Carvings July 15, 2022

Do COVID vaccines work or don’t they?

            COVID-19 has become the proverbial skunk at a garden party. It has embarrassed medical experts, thrown politicians into turmoil and in general has confused everyone. It just isn’t behaving like most viruses. But there are some upsides to this messy situation.

            First, although in recent months there have been countless breakthrough infections even in those, like Dr. Fauci, who have been quadruple-vaxxed, the mortality rate among vaccinated persons is low. Dying from this virus is many times more likely among persons who have never been vaccinated than among vaccinees. Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, is also more likely in natural infection than in persons who have received the vaccine and the latter have a very low risk of dying. Like the influenza vaccine, it may not keep you from getting infected but it will keep you from becoming sick enough to be hospitalized. That matters, because hospitals harbor some very dangerous, multiply antibiotic-resistant bacteria that kill more than 75,000 Americans each year. That is a fearsome number.

            Why are COVID vaccines inadequate? There are two reasons the I can think of, although I’m sure that there are more. One problem is that this virus mutates rapidly and some of those new mutants are able to evade immune mechanisms that were activated by the original strains of the virus. Another reason is the design of the vaccines, in that those in most common use are directed at only one part of the virus, the spike protein, and not the internal components of the virus particle. Without sounding like Pollyanna, I expect that by this time next year there will be a vaccine that will be directed toward elements of the virus that are less likely to mutate.

            Do COVID-19 vaccines kill people? There are some egregiously false stories that claim that they do. In studies from the United States and Taiwan that explored this issue, mortality following vaccination was actually lower than background rates in both populations. The pandemic virus has killed more than one million Americans. Opponents of the vaccine claim that the vaccine has killed more than the disease itself. Don’t you think that the nation’s media would have been all over this? In the words of a well-known politician: “C’mon man!”


You’ve probably heard that by using a smaller dinner plate it will appear that there is more food there and you will eat less. The reverse is also true. If a plate is bigger and you fill it yourself you’ll put more on it – and you’ll probably clean your plate!

            Some ingenious researchers with a sense of humor went a little further. They offered Philadelphia moviegoers fresh popcorn in either a medium-sized bowl or a large one. (There is no such thing as a “small” popcorn bowl in a movie theater.) The large-bowl folks ate 45.3 percent more popcorn than those who had a medium-sized bowl. But the sadistic researchers went a step further. They did the same thing with stale popcorn – and the people with large bowls ate 33.6 percent more than the medium-bowl subjects.

            Even persons who should know better can fall into the trap. When a group of 85 nutrition experts were invited to an ice cream social, they were given either a small bowl or a small scoop or a large bowl or a large scoop, and were told to serve themselves. If they had a large bowl they took (and ate) 31 percent more ice cream. Those who used a large scoop gave themselves 14.5 percent more, whether they had a small or large bowl.  

            Take a look at your mealtime habits and ask yourself if you can make a few changes to take advantage of this nutritional illusion!

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