolving. For example, a recent CDC study supports the idea that vaccine is better protection than natural immunity. A large Israeli study supports the opposite conclusion. The debate continues.

    Then there is the judgement call: not all countries are recommending vaccinations for children; several countries are discontinuing Moderna in people under 30. etc. This comes down to a call on absolute risk of the disease versus absolute risk of the vaccine in these populations. It is not one-size-fits-all. Doctors can and do disagree on the best way to move forward. All the more reason to have compassion for those who may measure the trade-offs differently.

    And a small nitpick. There have been a handful of thrombocytopenia cases with the mRNA vaccines. So no clotting issues but rare platelet issues.

  18. Thank you for sharing Dr. Robin Schoenthaler‘s essay on Medium, “ Doctors Telling their Omicron Stories, It is horrific out there.” God help us.

    Our incredible healthcare workers can bear witness to what my dearly departed grandmother use to say, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.”

    It is the nurses, doctors, teachers and their aides who have been tasked with keeping their fingers in the dike trying to keep us all from drowning.

    Meanwhile, a segment of the population suffers from a collective state of dementia believing false narratives and spreading them faster than any officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation could ever dream of.

  19. Thank you for your measured response. You really try to hear all people and respond with respect. That is appreciated.

  20. Just speaking with my local restaurant….they will still allow me to purchase take food out starting Monday…just can’t stay in the same room too long with the clean people. I wonder if they will have separate water fountains too. How disgusting.
    I do think it’s important to resist these segregationist policies. Civil disobedience will be key in changing the tide. Boycotts, bullhorning, legal suits, etc. – let’s get creative.

    1. Your response is disgusting. How dare you compare the repercussions visited on you for your stupidity and privilege to the sufferings heaped on a whole class of people for no fault of theirs? Shame on you!

      1. Starting Monday, a large percentage of the black community will not be allowed to sit in a restaurant in Boston. Looks like the Democrats are back to their old segregationist policies. So sad.

  21. Will … once again you’ve made a great effort to reach out, study and figure out, and then clearly send out your thoughts and conclusions — all thoughtful, respectful, and enlightening.

    I found this summary to be very clear, helpful, and respectful to all points of view. Thank you for taking your job so seriously … and for doing it so well for the benefit of us all.
    … Chuck Dickinson

  22. Will,
    Thank you for reaching out and carefully listening to those with varied perspectives and for re-
    sponding clearly and calmly. Many current contentious topics could be more productively discussed if the level of vehemence and insistence on
    all sides were dialed back. We are very fortunate
    to have you as our representative.

  23. State Senator Brownsberger,
    You say:
    “All of the vaccines that have been offered to the general public have been through clinical trials in which they were evaluated both for efficacy and for safety. That is the process which forms the basis of FDA approval.”

    This blatantly incorrect. The FDA-approved protocols for the human clinical trials on all products are still underway, and are not complete until the end of 2022 at the earliest. This is after compressing the normal 3 – 6 years of animal trials, before a novel drug ever touches a human, to two months. The FDA has never before approved a drug for general use before clinical trials are complete, and evaluated. The average time to bring any new drug or vaccine to market is 10 years, nevermind for a new technology such as mRNA. We have no idea what long-term effects will be, for the simple reason that there has been no “long-term” completed in the trials yet. Sources compiled at this blog:

    Fact: The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) shows that COVID vaccine-associated deaths are now 10,000% higher than all other vaccines combined in CDC’s “early warning” system. No, VAERS is not conclusive. But it was meant as an “early warning” system, and by any measure these drugs should have been pulled by February at the latest. There have been over 20,000 deaths now associated with the vaxxes in the CDC reporting system. In 1976, the Swine flu vaccine was pulled after just 25 possibly related deaths, after being given to 40 million Americans.

    You say:
    “Follow up of clinical trial participants continues.”
    But again, even the INITIAL clinical trials are not complete until end of 2022 for Pfizer, end of 2023 for Moderna. These are the protocols approved by the FDA itself. Here are the protocols: Pfizer:


    You say:
    “How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines? As much as 95% effective — based on the initial trials….As time goes, by the immunity fades at an unknown rate (hence boosters).”
    BUT a vaccine that loses effectiveness in months is a failure as a vaccine. Childhood vaccinations are often meant to last for life. How many “boosters?” All as inadequately tested as the initial injections? Does the human immune system no longer exist?

    You say:
    “Getting the disease provides some protection from reinfection, but the protection offered by vaccines is stronger..”
    BUT this is dead wrong and an appalling piece of misinformation coming from a state senator who has a vote on this. Study after study shows natural immunity is superior and longer-lasting. Think about it. This is why humans did not go extinct before vaccines were invented. See: “Rio Times: “Scientific study from Israel shows natural immunity superior to Covid vaccine against Delta variant” ALSO: “Natural Immunity Is More Effective Then Vaccine Immunity”

    You say:
    “Is blood clotting a risk from mRNA vaccines? No. There does not appear to be a risk of clotting from the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.”
    This is so misinformed it is frightening. Even Pfizer and Moderna have acknowledged blood-clotting issues. The disagreement is on how “rare” they are. In June 2021 Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD, UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, and Professor Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, Yale School of Public Health, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

    “Four serious adverse events follow this arc, according to data taken directly from Vaers: low platelets (thrombocytopenia); noninfectious myocarditis, or heart inflammation, especially for those under 30; deep-vein thrombosis; and death.”

    I could go on but it is obvious you have not done the basics of your research beyond looking to what the CDC says about something and then quoting it. Please look at these sites compiled by the victims of these terrible instruments of destruction, here:

    Please contact if you would like to meet with victims in person, such as those who appeared in Sen. Ron Johnson’s hearing here:

    Also victims’ statements here:

    If you care about saving lives and helping people as you purport to do, yo should use your energy to reverse the state’s unconscionable stance on Ivermectin, which even Fauci has ust acknowledged has potential. This is after hundreds of thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily. “ICU Nurse: People Who Died of COVID “Should Be Considered Murdered” by Withholding Safe, Non-Vax Remedies”

    As for your assurances that this is not a “slippery slope,” do you mean like Fauci’s and Biden’s previous assurances that Covid vaccines would never be mandatory? Video of assurances:

  24. My son was injured with the first vaccine. We believed the powers that be that it was safe-and his college was forcing a mandate. This was a very healthy, social, and very popular 18 yr old boy who decided to pursue health and stay away from drugs and alcohol. Imagine that? He trained for 2 hours a day and was in the peak of health. Within the first 24 hours after the injection, he became increasingly weak. As each day passed it got worse. Full blood workup showed nothing. He appears to have developed an autoimmune that after many doctors’ appointments they are still not able to identify. He is at college and was forced (we were unaware) to get the second shot or he would be asked to leave. He now spends his days just trying to make it through and be a participant in his life. He goes to class and comes home and is in bed at 7:00 at night because his body can not handle anymore. It has been 9 months of this. He is a freshman and these are supposed to be the best years of his life. He has not participated in anything and has not made a friend. He feels like he doesn’t exist. It is beyond heartwrenching. We are scared for his future and now we are faced with being forced to get a younger son vaccinated. How would you feel, being forced? Because that is what the mandate does. It forces you or else you cannot participate in life. So as a parent you are forced to give your other son a vaccine that may harm him as well or have him excluded and discriminated against. Trust me, you don’t want that burden. I beg of you not to make others have to bear it.

    Vaccines have had their place and have proven to be useful at eradicating deadly viruses; however, there are many, many people that cannot and should not take them and forcible mandate has no place in a free society.

    If you look at Pfizer’s own six-month data COVID-19 vaccinations cause significantly more harm than good. In fact, Pfizer’s data shows a risk reduction from its vaccine was only 0.84 percent; however, there was a 300-percent increase in risk for adverse events.

    People say “just get an exemption.” Good luck with that. No one wants to go near this for fear of retribution so that leaves the injured where? I’d like one person, one person, who thinks they have all of the answers to tell me where people can go and what they should do because no one has.

    To the naysayers just because it didn’t happen to you or someone you love doesn’t mean it isn’t real…and that it won’t. VAERs is the government’s on reporting site and the only reason why it would not be accurate is because of people not reporting injury. We reported it to our doctor who has yet to take it seriously and has NOT reported it.

    If you want to take the vaccine that is great. If for many reasons you don’t feel it is right for you that should be okay as well.

  25. What would Truth and Reconciliation look like in the US?

    Are the death throes of white privileged just a historical flash in the pan? With the internet, knowledge is no longer Balkanized, compartmentalized, or privileged. (Potentially)

    Without apologizing for abhorrent behavior, how do we understand the fears of all Americans and face them squarely?

  26. “Two doses of the vaccine offers very limited protection, if any. Three doses with a booster offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and deaths. Less protection against infection.”

    –Pfizer CEO this week

  27. Thank you for your thoughts. Two questions:
    1. What about people with medical exemptions? They are a small number of the population but do exist. I know 2, one who lives in an area you cover. What would you say to this person whose doctor does not want them to risk another ER visit from a reaction, and now feels they cannot ever go anywhere? The wording makes it sound like a business can refuse them.

    2. Why is this currently scheduled to go into May, with no plans to end it? Why is that not discussed? Other cities make a point to say it is temporary. This goes into point 1.

  28. Unfortunately, one person’s misinformation is another person’s free speech. One person’s wanting not to be discriminated against is another’s loss of freedom to discriminate. One person’s common sense is another’s sheep mentality argument. One’s respect for an authority in a given field of science is another’s opportunity to seek other (often dubious) authorities in situations where they disagree. Truth is just an opinion to be stomped.
    How did we get to such a terrible place?

  29. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I also read the book and was only able to get to page 60 then had to stop as it was very upsetting to read. As an 80yo who had covid, proven by blood test Nov 2021, my doctor confirming results, AND not knowing I had it! The only thing I could pinpoint was a feeling of being very tired for almost 2 weeks at a point in September/October 2021. I would suggest you read information by the doctors mentioned in the book, there are a large enough number around the WORLD, that had overwhelming success using Ivermectin and HDC. In order to have clear opinion on any subject one must look in depth at both sides. One question, why would Bill Gates be giving an opinion when the pandemic will wane/end, he is not in the medical field and is just repeating another’s words. My opinion only.

  30. Thank you very much for reprinting the report “from the front lines in Massachusetts overstressed hospitals”. Made a huge impression on me.

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