I am not a doctor. I have a degree in computer science and have a love of probability. Please read accordingly.
There’s a famous puzzle among math fans called the “Monty Hall” problem, that indicates how poorly most of us understand probability.
Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
Most people think it doesn’t matter if you switch because there are 2 doors and your odds are 50/50. If you think that you don’t understand probability.
I’m lucky in that my dad is a scientist and I grew up with a reverence for science and math. As my studies continued, so did my love of mathematics and probability and I have a mathematician’s fascination with gambling. I own a craps table and a blackjack table as well as a holder for a six deck shoe.
I’m also a Liberty activist. I’m currently the Executive Director of People For Liberty. I’ve been the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party, Political Director for the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts, and a Libertarian candidate at the Federal, State and Local level. I’m a gun owner. I have grown my own cannabis and shared it with friends. I have removed tags from mattresses.
And I am vaccinated. In fact, I rushed to get vaccinated. As someone who is overweight and has an underlying lung issue (if you’ve ever had a conversation with me you’ll notice I cough and clear my throat more than the average person) I didn’t want to take the chance to find out what COVID would do to me.
I understand the math.
Not everyone does, but there’s nothing I can ethically do about that. My ethics will not allow me to use force against another person, except in self-defense. As a result, even though I think people are foolish to not get vaccinated (absent a medical reason why they shouldn’t), I will never support the government forcing people to get vaccinated.
Recognizing the number of foolish things I have done myself, I do not support the use of force to prevent people from being foolish or making poor choices. To me the very ESSENCE of liberty is the freedom to make your own choices. Often a choice that appears foolish to others may be right for you. Certainly the government has put out a lot of false information about products that were safe, making them appear dangerous, and products that were dangerous, making them appear safe.
But we don’t have to trust the government when we have data.
There are many examples of people not understanding math and consequences. If people truly understood the math of saving and investing over time, we wouldn’t have a Social Security Administration. If more people understood that 99% availability meant unavailable 3.5 days every year we might have different standards regarding reliability.
And perhaps the nicest thing about math is that it’s dispassionate. The numbers don’t lie. It’s crystal clear that for the vast majority of people, getting vaccinated makes them safer. At the beginning of July, the CDC announced that 99.5% of all COVID deaths now are unvaccinated people.
Let’s try to truly understand that math. It does NOT say that if you contract COVID you have a 99.5% chance of dying if you are unvaccinated. The best figures suggest that 98% of people survive COVID.
Some people are going to argue that COVID deaths are overreported, some are going to argue that they are underreported. In my mind, it makes sense to believe the numbers are as accurate as people can make them, and it makes sense to make decisions on those numbers. The numbers reported are guaranteed to not be 100% accurate, because of the nature of how something like this is counted — but it is very unlikely to be significantly wrong. A person who understands math knows that you should make your calculation based on the best information available.
On July 1st, there were 604,832 reported total deaths from COVID in the US. On August 1st there were 613,228. A net change of 8396. So 1% is 84, .5% is 42. Applying that 99.5% of deaths were unvaccinated, 42 people who died in the US from COVID were vaccinated and 8354 were not.
So let’s look at the important numbers here. In June 224,515 deaths were reported in the US. That’s a big number but it’s less than 1 person in 1000 of the 333 million people who live in the US. And the number of people who died in june from COVID is roughly 1 out of every 50,000. And indeed age makes a difference. But people die, and age makes a difference there too. The older you are, the more likely you are to die. According to the CDC numbers in the chart above, 5.6% of the people between 45 and 54 died from COVID, while only 2% of the people over 85 who died, did so due to COVID.
Of course there is a risk associated with a vaccine too. Vioxx was completely approved by the FDA, and passed all testing. 20 million Americans took Vioxx and 88,000 people suffered heart attacks from it and 38,000 died before it was recalled. Approval by the FDA is no guarantee of safety. The FDA fast tracked approval of the vaccines, bypassing government required safeguards that are normally in place, deeming this an emergency situation.
But injecting (if you’ll forgive the pun) the FDA into the conversation makes it more political, so let’s focus on the numbers. There have been zero deaths verified by the CDC associated with the mRNA vaccines and only 3 deaths from blood clots associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. More than 187 million people in the US have been vaccinated against COVID. There also have been reports that the J&J vaccine may make a person more likely to come down with Guillain-Barre syndrome. The numbers are so low that they are mathematically difficult to evaluate. And contracting COVID-19 may increase the risk of Guillain-Barre.
Other side effects are being reported, and in fact the US has a great system for this — VAERS. It is monitored by both health professionals as well as the public. There is intense scrutiny on the health of vaccinated people. It should be noted that during the Pfizer clinical trials 6 people from the sample set of 44,000 died — but 4 of those had been given the placebo and not the vaccine.
The CDC has not confirmed any cases of people becoming infertile from the vaccine. While some people experience stronger side effects than others, there have been very few documented cases of ANY serious consequences other than the aforementioned blood clots, and since the J&J vaccine was paused and evaluated, there have been no further incidences of blood clots reported. There is some evidence that a very few people will experience heart problems, and other side effects that may indeed arise. It’s critical that we be aware of them and make an informed decision.
So here’s the basic math. The flat out truth is that your risk of dying from COVID is very low. In fact your risk of contracting COVID is also very low — only about 1 in 10 people in the US have had COVID so far, and of course you can’t get it if you’re not exposed to it. And even if you were exposed to it, you’ve got a (roughly) 98% chance of surviving, modified a bit by how old you are.
On the other hand, if you are infected, you can spread the infection to someone else. If you are not infected, you can’t. If you are vaccinated, even if you are in contact with someone who is infected, you are extremely unlikely to become ill even if the virus passes from them to you. For most people your vaccinated body is a COVID killing machine and quickly eliminates any virus particles that gain purchase there. Your being vaccinated protects everyone you could infect should you come into contact with the virus.
Are there some breakthrough cases, where people who have been vaccinated still get sick and become infectious? Yes. The CDC reported 6,587 COVID-19 breakthrough cases as of July 26, including 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths. At that time, more than 163 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That means the vaccine is 99.999% effective at preventing death.
There are of course plenty of very good reasons for some people to not get vaccinated. People who are allergic to certain chemicals need to be careful about getting vaccinated.
And some people may, for a variety of reasons, choose to think that the numbers behind these analyses are all part of a larger conspiracy. They may think that governments around the world are conspiring to present false data to lead people like me to make a mathematical argument as to why the vaccine is worth the risk. It is important that everyone accept that they could be wrong. I could be wrong too.
For the people who truly believe a world wide conspiracy had to go to such elaborate steps as faking a pandemic in order to inject a chemical into your body or to get you to accept increased government powers, I would ask that you respect others abilities to choose for themselves just as you wish your own decisions of body autonomy be respected.
Let’s talk about another risk reward scenario — seatbelts. How often do you drive in a car? How many accidents have you been in? How many times has a seatbelt saved your life? For most of us, it’s never. Of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019 in the US, 47% were not wearing seat belts. Of course that means 53% WERE wearing seat belts. But it’s safe to assume those that died in a crash while wearing seatbelts would have died if they hadn’t been wearing seatbelts. We’ve all heard an anecdotal story about a person who died in a car crash because they were unable to extricate themselves from their seat belt. There are even people who make money selling special seat belt slicers. So there are certainly people who believe that there are significant negative side effects possible from wearing a seat belt.
When seat belts came out, was there an outcry that they were a government conspiracy? Certainly many liberty organizations fought against the idea of seatbelt laws, but I don’t know of anyone who felt that seatbelts themselves were part of a government conspiracy.
I don’t support laws requiring people to wear seatbelts either. I think you’re CRAZY to not wear a seatbelt, but you not wearing a seatbelt is you making a choice about your body that doesn’t affect me. I won’t use force. I won’t ask police officers to arrest you for choices you make that only affect you. And the government should never tell a business to deny you entry based on your vaccination status.
You have to be the one to weigh the risks vs. the rewards. That means truly understanding the probabilities involved. I urge you to verify every number I’ve listed here. Do your own research. I think if you examine the risks, you’ll see that the risk of contracting COVID is much greater and the consequences much worse than the risk of getting vaccinated. You may however come to a different conclusion, and only you can choose what is right for you.
And I won’t force you to get vaccinated. I’ll ask you to. In fact I’ll plead with you to get vaccinated just based on the math. But I’ll also defend your right to not get vaccinated. And I’ll fight with you to prevent the creation of laws or executive orders that create crimes out of behaviors that have no victims. I will stand up for your complete bodily autonomy. No law should affect what you choose to put into your body or take out of it. You have the right to determine how and when you exit this mortal coil.
Today the Mayor of New York City announced a plan to require some businesses to only admit people with proof of vaccination. I’m opposed to this too. If a business wants to only admit vaccinated people, that’s up to the owner. I can see how some businesses might think it’s a good business model to only admit the vaccinated. I can see how some businesses might think it’s a good business model to admit everyone. The Free Market can sort this out quickly.
I hope everyone who can safely do so arrives at the same decision I did based on the numbers: that it is much safer to get vaccinated. I hope the virus is eliminated as quickly as possible, and I believe that vaccinations speed up that timetable. And I truly hope people learn how to use math to evaluate risk vs reward and make wiser choices in their lives. And I hope the government doesn’t force anyone to get vaccinated and does not mandate discrimination based on vaccination status.