The Vaccines Are Working Just Fine… Seriously

By Paul Thomas Zenki

They weren’t designed to stop you from catching the virus …

Today I read a breathless, almost panicky article by a popular writer on Medium, spreading paranoia about failing vaccines. The vaccines are not failing.

People are freaking out because vaccinated people are testing positive for COVID-19. So please, be aware, the SARS-Cov-2 vaccines were never designed to stop COVID infections altogether.

Humans have lots of receptors for the coronavirus in our upper respiratory tracts (throat and nasal passages) and in our lungs, but not so many in between. Getting an upper respiratory infection with SARS-Cov-2 is no fun (trust me, I know first hand) but it’s typically not life-threatening unless the virus proliferates so much that it’s able to make the jump down into the lungs. That’s when people start getting admitted to hospitals, being put on ventilators, and dying.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Dr. Barney Graham, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

“The vaccines were always designed to focus against disease in the lower airways, not in the upper airways…. That’s why we see such consistency in the efficacy against severe disease. It wasn’t designed to protect the upper airways as much…. We got very lucky that it did to some extent.”

And Dr. Anthony Fauci:

“The vaccines are doing exactly what we’re asking them to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease and certainly preventing your death.”

In other words, the vaccine allows the body to respond to an infection in a way that prevents it from becoming life-threatening. And it does this remarkably well. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “more than 99.99% of fully vaccinated people have not had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 resulting in hospitalization or death.”

What the vaccine cannot do is stop the virus from getting into your upper respiratory tract in the first place. It can only enable your body to fight it off once it does. Which means that the vaccine cannot prevent you from ever testing positive for COVID.

Can you also transmit the disease if you’re vaccinated? Well, yes, but your window of tranmissibility is much narrower than it is if you’re unvaccinated, because your immune system is getting rid of the infection so much more effectively. Again, Dr. Barney Graham:

“There are data that suggest that vaccinated and unvaccinated have the same level [of viral load] at a particular time point. But if you follow that over time, the vaccinated people’s viral load drops much faster.… There’s still a lot less virus in vaccinated people than there is [in] unvaccinated people. So there would be less transmission going on in vaccinated people, but there may be some transmission.… It’s just a matter of degrees.”

But what about reports of antibody levels dropping in vaccinated people? Here’s how Dr. Monica Gandhi of UC San Francisco describes the situation:

“This isn’t a glitch…. It’s normal for immunoglobulins to reduce over time, [otherwise]our blood would be thick as paste…. This is how our immune systems work.”

Put another way, our antibody levels are high after receiving a vaccine and when we’re fighting off an infection. But when they’re not needed, the levels reduce. If we get infected again, they will reproduce in order to combat the virus.

All of which is to say, the vaccines are working remarkably well. There is no reason to panic, no reason to believe that medical authorities got it all wrong or that they were ever lying to us or don’t know what they’re doing or that they’re just making it up by the seat of the pants as they go along.

Keep calm, get vaccinated, take sensible precautions, and carry on. Don’t give in to the paranoia, and please, don’t spread unfounded rumors that the vaccines are failing. Because in fact they are succeeding quite well.

Header image by Angelo Esslinger

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Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.