E It's Good To Be A Guinea Pig

One of the readers of my posts suggested that the unknowns of the vaccine outweighed the unknowns of the virus. She was right. So, as I'm in a middling risk class (generally healthy 40-44 year-olds), I went and got myself a vaccination.

person in brown long sleeve shirt with white bandage on right hand

Then discovered one of the unknowns.

Three days after my second dose, I developed a nodule on a lymph node. This is quite normal for vaccinations and why women are not recommended to get mammograms within 9 weeks of certain vaccinations. Six days after my second dose, I woke up with both significant hearing loss and hyperacusis (uncomfortable sensitivity to certain frequencies) in my right ear. My wife is an audiologist. Sudden unilateral hearing loss has to be addressed immediately. The longer you wait, the greater the chance it becomes permanent. My wife has plenty of patients who have lost their hearing this way.

Within two hours, I was tested at her clinic and within an hour of that, I was at the ENT clinic at a major hospital. A few hours later and I was receiving treatment. It has been very successful, near as I can tell.

I'm not bringing this up to warn people about the vaccine. I would have done it anyway, I made the right call. Even knowing there's a risk of hearing loss, I would have done it. You play the cards you have based on the data you have - there's no other way to respond to the real-world. Especially when we have as many unknowns as we do right now. 

The fact is: biology is not only incredibly complex but unpredictable (like economics and other scientific areas that regularly defy modeling). This is why we rely on human trials and not simply computer models. Only in a situation like this, with a highly contagious and poorly understood virus, would we take the risks we are taking. 

This doesn't mean we shouldn't be taking them.

A few days after the hearing loss, I was talking to a doctor friend who mentioned she has seen a number of patients with Bell's Palsy after vaccination. She explained that, as the facial and hearing nerves run alongside each other, I might simply be having a slightly different response than they had. 

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Dean Gilmore 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Thanks for sharing.

William K. 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Thanks for an encouraging and educational post about a topic not directly financial, but very valuable. I really wonder about what sort of emergency treatment could bring about any recovery of the loss, and think that would be almost as valuable as lifesaving skills to know about. (VERY valuable, that is)

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

Heavy steroids reversed it. My hearing is a little damaged, but not much. Heavy steroids are the standard treatment. If it doesn't work, they move on to surgically introduced topical steroids. Once a few days have passed, though, nothing reverses it.

Angry Old Lady 4 weeks ago Member's comment

So the hearing loss wasn't temporary?

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

The vast majority of it was. I don't need hearing aids (and my wife is an audiologist and is not shy about telling people they do!) and am perfectly functional. I had a prior shooting notch that got a bit worse.

Harry Goldstein 4 weeks ago Member's comment

It sounds like you suffered from a very odd and rare, yet temporary negative side effect. Aren't you worried that this might scare away some from taking the vaccine? The vaccines are truly the only way we can get back to life as normal. But unfortunately, too many anti-vaxxers are spread fear mongering tales (mostly false) to scare people away.

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

I am not arguing not to get vaccinated! I did it and despite the weird side effect it was definitely the lower risk path and probably lower risk even post-facto in *my case*. I say probably because I have no idea what corona would have done and I don't know if I have any permanent hearing loss yet (not knowing is better than knowing!). I'm just pointing out that we will all be learning a lot. Pretending there is no chance of side effects, even permanent ones, doesn't make people trust you. It is just this sort of scientific badgering that results in quite the opposite - because you overstep your case in one area people won't trust you in others.

We didn't trial these things for long. There can be risks not as yet understood. I'm not yet giving it to my children - although I might.

Generally speaking, this approach is not without merit. Why not roll out mRNA treatments for cancer *now* and let people decide if they want them just as we are doing with Covid. Your chance of dying or suffering serious long-term consequences from all sorts of early-stage cancers (or CF) exceeds that of COVID. They have developed mRNA 'vaccines' to help. Why go through years of animal studies etc... Let early-stage cancer patients (when they'd probably do the most good) *choose* to take these treatments if they want. They too can be guinea pigs. This model is not a bad one and we could save millions if we cut a year off of the research process. It might fail in some cases, but if we're willing to take the risk with COVID - why not with melanoma or CF?

One more note: I don't know the urgency to convince people to vaccinate. People in poor health can take most of these vaccines, so you aren't protecting the weak or elderly (unlike herd immunity with measles or yellow fever). It seems to me that the only people threatened by a lack of vaccination are those not vaccinated. They are only, in the main, making the choice for themselves and others who choose not to vaccinate. The only other option is very high rates to stop evolution of the virus, but we are a long way from there. The developing world will need widespread access to get there.

Finally, I get the edge case where they infect some of the 5% not protected by the vaccine and odds are better if everybody is vaccinated. But that advantage is far smaller and in my mind not a justifiable reason to push people down what is still an experimental path. This is emergency use authorization for a number of reasons. For example, to take one of the most complex areas: there were no pregnant women in the trials, few people have conceived children after vaccination, none of those children have been born etc... There's still a lot to learn and although the chances of a problem are quite low as we understand the biology and the data so far - biology can be surprising.

If things continue as they are, I'll definitely let my kids take it in a year :)

Bottom line:

1) If you have even moderate risk, I'd take it.

2) Once everybody who wants a shot can have a shot, I'd get rid of any restrictions on the non-vaccinated.

3) We should start allowing this path for other dangerous and uncertain situations.

Michele Grant 4 weeks ago Member's comment

It's an interesting idea to let those suffering from cancer to be the guinea pigs for a cancer mRNA treatment. But with so much fake news trying to claim that Covid isn't real/serious or that the vaccines are worse than the disease, expanding that to cancer could be an uphill battle.

William K. 4 weeks ago Member's comment

My response about those spreading the lies is that famous quote: "You Can't Fix STUPID."

That is repeatedly demonstrated to be a profound truth, unfortunately.

Alexandra Gray 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Agreed. I don't understand why some people take some sort of sick pleasure in trying to put others' lives at risks by spreading lies about Covid health treatments.

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

All that said, I prefer an honest and full-disclosure discussion or risks rather than trying to sweep things under the rug in the name of convincing people you are convinced can't make decisions for themselves. The sweep-under-the-rug make everything line up perfectly approach does not yield compliance. It yields suspicion, doubt, anger and even revolt. That is why I am not the least bit concerned about people knowing I had a side effect. They should know. To hide it would be counterproductive - especially if you are pro-vaccine.

Despite this, so many people keep pushing the hide-all-the-warts sales approach on almost every kind of topic.

Alexandra Gray 4 weeks ago Member's comment

No one is saying to hide side effects. When you get the vaccine, they warn you about various side effects. The problem is that there are people trying to discourage others from getting the vaccine by making up stories. Like claiming that some people who are very much alive, died from the vaccine.

Ayelet Wolf 4 weeks ago Member's comment

This is true. I've even read that some anti-vaxxers are booking vaccine appointments and then not showing up so that the shots have to be thrown out since they've already been thawed. Plus others in desperate need of vaccines, can't find open appointments. It's pure evil.

Dick Kaplan 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Yes, I have quite a few friends who have shared fake news on Facebook and via email about the horrors of getting vaccinated. I've fact checked all and none have been true. That being said, I have no reason to doubt Mr. Cox's negative reaction, but as you pointed out, it was temporary and not of the "sky is falling variety."

That being said, something has to be done about the anti-vaxxers. Less than 10% of Americans have been vaccinated so far. We have a long way to go.

William K. 4 weeks ago Member's comment

The effective but rather brutal solution to the anti-vaxers is often called "natural selection", and sometimes rather effective.