[Column] Vaccines and traitors to their country

Posted on : 2020-11-03 16:31 KST Modified on : 2020-11-03 16:31 KST
To undermine vaccines is to undermine the security of our state

A virus doesn’t have eyes. All it does is send copies of itself to other hosts.

The speed and scale with which a virus spreads are based on the principles of epidemiology. The freer the activity of infected hosts, the faster the virus spreads, infecting a greater number of people.

The first principle of controlling an infectious disease, therefore, is blocking as many points of contact as possible. There are no exceptions to that principle. If South Korea can’t maintain social distancing measures, it will find itself in the same situation as the US or Japan.

A virus is a foreign substance that spreads according to precise epidemiological principles. Public opinion isn’t enough to stop such a virus; society must be run for a time by reason.

Articles about fatalities after vaccination are mostly spread by the conservative newspapers. Those articles cleverly misrepresent the statistics by only talking about the number of deaths.

Let’s put on our thinking caps. Fifteen million people have already been inoculated with the flu vaccine, representing one third of the population. The number of daily deaths in South Korea is around 770; there are 36 suicides every day.

But only 59 people have died after receiving the flu vaccine, and 46 of those deaths had nothing to do with the vaccine. Scientifically speaking, dying after vaccination and dying because of an adverse reaction to vaccination mean completely different things.

Jeong Jae-hun, a professor at Gachon University’s College of Medicine, draws the following deductions in a paper titled “Concerns About Deaths Occurring After Influenza Vaccination and Scientific Understanding.”

The misrepresentation of statistics regarding vaccine deaths

“There are 300,000 deaths in South Korea every year. [. . .] We can assume that about a thousand people will die every day in October. Assuming that the national inoculation rate for the flu is around 50%, and assuming that inoculations are given for a period of two months, about 1% of the population is being inoculated every day. Setting aside considerations of age and gender, we might expect there to be about 10 deaths within a day of inoculation, 10 being 1% of the 1,000 people who die on average each day.”

Kim Myeong-hui, a senior analyst with the People’s Health Institute, offers the following explanation.

“Let’s assume there’s a side effect that occurs about once in a million people. That kind of side effect probably wouldn’t be observed in the third phase of clinical trials. Obviously, it would be an extremely rare side effect. But if 20 million people get inoculated, we can infer statistically that there will be 20 people who experience that side effect. While we need to make vaccines as safe as possible, it’s a lie to say they’re perfectly safe.”

It’s not just vaccines, of course. None of the medications that people take in the modern world — not even aspirin — are completely safe.

To be sure, part of this uproar is due to the inexperience of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). KDCA Director Jung Eun-kyeong ruffled a lot of feathers when she noted that 1,500 elderly individuals had died within seven days of being inoculated last year.

But that’s exactly what makes her leadership so valuable. I’m talking about her commitment to communicating only the exact scientific facts, without any political judgments, in a national crisis situation.

Undermining trust in vaccines is threatening our survival as a country

The parties responsible for inciting fear are the conservative newspapers that churn out articles without analyzing the statistics or checking the science and the Korean Medical Association, which provides those newspapers with an authoritative veneer.

The development of vaccines falls within the realm of science, but the application of vaccines to control disease is more a matter of social trust. In their eagerness to slam the current administration, the conservative press and the KMA are undermining social trust in vaccines, a trust that’s necessary for the survival of the state. In short, they’re betraying the country.

We need to pay attention to how the great country of the US is falling apart during the COVID-19 pandemic. If anyone ever wondered how the US could at once be a high-tech powerhouse and the epicenter of creation science and the anti-vaccination movement, the pandemic provides the answer.

We’re witnessing the full range of catastrophe that can occur when science is estranged from our lives and ignored by political parties. The conservative press and the KMA are attempting to make South Korea like the US. While Koreans often hold up the US as a model, surely this isn’t the right time for such emulation.

Vaccines are the final line of defense by which science protects society. When social trust in vaccines collapses, all that we’ve worked so hard to build will collapse along with it.

Korea has the world’s highest level of trust in vaccines, with an average inoculation rate of 97.2%. The US only has an inoculation rate of 86.9%.

If vaccines are lost, the country is lost. I can only trust the Korean people to use their reason.

Kim Jae-woo
Kim Jae-woo

By Kim Jae-woo, geneticist

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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