‘The odds of getting sick from eating restaurant food are higher than getting sick from a vaccine’

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I FULLY expect to get a certain amount of ‘backlash’ from this article. All I ask is for people to read it with an open mind.

Albert Einstein once said: ‘Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.’

But we live in a world that is ruled and dominated by numbers. The large majority of what I do when investing is about numbers and their interpretation, followed by empirical assessments. It is then a reckoning of probability. What is the risk?

My world is the world of economics – global, regional, country, individual company. All of which is mainly driven by consumer behaviour and spending.

Covid-19 is the great-big elephant in the room, my room (world), yours and everyone’s. It kills.

It also stops the economy, because mainly it stops us as consumers spending. I am going to step out of my comfort zone, but I want to share some statistics and thoughts.

The Delta variant is a very real and serious problem. This variant seems to be more transmissible but less deadly. That shouldn’t surprise us. That’s how viruses evolve. Those that kill their host don’t spread as well.

The vast majority of people infected with Covid-19 don’t die. Most are never even hospitalised. In the TEAM office we have had three members of our little team of 15 test positive (20%) and yes they were ill. In one case, very ill. But none of them went to hospital.

But that isn’t necessarily the end of the story. Some people who survive the virus are now experiencing long-term problems. A growing body of data says the global number afflicted with ‘long Covid’ is significant. We shall see within our small community.

The below is a short note that appeared in the respected magazine Scientific American.

‘At least 34 million Americans (and probably many more) have already contracted Covid. An increasing number of studies find that greater than one fourth of patients have developed some form of long Covid. 

‘Initial indications suggest that the likelihood of developing persistent symptoms may not be related to the severity of the initial illness; it is even conceivable that infections that were initially asymptomatic could later cause persistent problems.

‘For some, symptoms have now continued for many months with no apparent end in sight, with many survivors fearing that they will simply have to adjust to a “new normal”. More and more sufferers have not been able to return to work, even months after their initial illness. 

‘While the number of patients with persistent illness remains undetermined this early in the pandemic, estimates suggest that millions of Americans may enter the ranks of the permanently disabled.

‘As increasing numbers of younger people become infected, will we see an entire generation of chronically ill?’

As with everything else about this virus, we are still learning. Fortunately, we have an easy way to help prevent this from getting worse.

The vaccines are proving highly effective in reducing Covid-19 hospitalisation and death. We lack data on whether they prevent long-Covid symptoms, but it seems likely that they would help.

Yet, for various reasons, we still have numbers – in some cases large numbers – of people not getting vaccinated. The most common reasoning being risk.

They think the risk of getting Covid is low, and think it won’t be serious if they do. They’re balancing that against a vaccine they consider new and untested and therefore risky.

But these vaccines are not new; they are the application of a technology that was already in development before this particular virus, technology that has been studied for almost 20 years now. The discovery technology has been around for a long time now.

Untested? After hundreds of millions of doses (globally over 1.7 billion), major side-effects are actually statistically rare. The people in hospitals right now aren’t there with vaccine side-effects. They have Covid and mostly were unvaccinated.

The vaccines aren’t perfect. Vaccinated people can be infected and get sick, but it’s extremely rare. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US that the chance of dying from Covid is about one in 200 for an unvaccinated person, while the chance of adverse reaction to the available approved vaccines is about two to four per million. The odds of being hit by lightning in a lifetime is one in 15,300.

What bothers a spokesman for the CDC ‘no end’ is when he hears of patients who ask to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when they are already infected and moments before they are intubated: ‘They could have taken the vaccine a month earlier and not ended up in this position.’

In the UK Abderrahmane Fadil, an unvaccinated Covid patient, said: ‘I wish I could go to each and every person who refuses to have the vaccine and tell them: “Look, this is a matter of life of death. Do you want to live or die? If you want to live, then go and get the vaccine”.’

We can argue about the efficacy of the different vaccines. We can argue whether the vaccines are 85% or 95% or 75% efficient. The point is they lower the risk substantially.

To put this further into context, WebMD recently pointed out that 48 million Americans suffer food poisoning in the United States every year; of those, 128,000 are hospitalised and 3,000 die. The odds of getting sick from eating restaurant food are higher than getting sick from a vaccine.

A growing number of experts think we missed our chance at herd immunity and that this virus will become ‘endemic’. That means almost everyone who hasn’t already been infected or vaccinated will eventually get it, and we will slowly develop immunity over many years.

My world is investment and, as I have written, that is about balancing risk with reward or return.

Balancing the risks against a vaccine many millions have received with no or very minor side-effects seems like a very reasonable ‘investment’.

So, while we are looking at risk, how about this? If you get the virus, it is estimated there is something like a 10% to 20% chance that you will have ‘long Covid’ symptoms.

My ‘investment’ recommendation is, if you are in a location where the vaccine is available, get it pronto. You won’t have full protection until two weeks after the second dose, so the sooner the better. It is the best way to protect yourself, others, and the economy.

What is of concern is that data from so-called ‘breakthrough’ Covid variants, such as Delta, show that ‘the unvaccinated are now putting the vaccinated at risk’.

Even with Delta, almost everyone who dies of Covid-19 – 99.5% of known cases – are unvaccinated people, along with 97% of people hospitalised for the illness. That suggests that the vaccines are still highly effective, said US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy during a recent press briefing.

And a study by Public Health England has found that even a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the spread of disease from infected individuals to household members by up to 50%.

‘It’s likely that all the vaccines have some similar effect,’ said Michael Weekes, a viral immunologist at the University of Cambridge.

For inexplicable reasons, this virus has become politicised. That’s not just wrong – it’s dangerous.

In my mind being vaccinated is a bit like applying sunscreen to provide some protection against sunburn. It doesn’t guarantee you will not get burnt and there may be allergy-based side-effects.

More importantly, applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces your risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers, by 50%, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. You don’t think: what if I have an allergic skin reaction, so I am not going to apply it. And some ingredients in sunscreen are proven to cause adverse reactions.

For example, oxybenzone is the most common UV filter worldwide. FDA scientists researching the four most prolific ingredients found in sunscreens, including oxybenzone, concluded that absorption of sunscreen into the body might be more than a theoretical concern. 

Some lab and mice studies have found that some organic UV filters, including oxybenzone, as well as ingredients including parabens and phthalates, which can be found even in sunscreens that use inorganic UV filters, are endocrine disruptors – chemicals that interfere with our hormones.

A cautious person might also wear a wide-brimmed hat or avoid sitting out during the hottest part of the day. For Covid-19, face masks and social distancing, particularly at crowded indoor public places, would be the equivalent.

To me it is quite clear and I’m sorry if you disagree. The virus will do all it can to multiply. We have ways to fight back. Vaccination being one.

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