Dr. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine, provided his insight on the COVID-19 vaccine, the government’s role in managing the virus and more on a recent episode of "The Will Cain Podcast."
WILL CAIN: What is your position on the vaccine? Do you find them effective with a good public health resource tool? Are they part of the picture, but just not should be the complete picture? What's your position on the vaccine?
DR. HARVEY RISCH: I think the vaccines are part of the picture. I think there are people who are at high enough risk of COVID – of bad outcomes of COVID – that they should be evaluating whether the vaccine would be useful, a rational choice for them. I think that wider than that, it's inappropriate, that the vaccines are not universal, that they have a degree of effectiveness for reducing transmission, which is the only government rationale for their usage of a degree of effectiveness that lasts for some months and after that, their effectiveness declines. And there are people who are vaccinated who are still spreading the infection or able to spread the infection, and therefore, there isn't a rationale for segregating people by vaccine status.
And so while I think the vaccines do have utility, they also have hazards. The adverse events that have been registered for the vaccines are much larger than any vaccination campaign we've ever had in the United States by orders of magnitude. And because of that, the balance has to be evaluated for every person.
In general, there is no indication that vaccines are needed or beneficial for children. There are children who are at high risk, and for them, there's again a rational decision-making process to evaluate whether those children would benefit by taking the vaccines or not. But for almost all normal, healthy children, that is not the case, and there's no rational reason for putting children at increased risk from adverse vaccine outcomes compared to the risks from getting COVID, which is almost entirely a minor cold-like illness in children that resolves in two or three days in almost all cases in healthy children.
So there's a range of issues to be dealt with with the vaccines that span from people who should be able to choose to take them because it's in their interest to people who don't need to take them because it's not in their interest.
CAIN: So, let's go through a couple of things you said really quickly. So it seems to me from everything I've read that there's solid data that the vaccine reduces the severity of disease in a large percentage of people for a finite period of time, be that five months, eight months, whatever it may be. It does seem to reduce the severity, hospitalization, and potential mortality of COVID. Is that fair? Is that correct?
CAIN: You also mentioned transmission, and I was a little surprised. I haven't read – of course, I'm not a medical genius like yourself. The data that suggests it does reduce transmission – so for some, again, finite period of time, there's evidence that shows the vaccine reduces the transmission so that a vaccinated individual is less likely to pass on COVID than an unvaccinated individual?
RISCH: I think there's pretty good evidence if you look at what happened in Israel in this most recent wave that when they started rolling out the boosters, that the wave declined dramatically. I think that's evidence for an initial benefit in reducing transmission. But I think that that – it's not a guaranteed thing, and I think it doesn't … It's not universal in everybody who gets vaccinated, and it doesn't last all that long. It also – that benefit wanes over four to six months.
So there is some rationale for using the vaccines to reduce transmission for protecting people who need to be protected. But that is not the general public; that is only high-risk individuals who are the ones who need to be protected. And in fact, reducing the spread of COVID is counterproductive because the vaccines ultimately will not be how we get out of the pandemic. The vaccines allow resistant strains of the virus to be generated around the world. And they will come back here if they're not generated here. And we cannot afford to be repeatedly vaccinating large segments of the population every four to six months for the next decade.
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