My fellow inebriates,
Last week’s directions from the government were: “The best vaccine is the one you’re offered.” This get-what-you-get-and-don’t-get-upset advice was being applied to AstraZeneca, the budget monkey adenovirus vaccine with an infinitesimally small (but nonetheless actual) blood-clot risk.
Then the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) came out with an unequivocal statement that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are better than AZ. Not only do they have a higher efficacy; they do not carry the same risk (so far) of vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia.
Today Dr. Caroline Quach (favourite doctor name ever) of NACI is trying to assuage AZ recipients’ “vaccine remorse”—telling them they did the right thing to protect themselves, especially if they were at moderate or high risk for catching COVID-19.*
This could be construed in a highly problematic way—frontline workers and at-risk populations being hustled into the arms of AZ while those at low risk sequester themselves comfortably in their remote offices and await Pfizer and Moderna.
To hint further at the inequity here, a shot of AstraZeneca costs about 4 bucks. Pfizer and Moderna cost, respectively, $19.50 and $25-37 per dose.
|Vaccine||Type||Cost per dose||Efficacy|
|AstraZeneca||Adenovirus-based||$3-4||70% overall. Effective against UK and Brazilian variants but not the South African variant.|
|Johnson & Johnson||Adenovirus-based||$10||66-72%, depending on the study. 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death. More effective against UK variant than South African and Brazilian strains.|
|Moderna||mRNA||$25-37||95%. 100% at preventing hospitalization and death. “Quite effective” against all variants. (OMG, what does “quite” mean?)|
|Pfizer-BioNTech||mRNA||$19.50||95%. 100% at preventing hospitalization and death. 95%. 100% at preventing hospitalization and death. “Quite effective” against all variants. (Again, “quite”?)|
|Sputnik V||Adenovirus-based||$10||91.4% No data on variants.|
|Sinovac Biotech||Inactivated |
|$29.75||50.38-91.25%, depending on the study. No data on variants.|
|Novavax||Protein-based||$16||89.3% Works against South African and UK variants.|
|CanSino||Viral vector (using |
|?||65.7% at preventing symptomatic cases. 90.98% at preventing severe disease. No data on variants.|
|Bharat||Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus||$2||78% against mild to moderate infection. 100% against severe infection. Works against UK variant.|
It reminds me of when the only gin in the house was Polo Club, a cheap dry gin from Wisconsin with a knifey flavour profile and overaggressive zest. No matter what you mixed with Polo Club, its hostile character would slice through, killing your chill and urging you to pound your drink so you could thoroughly rinse the glass and put something else in it.
At the time, all of us at LBHQ agreed that Polo Club was unacceptable. My parents said they would hold off on making G&Ts until it occurred to them to buy a decent gin. (This was an open-ended prospect, as their consumption of gin is highly weather dependent and usually isn’t triggered unless they have a party.)
I, however, am an alcoholic, so I was not willing to wait for Bombay or Broker’s. I took the gin that was offered to me. As I sipped, I could feel it shredding my fur from the inside out. I told myself it was okay—because it was timely. And it was somewhat satisfying. Once I’d doctored it up with lots of lime, it scored about 70%.
“The best gin is the one in the liquor cabinet right now.”
You may think it’s in bad taste to compare my gin-seeking recourse to Polo Club with the urging of millions of people toward a lesser vaccine that they accepted because they were at risk and it couldn’t come fast enough.
Of course it’s a tacky comparison.
But it’s a tacky reality too—in the light of NACI’s statement about mRNA vaccines being better, who wouldn’t prefer Pfizer or Moderna? And why shouldn’t they?
My dad was lucky to be offered the Pfizer vaccine at his workplace. My mum was stubborn and held out for it. We recognize what a luxury this was. She’s not frontline and she’s not in a vulnerable category, so she felt comfortable waiting.
But some people couldn’t wait. Time will tell whether it was fair that they stepped forward first for AstraZeneca.
And some bears can’t wait either. That’s why I took the gin that was offered to me. I would have put out my paw out for the AZ too.**
*Public health, get your shit together. We get it—the data are coming in on a daily and even hourly basis. But don’t make Dr. Quach walk back her statement about mRNA vaccines being better. She’s a scientist. Acknowledge what she says and go forward with honesty and transparency.
**Except there’s no point, because bears are a veritable cesspool of serious germs that would kick COVID’s spike proteins to kingdom come.