A shot of truth: Naked Science reporting against vaccination myths

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A shot of truth: Naked Science reporting against vaccination myths
A shot of truth: Naked Science reporting against vaccination myths

We sent a person to the third phase of clinical trials of Sputnik V to see on the spot how things are going with vaccinations and to better understand how the general population will be vaccinated (“civil vaccination”). Are the doses of the drug being secured by the police like in the UK? Is it true that the elderly are not vaccinated, and 42 days after vaccination they should not drink? Do doctors really don't want to inject themselves with the vaccine? What is their opinion on its effectiveness? What are these "unwanted effects"? And, finally, what is really worth expecting from the large-scale vaccination that has begun in Russia?


Domestic media - and a number of foreign ones - have created a very strange picture of what is happening with vaccination against coronavirus in Russia and in the world. They often write there: the leaders of the vaccine race are the American companies Pfizer, Moderna and the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca. Sputnik-V is said to exist only in small numbers. And the announcement on vaccination, made by the Russian authorities, was announced by them only in order to "beat the Englishwoman" - to keep up with Great Britain, where, under police protection, so as not to be robbed on the way, 0.8 million units of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine have already been delivered.

In reality, there is none of this. Today, the leaders of the vaccine race are completely different players from other countries. More than a million injections of the drug for the prevention of Covid-19 were made by the real leader in this area - the Chinese Sinopharm (a vaccine based on a whole killed coronavirus, BBIBP-CorV).


The Russian authorities did not announce a mass vaccination against the coronavirus at all - neither to "beat the Englishwoman", nor for any other purpose. Moreover, there are still more coronavirus vaccines in our country per capita than in the UK. (This is about to change, though.) All of the above press statements are made because the journalists are mistaken: it was they who "renamed" the large-scale vaccination of only three categories of citizens (announced in reality) into mass vaccination in general ("announced" on the pages of the press). But, unfortunately, the media rarely apologize for mistakes.

This shows that any vaccination claims we come across in the press need to be rechecked. That is exactly what we did, deciding to go to Moscow polyclinic number *** as a voluntary participant in clinical trials of the Sputnik-V vaccine. It was necessary to look not as a media employee, but as a person "from the people" with whom doctors talk, without thinking about not "blurt out something superfluous."

But can this really be an obstacle to our senses?

We enter the building of the polyclinic number ***. At the entrance, everything seems to be serious: an employee of a medical institution holds the device to our wrist, checking for a temperature. One female visitor, however, famously dashes past this employee into the hospital hall - and without a mask. Following her, the question rushes: "Do you have a mask with you?" She replies: "Yes, I have it with me, I'll put it on now."

The Naked Science correspondent goes up to the floor where the participants in the third phase of clinical trials (CT) are being examined. The elevators in the clinic are few and far between. Therefore, climbing 20 meters up is faster to climb the stairs. And here we are at the counter where the CI participants should be registered.

A girl in a dressing gown looks at my health insurance policy with a complex mixture of feelings on her face:

- Oh, what an interesting specimen! I've never seen anyone like that.

“Antique, you might say,” I confirm. - I designed it somewhere in the zero years. Probably in Moscow, but I don't remember exactly.

- I have a completely different policy on your last name in my system. The numbers do not match: your paper policy is invalid, you need to issue a new one.

- But can this become an obstacle to my participation? I ask politely. The girl enters into my position, and they formalize me, despite the not quite valid policy.

I go to the doctor's office. Small roughness continues:

- But you are not attached to our clinic - and in general, it seems, to any.

“Not attached,” I agree. - Was in the clinic for the last time so long ago that I do not even remember in what year or decade.

- Okay, - the doctor surrenders, - we will arrange you like this.

What doctors themselves think about vaccine safety

Taking a moment, I ask:

- Did you yourself take part in the CI?

- No, I have already been ill with covid, as well as a significant part of the clinic staff.

- Would you like to accept it if you hadn't been ill? (I continue to unobtrusively pester with questions)

“This is a difficult question: there are always some risks with a new drug,” the girl replied.

- But in the vaccine from the new only adenovirus, which does not multiply, and after two weeks the vaccinated person cannot find the slightest trace of vaccination [except for a beneficial immune response]. What are the risks?

In the course of further dialogue, it turns out that the girl-doctor herself did not read the article on the safety of Sputnik-V in The Lancet, therefore her fears are of the most general plan, without any specific background.

Routine procedures are underway. They measure my pressure and ask: “What is your usual pressure? How much do you weigh?". “I don’t know,” I honestly answer both questions and, taking advantage of the doctor’s distraction during measurements and weighings, in between times I ask my own questions.

The girl seems to be questioning me, but in the end she gradually says that she personally has higher trust in Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines than in Sputnik, since these manufacturers have a good reputation. “But what about,” I ask, “the fact that Pfizer didn’t develop“their”vaccine at all, and this is the development of a company from another country?”

The doctor knows that the "American" vaccine marketed by Pfizer is actually created by a small company led by a couple of Turkish naturalized people in Germany (BioNTech). But this does not undermine her confidence. At the same time, she emphasizes, there are many people with different views among the hospital staff. Someone is waiting for the "satellite" vaccination, since the employees are already sending SMS with a proposal to take part in the civil vaccination.

As the doctor explains, "civilian" is called vaccination outside the framework of clinical trials - and the vaccine that was sent for this is called "introduced into civilian circulation." Contrary to what they write in the media, the lady in a white coat continues, civil vaccination has been going on for a long time, since autumn, but it is difficult for her to judge how massively. (For reference: from open sources it is known that in total at the beginning of December, vaccinated in Russia - a little less than 200 thousand).

What Doctors Think of Restrictions on Vaccinates

I keep asking questions.

- In the hallway I saw a man with hearing problems. He looks much more than 60, but in the media everywhere they write that the vaccine is not tested on the elderly, how so?

The doctor is unperturbed:

- They write something in the media all the time.


However, in fact, people over 60 are quite part of those on whom the vaccine is tested. The doctor herself saw among the participants those who, according to the document, are over 80 (by the way, the vaccine developers themselves, and not only they, say the same thing).

- Listen, maybe then the rest of what they write about the vaccine is not true? - Imitating a spark of curiosity in my eyes. - For example, I just turned to stone when I saw the words of Deputy Prime Minister Golikova that because of vaccination you shouldn't drink for 42 days. Is it even true?


The girl smiles slightly - under the mask, but this is visible on the skin around her eyes:

“She didn't say anything like that. You can't drink for three days before and after vaccination, this is clearly written in the informed consent that you signed.

“There are so many letters…” I depict a slipping of my face without giving a thought, I have to assure a specialist that I have not really read the papers.


- It says (and signed by you) that throughout the study, alcohol should be limited so that it is not excessive. As well as smoking - ten cigarettes a day. And there it is written: it is desirable to limit. Not "no".

- But ten Superlights is one story, and ten Kemels is another. And then, what does "excessive alcohol consumption" mean? How much is it in liters per day?

“You don’t smoke anyway,” the girl retorted. - And yes, it's a strange phrase about ten cigarettes, but it was not we who wrote it, but the Gamaleya Institute. Well, about "how much is it in liters" - the main thing is that you do not fall. If you fall, then it is definitely excessive. In general, this is all reinsurance of those who arrange tests. As far as I know, there are no such restrictions in the CI of Western vaccines, including AstraZeneca, and the mechanism of the drug is the same there, vector. It is clear that the situation should be the same - they just did not reinsure themselves.

Lack of volunteers and "unwanted effects"

Three days later I appear in the same clinic for the injection itself, already on another floor, and talk to another doctor - older, but prettier. She repeats the same list of questions and procedures, while questions from my side are being distributed.

- Tell me, in the western KI, judging by what they write, the vacancies ran out very quickly, while Sputnik's third phase has been dragging on for three months, but there are still vacancies for volunteers. Why is that?

The doctor did not hide that everything is so:

- Yes, we have about a third of places (about 13 thousand out of 40 thousand) not occupied, there is no excitement, you can see for yourself: we now have fewer research visitors than employees, no queues. The reason is difficult to understand - perhaps many are waiting for civilian vaccination.

- But there are only a couple of million vaccines so far, this is barely enough for doctors and teachers. And that while without a second dose. When will people wait for the civil one?

The doctor agrees, but she cannot accurately understand the mysterious shortage of participants in clinical trials.

- Perhaps, - I suggest hypotheses, - people are afraid of undesirable effects, which they write about in the article in The Lancet on the second phase of the CI "Sputnik"?

The doctor notes that if this is so, then the fears are hardly justified. Most of the participants in the trials she works with do not notice any unwanted or side effects at all. They had a lot of employees of the polyclinic participating in clinical trials, starting with the chief physician. They went to participate in the CT because it was possible to get the vaccine with a 75% chance even before the civil vaccination for doctors began. To find out if they got placebos or vaccines, doctors took an antibody test after the injection. Despite the fact that most received the vaccine, no one had any unwanted effects.

Do doctors and healthcare professionals believe in the effectiveness of the vaccine?

- Tell me, - I continue to clarify, - these are the vaccinated doctors who have not received a placebo, go outside without masks?

The doctor confirms my guess.

- Why is the first doctor with whom I spoke three days ago, although she was ill, but wears a mask?


As they explain to me, the fact is that recurrent diseases of Covid-19 are a reality, albeit rare. From this it is clear that not all those who have been ill have really stable immunity, so it is better for them to take precautions.

- And the vaccine gives more stable immunity, do you think? - imitate disbelief in my voice. A lady in a white coat explains to me that the coronavirus itself is able to partially suppress the body's immune system, but the protein of its “thorn” that appears in our body after an injection can only “train” immunity to fight the virus.Therefore, yes, immunity from the vaccine should be more stable than after the disease, and vaccinated doctors often go without any masks.


During the vaccination itself, I am left alone with the nurse. I ask her the same questions as the doctor. She notes that she really wanted to take part in the vaccination, but received a "medical withdrawal": for health reasons, she takes serious hormonal drugs, although she personally thinks that such a medical withdrawal is a kind of reinsurance of the vaccine developers.

After the injection, they leave me in the room for 15 minutes, and the nurse leaves. Everything - from the refrigerator with the vaccine to computers and boxes of documents - looks open and quite accessible. However, I did not check. Not very similar to the way the vaccine is being guarded in the UK, where 0.8 million "phaser" doses were transported under police protection.

Beyond reporting

While we were portraying a participant in clinical trials - and, as you know, you can only portray someone qualitatively by becoming one - the media worked tirelessly, continuing to breed myths like "Golikova said that because of vaccination you shouldn't drink for 42 days." This time, Medusa was born with false information. In response to the Kremlin’s official statement that there are already two million doses of vaccine in Russia at the beginning of December (and no less will be produced in December), the publication released a material where it stated that the number of vaccines was completely different.

Since Meduza did not find any normal sources - only anonymous and, we must admit, extremely stupid - how many doses were actually produced, she has not decided. One anonymous source claims to have released 0.5 million kits of a couple of doses as of early December (one million doses in total). Another - that the first doses have already been produced in millions, and how many second doses - no one knows.


In an amicable way, in a country with a decent press, such materials should not be published. When you have two anonymous sources that call directly opposite numbers (one million doses or millions of doses are different things), and you cannot even decide which of these sources is reliable, then you, being of sound mind, either will not publish the data one of them whom you estimate as less reliable, or, if you cannot judge their reliability, you will not oppose your anonymous authors. At least one of which is clearly wrong - after all, two conflicting versions cannot be true at the same time.

Alas, in our country it is often believed that the phrase our "anonymous source reported" gives a 100% indulgence. And that after it you can write everything, including statements that clearly contradict each other and common sense.

Such a devaluation of anonymous sources is dangerous: in fact, even if tomorrow an anonymous source, in fact close to the authorities, brings a new Watergate to the Russian journalist "in the beak", there will be zero sense. Irresponsible “revelations” of anonymous sources of “Meduza” and others have led to the fact that the public no longer has serious confidence in such sources. Even if they are used by more conscientious publications.

The question may arise: what about the fact that you yourself do not name the number of the clinic and the names of the doctors, since none of them knew what would become the character of the reportage? Why are these not anonymous sources? The answer to this question is twofold. Firstly, if we are forced by the court, then we will name them (but "Medusa", for example, not). Secondly, we illustrated the words of doctors about alcohol and other pictures from the vaccination instructions.

What's in the bottom line?

The vaccine is certainly being tested in older people, contrary to press stories. Which, in general, is logical given the fact that the Hamaley developers themselves, who were vaccinated with it in the spring, are more than 90 years old in age. Most doctors trust the vaccine - and even more than the natural immunity of those who have been ill.


Tales about “42 days not to drink” are entirely on the conscience - in other words, they are hanging in the air - of those of our media that are known for their carelessness.No one protects the drug, which means that no one is stealing it. And this is also logical: considering the colossal shortage of volunteers, which for three (!) Months has not allowed recruiting the required number of people for the third phase of the CI "Sputnik".

At first glance, the situation is paradoxical. As we already wrote, Russia is now losing about the same number of people per day from the epidemic as it lost in the Battle of Stalingrad. Nevertheless, those who wish with a 75 percent probability to get protection from coronavirus and get rid of masks (if the test shows the presence of antibodies) are in short supply.


How can it be? The most likely answer is simple: the population does not believe the media, but believes that "there is no smoke without fire" (although it is the Russian press that is the greatest master of such "smoke"). Therefore, the vaccine is considered "under-tested" (although in the UK the vaccine from Pfizer was adopted at exactly the same stage of testing) and they themselves are not eager to inject it. In theory, a good school education could help: knowledge of a basic biology course is enough to understand why a vaccine without a pathogen - such as "Sputnik" - is safe.

But what is not, that is not: we are not China, where, according to polls, more than 90% of the population are ready to get vaccinated. Our education and upbringing is not like the Han. In the PRC, and before the epidemic, the position of anti-vaccinators has never been as strong as in Russia - and now, in the year of the coronavirus, we pay dearly for this vulnerability.

Moreover, people who are not ready to be vaccinated can sometimes be among doctors who do not think about the fact that there are no long-term consequences from vaccines without a pathogen. The thing is that doctors, like many scientists, are very narrowly specialized. Therefore, as we have already written more than once, outside of their sphere of specialization, a number of them know little, which is why they made clearly erroneous statements throughout the epidemic.

Is there a way out of such a shortage of people willing to inject? Yes, definitely. If the range of vaccinations to be vaccinated is quickly expanded to cover the general population, then any number of vaccines that Russia can actually produce in the coming months can be used.


Yes, about half of our fellow citizens are not ready to get vaccinated - the "anti-satellite" campaign (which is typically free and sincere) in the Russian media has done its job. But even a third of the adult population is 30-40 million. The most vulnerable part of them is over working age, and there are over 37 million of them in the country. Fortunately, these same people are the least likely to listen to the most "anti-satellite" media. That is, if they are allowed to be vaccinated, there will be no shortage of applicants for a long time.

Will the authorities take such a step? Will they be able to quickly understand that too many do not want to be vaccinated? These are all big questions. Throughout the epidemic, our authorities have repeatedly shown their inability to fully understand the peculiarities of the mentality of their people. Let's hope they react faster this time.

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