Monday 1st of March 2021

a little prick — for and against...


Since COVID-19 first upended our lives in early 2020, a vaccine has been considered our ticket back to 'normal life'.

In January, we took one step closer to that goal, with the national medicines regulator approving the first COVID-19 vaccine (from Pfizer) for use in Australia.

While most of us are eager to get immunised, many people still have questions about the safety of the incoming vaccines.

With the help of vaccine experts, we've answered five of the most common questions identified by the ABC and Google Trends.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

In order for a vaccine to get approved for use in Australia, it needs to go through a series of rigorous safety checks.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) — which is responsible for approving vaccines — carefully assesses the results of vaccine trials, makes sure manufacturing standards are up to scratch, and uses its own laboratories to "assess the quality of every batch of a vaccine before it can be supplied".

Earlier this week, the TGA said following a thorough and independent review of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine submission it decided the vaccine met the high safety, efficacy and quality standards required.

The approval is on a provisional basis, meaning it is valid for two years, and allows the vaccine to be supplied in Australia for people aged 16 and older.

All other COVID-19 vaccines undergoing evaluation by the TGA (including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine) will also have to meet the same strict safety requirements.

Like any vaccine approved for use in the community, COVID-19 vaccines have been studied extensively across multiple pre-clinical and clinical trials.

The process begins with research on cells and animals in the lab (these are the pre-clinical studies), and then progresses to large-scale testing in humans (these are the clinical trials).

Over a period of several months, more than 43,000 people were involved in the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine, and another 23,000 were included in the Oxford-AstraZeneca trials.

Both vaccines were found to be effective at stopping people getting sick (to differing degrees), and both companies reported very few serious side effects (more on those below).

What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccine ingredients vary depending on the vaccine.

According to the Department of Health, vaccines may contain some of the following ingredients:

a protein component of a virus

a piece of genetic code (DNA or mRNA)

a very small dose of a weakened virus

a substance to boost the immune response (an adjuvant)

a small amount of preservative

sterile salt water (saline) for injections

The newly-approved Pfizer vaccine contains mRNA (which encodes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein), plus a handful of pharmaceutical ingredients that help to stabilise it. You can find a full list of the ingredients on the vaccine's product information sheet on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Once other COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the TGA, their specific ingredients will also be listed here.

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Many of us have friends or family who plan on getting the vaccine. Maybe they truly believe they are in danger. Maybe they think it’s better safe than sorry. Maybe they just want to be able to go to the pub again.

If you know someone who is planning on getting vaccinated against Covid19, ask them these five questions. Make sure they understand exactly what they’re asking for.


No successful vaccine against a coronavirus has ever been developed.

Scientists have been trying to develop a SARS and MERS vaccine for years, with nothing to show for it. In fact, some of the failed SARS vaccines actually caused hypersensitivity to the SARS virus. Meaning that vaccinated mice could potentially get the disease more severely than unvaccinated mice.


Vaccine development is a slow, laborious process. Usually, from development through testing and finally being approved for public use takes many years. The various vaccines for Covid have all been developed and approved in less than a year.

While the media are quick to offer a TON of “explainer” guides, which cite “foresight, hard work and luck” as the reasons we got a Covid vaccine so quickly “without cutting corners”, they all leave out key information.

Namely, that none of the vaccines have yet been subject to proper trials. Many of them skipped early-stage trials entirely, and the late stage human trials have either not been peer reviewed, have not released their data, will not finish until 2023 or were abandoned after “severe adverse effects”.


While traditional vaccines work by exposing the body to a weakened strain of the microorganism responsible for causing the disease, these new Covid vaccines are mRNA vaccines

mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines theoretically work by injecting viral mRNA into the body, where it replicates inside your cells and encourages your body to recognise, and make antigens for, the “spike proteins” of the virus. They have been the subject of research since the 1990s, but before 2020 no mRNA vaccine was ever approved for use.


Back in the Spring of 2020 many governments around the world granted vaccine manufacturers immunity to civil liability, either by invoking existing legislation or writing new laws.

The USA’s Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP)grants immunity until at least 2024

The EU’s product licensing law does the same, and there are reports of confidential liability clauses in the contracts the EU signed with vaccine manufacturers.

The UK went even further, granting permanent legal indemnity to the government, and any employees thereof, for any harm done when a patient is being treated for Covid19 or “suspected Covid19”.


The case-fatality ratio of Sars-Cov-2 infection has been a bone of contention for months, but it is certainly much lower than all the initial models predicted. 

It was originally massively inflated, with the WHO using a figure of 3.4%

Subsequent studies have found it to be much lower, in some cases even lower than 0.1%. A report published in October in the WHO’s own research bulletin finding a CFR of 0.23% “or possibly considerably lower”

Meaning, even according to the WHO, at least 99.77% of people infected with the virus will survive.


Ask your friends these questions. Give them detailed answers.

It is a rushed and untested vaccine, made using unprecedented technology, with no legal recourse should it do you harm, to treat a virus 99.8% of people will survive.

So the question that really matters is: Do you really want, or need, to take that risk?



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the vast majority are mild cases...

The virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic may have leapt from animals to people outside China’s borders, a World Health Organisation scientist has suggested.

Professor John Watson, who was part of the WHO-led team that travelled to China’s Wuhan city to investigate the origins of COVID-19, said he was uncertain if the virus made the jump from animals to humans in China, despite it being at the epicentre of the initial outbreak.

The now-closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan is where the coronavirus was believed to have first spread.

“There are all sorts of reasons … that suggest that China is a very, very possible source for the outbreak,” Professor Watson told the BBC.

“But by no means necessarily the place where the leap from animals to humans took place.

“And I think we need to ensure that we are looking beyond the borders of China, as well as within China.”

He said the pandemic most likely started with an infection in an “animal reservoir” which was then passed on to humans through an “intermediate host”.

By December 2019, the coronavirus had infected at least 174 people in and around Wuhan, which is where the coronavirus was first detected.

The 174 known cases meant there may have been more than 1000 people who unknowingly had the virus.

“We haven’t done any modelling of that since,” lead investigator for the WHO mission, Peter Ben Embarek, said.

“But we know … in big ballpark figures … out of the infected population, about 15 per cent end up severe cases, and the vast majority are mild cases.”


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you now are a speck in a giant petri dish...

It's early days and stats are flying about like moths around a light bulb, but fear not, the status of "side-effects" won't appear for a couple of years... You are now part of the experiment:



Swapping data for vaccines

Israel in January signed a unique agreement with Pfizer essentially exchanging real-world data on how the vaccine performs across different demographics for a steady, early supply of the extremely effective vaccine.

The country's small population and robust digitised health system meant it was well-placed to supply that information.

The early data has reassured policymakers around the world, showing that the vaccine performs as well, if not better, in the real world than in clinical trials.

Even the first of two vaccine doses "is effective and reduces morbidity and lowers hospitalisations by many tens of per cent", said one of the country's four "health maintenance organisations", Maccabi.

On Sunday, Israel's largest healthcare provider, Clalit, revealed a 94 per cent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among vaccinated citizens in a large study of 600,000 Israelis.

Countering hesitancy and resistance

Despite the broad success of the program, Israel has encountered resistance from some groups, including ultra-orthodox Jewish and Arabic citizens. Both communities have been hit hard by the virus, which is running rife in Israel.

In response, Israel plans to limit attendance at cultural or religious gatherings to people who have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or can show a recent negative test result. This "green pass" system will also be used in other settings, granting greater freedom of movement to those who are vaccinated.

How and whether Israel can win over its faith communities could hold critical lessons for Australia. Here, coronavirus misinformation has spread in some religious communities at various points in the pandemic. There has also been some Christian opposition to the use of foetal cells in the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, which most Australians are expected to receive.

But wait…

After Israel was criticised for failing to secure vaccine doses for some 4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it agreed to transfer 5,000 doses to Palestinian health care workers, but this won't go far. Whether and when these Palestinians are immunised remains to be seen.

United Arab Emirates

Shortly behind Israel in vaccinations per capita is the United Arab Emirates.

Like Israel, the UAE has a centralised universal health care system which has prioritised securing and distributing vaccines.

The country has also worked hard to boost public confidence, with prominent Islamic figures getting their shots in front of news cameras, while the nation's Fatwa Council ruled in favour of COVID vaccines.

Going hard and early

The Gulf state went hard and early with its vaccination strategy, inoculating frontline medical workers and government officials from September with Chinese vaccines that were still in phase three clinical trials.

The country has close ties to China, which has proved critical to the rapid rollout. It approved the Sinopharm vaccine faster than China itself, which is what most UAE citizens have received so far.

While the Gulf state claims this vaccine is 86 per cent effective, Sinopharm has separately reported an efficacy rate of 79 per cent.



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one hundred per cent dancing in the streets...

AstraZeneca vaccine ‘100 per cent effective’, but one-third of Aussies reluctant to get jab

Another piece in Australia’s long-awaited COVID vaccine program has fallen into place, with the official approval of AstraZeneca’s jab – found to have “100 per cent efficacy” against serious illness and death.

But with the nation still a week off starting vaccinations and most Australians to still wait months before getting their first dose, the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration has advised people not to get too bogged down in efficacy rates, saying “a lot of the discussion on numbers is not particularly relevant”.

It comes as new data from the health department found more than one-third of Australians say they are either “unsure” or “definitely will not get a vaccine”.

Today the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID19 has been approved for use in Australia, the second vaccine to receive such approval from our own world-class independent safety regulator, the TGA, having been found to be safe and effective. Read more

— Scott Morrison (ScottMorrisonMP) February 16, 2021

On Tuesday, the TGA gave its final tick of approval to the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” vaccine.

Just 24 hours earlier, the first vials of the Pfizer vaccine had touched down in Australia, a double-barrel blast to truly kickstart the rollout.

“AstraZeneca is cleared for lift-off,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said, continuing the space-themed metaphors he began on Monday.

The federal government has been criticised for its timetable, with more than 170 million people in dozens of countries having received a COVID jab so far, but not one Australian due to get even their first shot until February 22.


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The monkey's business:

The Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (codenamed AZD1222) is a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca given by intramuscular injection, using as a vector the modified chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdOx1. One dosing regimen showed 90% efficiency when a half-dose was followed by a full-dose after at least one month. Another dosing regimen showed 62% efficiency when given as two full doses separated by at least one month.


Meanwhile the German won't use it for "over 65" year olds... Read from top. Okay say 99.9 per cent and we're sweet...

stats for profit...

John Edmunds is on top of the world. He’s one of the modelling-paper mafiosi.

The London, U.K., professor is a key government advisor on COVID-19-related policies. Edmunds also was a co-author of one of the primary modelling papers that have been used to convince the masses that vigilance against Variant of Concern (VOC) B.1.1.7 should be their top priority.

And Edmunds co-wrote an influential January 21, 2021 report that concluded, “There is a realistic possibility that VOC B.1.1.7 is associated with an increased risk of death compared to non-VOC viruses.”

In addition, he speaks often to reporters about the deadliness of the new variant. Edmunds tells them, for example, that a “disaster” would ensue if lockdowns are eased too soon, because what first must be done is to “vaccinate much, much, much more widely than the elderly.”


Follow the funds

Edmunds also happens to be the spouse of someone who, at least until April 2020, was an employee of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and held shares in the company. (Edmunds doesn’t disclose this in any of his media interviews that I’ve read and watched. He also doesn’t disclose his own stock holdings.)

According to an April 2020 Daily Telegraph article, Edmunds’s wife is Jeanne Pimenta and she works for GSK. The Daily Telegraph article states Edmunds asserted his partner had recently resigned from GSK. So it’s unclear whether Pimenta currently works there or not. I did a little digging and found that the only Jeanne Pimenta LinkedIn profile indicates she’s currently director of epidemiology at GSK, while Jeanne Pimenta’s ResearchGate profile says she’s an epidemiologist at BioMarin Pharmaceutical. (I’ll have a bit more about Edmunds being married to a present or former Glaxo employee later in this article.)

In any case, GSK’s financial success is skyrocketing. On February 3 the company announced it’s collaborating with mRNA-vaccine company CureVac to spend 150 million Euros — approx $180 million USD — to make vaccines for the new variants. That effectively gives them first-entrant advantage in vaccines for the new variants. And that same Feb. 3 news release touts the new-variant vaccines as also able to serve as ‘booster’ shots after the initial rounds of vaccination.

In addition, GSK joined forces with CureVac to pump out, later this year, 100 million doses of CureVac’s ‘first-generation’ COVID-19 vaccine called ‘CvnCoV.’

Not only that: this fall GSK together with another international pharmaceutical firm, Sanofi, are scheduled to start producing what could turn out to be up to one billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine annually. GSK’s understated Feb. 3 announcement of its Q4 2020 financial results said it will “continue to expect meaningful improvement in revenues and margins” because they are “building a high-value biopharma pipeline.”

Note that GSK and other pharma companies like Moderna and Pfizer are not responsible for damage and compensation payments to people seriously injured and killed by COVID-19 vaccines. Governments will pay instead – that is, if those injured and killed and their loved ones are able to beat the long odds and get any compensation at all.

And a remarkable February 8, 2021, investigative report in the German news outlet Welt Am Sonntag (which translates to World on Sunday) reveals another impetus for the wildly inaccurate modelling governments use to keep populations in a state of fear and control. The German article shows that in March 2020 government officials enlisted “leading scientists from several research institutes and universities. Together, they were to produce a [mathematical-modelling] paper that would serve as legitimization for further tough political measures.” These scientists obediently wrote a modelling paper tailored to the government’s instructions. The then-secret paper asserted that if lockdown measures were lifted immediately, up to one million Germans would die from COVID-19, some “agonizingly at home, gasping for breath,” after being turned away from overflowing hospitals.


Edmunds Is Deeply Invested in the Vaccine World 

There’s still more to the web of money and influence surrounding Edmunds and other modelling-paper mafiosi, including Neil Ferguson (information on Ferguson is in the section below titled More Modelling Mafiosi).

The first new-variant modelling paper Edmunds co-wrote, which I mention in the second paragraph of this article, was posted on December 23, 2020. Edmunds co-authored it with his fellow members of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). People in the centre’s COVID-19 Working Group also contributed.

The modelling paper was posted on the e-journal Medrχiv, which publishes only non-peer-reviewed papers. The journal is the creation of an organization headed by Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. I discuss Medrχiv and the Zuckerberg connection in my Feb. 3 articleon the baselessness for the modelling papers that claim the new variants are very dangerous.

Edmunds also is dean of the LSHTM’s Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health. I contacted the institution’s media-relations department to request an interview with one of the Dec. 23, 2020, modelling paper’s authors. I didn’t receive a response.

In a Feb. 2017 video interview, Edmunds enthused that the LSHTM specializes in every aspect of vaccine development, from basic science to large-scale clinical trials. In the video he also touts using mathematical modelling as a good way to show that vaccines protect individuals and society. (And among other things he describes his group’s efforts in giving children flu vaccines and — in conjunction with Public Health England — promoting human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccines for girls and boys.)

In addition, Edmunds is a key member of the UK Vaccine Network (which until recently was known as the UK Vaccines Network – the URL for the organization has ‘UK Vaccines Network‘ in it).

And he’s a member of the U.K. govenment’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies(SAGE), which provides Covid-measure advice — much of it related to the unprecedentedly forceful push for mass vaccination — to U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet.

On top of that, Edmunds is a member of the U.K. government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). It works hand in hand with SAGE, and it also heavily promotes vaccination.

And as mentioned earlier, Edmunds is married to a current or former GSK employee. A 2015 article that Edmunds co-authored states under ‘Competing interests’ for Edmunds that “My partner works for GSK.” Similarly, on the NERVTAG website’s conflict-disclosure pages – which for some reason haven’t been updated since Oct. 2017 – it reveals that Edmunds’s spouse works for GSK.

As a quick other note, the ‘Author Contributions and Acknowledgements’ section of the PDF of the December 23 modelling analysis of B.1.1.7 (pages 15 and 16) shows that almost all of the paper’s authors and members of the modelling centre’s COVID-19 Working Group receive funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and/or Wellcome Trust. (By the way, a search for Wellcome Trust yields the Wellcome website.)

And there’s more to the Edmunds story. Among other of my finds: he’s also on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Coalition for Epidemic Innovations (CEPI). CEPI was created primarily by the BMGF, the World Economic Forum and the major pharma company Wellcome. CEPI’s website states it was “launched in Davos [at the meeting of the World Economic Forum in January] 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. Our mission is to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks.”

Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley last year wrote a must-read two-part analysis of the ties between the key individuals, institutions, companies and funders of the UK’s Covid-19 response. She mentioned that GSK is working with CEPI to develop COVID-19 vaccines. This alliance is still going strong today.

Note also that the LSHTM’s Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, which Edmunds heads, is primarily funded by the BMGF and the Gavi alliance. (Gavi promotes mass vaccination of people around the world — including by quarterbacking the COVAX program. Gavi’s biggest funders include the BMGF. Doctors Without Borders has criticized GAVI for being “aimed more at supporting drug-industry desires to promote new products than at finding the most efficient and sustainable means for fighting the diseases of poverty.”)

BMGF funding for the LSHTM’s Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health is growing very fast. For example, BMGF’s new grants to the faculty rose from $4.9 million USD in 2013-2014 (see page 14 [p. 9 in the PDF] of the LSHTM’s 2014 annual report) to $13.19 USD in 2015-2016 (see page 14 [p. 9 in the PDF] of the LSHTM’s 2016 annual report)(top new research grants to each faculty at the LSHTM stopped being reported in the annual reports after 2017). Funding from the BMGF to the LSHTM as a whole was 30.2 million pounds ($40.2 USD) in 2017-2018 (see page 9 [p. 6 in the PDF] in the school’s 2018 annual report).

By the way, the LSHTM also has a Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. It develops, tests and commercializes vaccines. (I couldn’t find any information on where the vaccines centre’s funding comes from.)

The vaccines centre also performs affiliated activities like combating ‘vaccine hesitancy.’ The latter includes the Vaccine Confidence Project. The project’s stated purpose is, among other things, “to provide analysis and guidance for early response and engagement with the public to ensure sustained confidence in vaccines and immunisation.”

The Vaccine Confidence Project’s director is LSHTM professor Heidi Larson. For more than a decade she’s been researching how to combat vaccine hesitancy. LSHTM underpins the project, which also is a member of the WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net.


More Modelling Mafiosi

Here’s information about two other members of this club:

– Public Health England (PHE) issued its first detailed report on the new variant in late December 2020 and continues to provide updates. None of their reports are peer-reviewed. One of the highest-profile co-authors of the PHE reports is PHE director Susan Hopkins. She’s also a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London. The college receives tens of millions of dollars a year from the BMGF. See for example this grant, this one, this oneand this one. (I emailed PHE media relations to request an interview about PHE’s new-variants reports. PHE communications person Zahra Vindhani responded, “Dr. Hopkins won’t have the capacity for this in the upcoming weeks, and we aren’t able to confirm anyone else for this either.)

– PHE is guided in its approach to vaccination by PHE’s “Strategic Priority 1” for combating infections diseases in 2020-2025. It is to “Optimise vaccine provision and reduce vaccine preventable diseases in England” (see p. 9 of PHE’s Infectious Disease Strategy 2020-2025).

– Neil Ferguson is a co-author of the PHE reports and also of a widely quoted December 31 modelling paper on the dangerousness of B.1.1.7. He’s Acting Director of the Imperial College London-based Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium.

– Ferguson’s modelling has been extremely faulty again over the years. This has been thoroughly documented. For example, as investigative journalist Beeley wrote in Part One of a two-part investigative report in April-May 2020, Ferguson’s modelling over-estimated by about three million-fold the death toll from the bird flu, also known as H5N1. As a result, a lot of money was made by bird-flu-vaccine manufacturers, ranging from Roche (for its now-infamous, ineffective Tamiflu) to Sanofi, and they were used widely.

– Ferguson also grossly overestimated the effects of swine flu, or H1N1. As a result, millions of people were needlessly given GSK’s Pandemrix. It caused brain damage, primarily narcolepsy and cataplexy, in hundreds if not thousands of vaccine recipients, mostly children. The pharma giant was granted no fault in any damage claims. Therefore the British government paid more than 60 million pounds (approx. $80 million USD at 2017 conversion rates) to victims. (And as mentioned earlier in this article, GSK and other pharma companiesare similarly protected from having to pay damages to people injured or killed by their COVID-19 vaccines.)

– Ferguson also is a member, together with Edmunds and others, of SAGE.

– Another group he’s a member of is the highly influential NERVTAG. It’s the group that issued the January 21, 2021 warning, mentioned earlier in this article, that B.1.1.7 is deadly. Ferguson is a NERVTAG member even though he was reported to have resigned last springafter being caught visiting with his married lover when everyone in England was supposed to only be having contact with members of their own households (based in large part on Ferguson’s modelling and his urging the government to lock the country down).

– Ferguson also is a member of the UK Vaccines Network, along with Edmunds and others such as the Network chair Chris Whitty, who’s also the UK government’s top Covid-19 adviser Chris Whitty. The network’s focus, according to its website, “to support the [U.K.] government to identify and shortlist targeted investment opportunities for the most promising vaccines and vaccine technologies that will help combat infectious diseases with epidemic potential, and to address structural issues related to the UK’s broader vaccine infrastructure.”


These ties bind Edmunds, Ferguson and Hopkins – along with the rest of the modelling-paper mafiosi — to the bidding of governments, Big Pharma, Bill Gates and other powerful players.

They present an image of being fully devoted to the public good, while in fact actively helping to destroy it.



After obtaining an MSc in molecular biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary, Rosemary Frei became a freelance writer. For the next 22 years she was a medical writer and journalist. She pivoted again in early 2016 to full-time, independent activism and investigative journalism. Her website is


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Read the original article to get all the links (the links have been deleted for posting here)...


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meanwhile in germany...


COVID: AstraZeneca vaccine remains unpopular in Germany

In Germany, everyone who wants a coronavirus vaccine should receive one by September. But this plan will only work if millions of people accept the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca.


Six security guards are standing on the wide, empty road leading to the disused Tegel Airport in Berlin. Their yellow high-visibility vests are glowing in the sun. The men are guarding the entrance to a coronavirus vaccination center, which has been set up in what was once Terminal C of the airport.

They don't have much to do. Between three and five vaccination candidates arrive every hour, a guard says when asked. "That's all."

At Tegel, only the vaccine produced by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is available. Because of a lack of studies into its effects on older people, the vaccine has been approved in Germany for people younger than 65. In this age group, vaccinations are currently only available for people with underlying health conditions and members of groups with an increased risk of infection because of their occupations.

AstraZeneca remains on the shelves

Doctors, nurses and other medical staff often reject AstraZeneca because the vaccine is believed to be less effective against the coronavirus mutations than the mRNA vaccines from BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna. Nationwide, only 87,000 of the 736,800 AstraZeneca vaccine doses delivered to date have been used, according to Germany's disease agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The sound of an engine disturbs the peace in front of the vaccination center. A shuttle bus approaches and drops off three young women, medical assistants who work in a Berlin doctor's office.

"I was skeptical about getting vaccinated with AstraZeneca," says one of the women, who has to show the security guards her invitation to get a vaccine and her appointment confirmation. She says her boss then provided her with comprehensive information and also referred to the positive opinion of Berlin-based virologist Christian Drosten.

"That convinced me," she explains, before boarding the shuttle bus that will take her to the vaccination center.



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The Vaccine that Nobody Wants

Fears of AstraZeneca Could Have Dangerous Consequences


Reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective that the ones from BioNTech and Moderna have fueled widespread reservations. Leading German health experts say they have faith in the company's product and that it is a key tool in the battle against COVID-19.

No, Michael Golke stresses, he’s not an anti-vaxxer. How could he be? He works as a nurse in a Berlin hospital and has been in the profession for more than 20 years, specializing in intensive care. But he finds it offensive what politicians are asking of him.

"How can it be that the very people who have been fighting COVID-19 directly every day for almost a year, and who clearly have a very high risk of infection, are supposed to be protected with a less effective vaccine?” asks Golke, who requested that his name be changed for this story. He says he also wrote and asked the same question of German Health Minister Jens Spahn and Dilek Kalayci, the Berlin state government’s leading health official. Using his real name.

The nurse was to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The product performed weaker in studies than the vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna. Golke declined the vaccine. And this week, he says, around 20 to 25 percent of his colleagues also rejected it.

In Germany, the vaccine from AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, is only recommended for people under 65 and has been deemed unsuitable for the elderly. It is instead being given to younger members of the group with the highest vaccination priority: Medical professionals and nurses.

"It’s sheer pragmatism,” says Golke. "I don’t expect any preferential treatment, but medical personnel should not be worse off than the general population.” He suspects that later, when more doses are available, the general population will receive a greater proportion of the more effective mRNA vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna.

Whether an injustice is really being done to Golke isn't the main issue. A lot has been asked of doctors and nurses in recent months and many of them are on edge, left with a feeling that politicians and society don't sufficiently value them. They also live with the constant fear of infection. And every patient expects the maximum level of care. Isn’t it only fair that they get the maximum possible protection?


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