On the Covid Vaccinations

19
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By Dr. Daniel Berman

Baruch Hashem, Covid 19 is almost completely gone from the frum communities for now. In the whole country, cases are plummeting. There still are sporadic cases, even in the frum communities, although they are rare.

The most common questions now being asked in our communities relate to the issue of

vaccination, especially for children and young adults. There is reluctance in our communities to vaccinate this group, based on hashkafic and/or halachic grounds, as well as for medical concerns. Although I am not qualified to respond to questions regarding the former, I believe that there are a number of medical points that need clarification. My hope is that with the correct medical information, rabbonim and rabbeim answering shailos whether or not to vaccinate can give the proper guidance.

There is a broad consensus that the vaccines have played a huge role in the present decline of Covid 19. The State of Israel was the first country in the world to vaccinate the majority of its population and Covid 19 has just about disappeared from Israel. As the number of vaccinated grow in the United States, cases of Covid 19 are falling rapidly.

Understandably, some might claim that the declining numbers are unrelated to the vaccines. They can argue that in 2020, the ferocious onslaught of Covid 19 that occurred during the Purim-Pesach period was followed by several months of almost no cases. During that time, the feeling of “we’re done” prevailed. There were no vaccinations available at the time. However, after Tisha B’av, and particularly in Elul, going through Sukkos, there were large outbreaks in our communities. Fortunately, these outbreaks did not take the same toll on lives as the first one, but there were significant losses and disruptions of normal life for families, shuls, and yeshivas. It seemed that the outbreaks started in Simchas and quickly spread through the communities.

Excluding vaccines from the equation, there is sufficient reason to be concerned about the possibility of Covid 19 returning, albeit to a smaller extent, to our communities. Although there is a prevailing feeling that “everyone had it,” there still is a susceptible segment of the population who have evaded infection to this point. I cannot predict what kind of personal and communal disruption such potential outbreaks could cause, but suffice it to say that these strains pose tremendous challenges for our community, especially in regards to yeshivos and schools, and consequently to family life and parnossah, and I believe that there is enough basis for concern.

Before discussing the vaccines in more detail, it should be pointed out that natural immunity in those previously infected, although not perfect, has been quite effective. There were a number of cases of second infections that were occurring, especially in February and March of this year, but none of the cases appeared to be too serious. I have personally consulted on many hundreds of patients with Covid 19 at Montefiore Einstein Medical Center. Only one of those many hundreds had had Covid 19 once before, and she was quickly discharged after a relatively mild illness. For now, the immunity is still lasting even from Purim of 2020, in preventing serious illness and second cases, for the most part. This has, Baruch Hashem, been a crucial source of immunity for many in our communities since last Purim and Pesach.

Similarly, it is quite clear that the vaccines have been extremely effective in preventing serious illness.  I have not seen a single fully vaccinated individual come into the hospital with a serious new infection. One can argue that the vaccines entered the Bronx (Einstein Hospital) population when cases were already falling on their own and that the absence of serious illness relates to a natural fall in cases. However, the drop in serious cases has correlated so closely to vaccination rates in every vaccine study in a consistent manner and in the countries where vaccines were most available (Israel, United Kingdom, and the United States), that it is difficult to deny a causal relationship. In Europe, where the availability of vaccinations lagged, Covid 19 infections continued to spread, until the vaccines became available. Infection rates started to decline from that point.

Like natural immunity, vaccination does not prevent all infections. Indeed, of the first 100 million vaccinated individuals in the United States, 10,000 became infected with Covid 19. However, almost all of them have reported to be mild cases. Furthermore, this number was a 90% reduction from the number of cases among those who were not vaccinated.

The key to preventing a resurgence of Covid 19 is to have no place for the virus to attack and then spread, when sporadic cases enter our communities. Naturally immune and vaccinated individuals block the virus from infiltrating. The term that is used to describe this is “herd immunity,” which does not have an absolute figure. Numbers are thrown around as to what percentage of the population needs to be immune for “herd immunity” to exist. Whatever the numbers are, they are much higher for the frum Jewish communities, which has so much more interaction among individuals within communities and with outside communities.

The reluctance to vaccinate emanates somewhat from the fear of putting into the body something that is so new, which is reasonable, but primarily from a proliferation of false and distorted information. In our world of social media, one human being on the planet can invent an idea that spreads around the world more quickly than the virus itself. For example, the leading fear is that of infertility issues. There is absolutely no basis for this. There is not even a plausible biologic theory to account for such a possibility. Many readers will question this. How could it be that something that they have heard so many times from different people not have some basis? The truth is, there is no basis.

Can there be unrecognized long-term side effects?  It is extremely unlikely. In the history of vaccines, complications have been always discovered within a few months, as in the case with the Covid 19 vaccines. Long-term side effects have never been associated with vaccines. There is confusion with medications, not vaccines, that can cause complications that are only discovered years later. There is no reason to think that this one vaccine is any different.

People are also concerned about a new technology in vaccines using messenger RNA. The technology actually began more than 10 years ago with SARS-1. It is a fascinating new technology that might introduce new vaccines and improve older ones. Instead of vaccinating with a live or killed vaccine, we are using the genetic fingerprint, in the form of messenger RNA, of one protein of the virus to produce the protein in the body and induce an immune response. The messenger RNA is immediately destroyed by the body once the protein is made.

With regard to real adverse effects, blood clots, including in the brain, have been related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They occurred only in women aged 18-48 and were rare. Furthermore, at this point the condition is recognized and almost always treated effectively.

Myocarditis has been reported, especially in young men. Again, the incidence is rare, and almost all of the cases have been mild. There is not been a single death in the United States related to this. Almost all of the individuals with myocarditis have recovered uneventfully.

Over one billion individuals have been vaccinated on our planet. The incidence of serious side effects has been incredibly small. With the rapid spread of information in our world, rare events are highly publicized and create tremendous anxiety.

All medical decisions should be made based upon a careful and accurate risk versus benefit analysis. The resistance to vaccination is from the parents of children and young adults primarily. It is understandable for one to come to a conclusion that any risk is not worth it to prevent an illness that is so mild and not life-threatening to children and young adults. The CDC reported that from January through March 31, 2021, although many adolescents were infected, not a single one died.

In evaluating benefit, I believe it is extremely important for as many people as possible to be immune so that the virus does not have a place to “land.” We do not want to have the inconveniences and hardships caused by outbreaks to families, schools, and yeshivos. We want learning and Simchas to continue without any interruptions. We want all of the Bubbies and Zeidies to be present at simchos without worrying about getting sick. We also cannot ignore loss or distortion of taste and smell, a common symptom of COVID 19, which has affected a significant number of young people, lasting even until now, which likely can be avoided with vaccination.

It might be that it’s “over.” However, the virus is not gone and with increased travel, it can easily come back and spread through non-immune individuals. In making a careful and accurate assessment of risk versus benefit for individuals and for Klal Yisroel, we should understand what the actual risks are and not what they are perceived to be. With an accurate understanding of the medical risks and benefits, I strongly believe that the conclusion should be that we should get everyone who is not yet immune, including children and young adults, vaccinated. Although I defer to rabbonim and rabbeim for the ultimate decisions on these matters, I encourage those with lingering doubts to have the correct facts before making a passive decision which could have ripple effects upon our communities. For those with natural immunity, whether or not to get vaccinated is for another discussion. We should not allow the virus to have a chance to disrupt our lives again.

Dr. Berman is an infectious disease specialist.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry, Doc. Although COVID has destroyed just about everything good in this world, there is one thing that came out really good! And that is that people have finally started questioining the medical establishment from the WHO, FDA, CDC and our good doctors that follow them blindly. While doctors were pushing masks, hand washing and social distancing, they should have also been pushing how to strengthen the immune system which the medical establishment in general did not do since they were never trained how. People saw through this and have therefore started to think for themselves. Finally……People started reading Childrenshealthdefense.org etc to see the news and science the medical establishment and media are burying without addressing as is evident from this article that didn’t even discuss the VAERS…..

  2. So are we to believe that Hashem has no control over this mageifa?! Is it cut and dry? Take the vaccine – live, don’t take the vaccine, die? Wear a mask live, don’t wear a mask die? Daven inside a Shul – die, daven in an outside minyan in the parking lot – live? There are no gzeiros on Rosh Hashanah anymore? No more me yichyeh & me yamus?! No more bas kol that comes out and says how long a person will live?! All these grosser aitzos border on kefira r”l! We’ve seen this already with the so-called shidduch “crisis” and age-gap hoax, where it was out of the Aibishter’s control, and thanx to us humans we were able to bail the Aibishter out r”l! All these cutting edge experts and cutting edge rabbanim are bent misleading those of us who are yireim vishlaimim. Raina emuna and bitachon are out the window and now our new heroes are these modern day erev rav r”l.

    • Bitachon comes with hishtadlus, many did like Rebbi Shimon ve’lo olso beyodom. If you hold yourself to be on such a high level of bitachon, then you’re the man, if not, you’re asking for trouble.

  3. Dr. Berman is right. Not that he needs me to tell him. I have conferred with scientists who definitely in a higher pay grade. They have all said exactly what Dr. Berman has. There is zero possibility of effect on fertility. Side effects from long-term COVID or much more common and can be much more severe than the side effects of the vaccine. BTDT on both fronts.

    חכמה בגויים טעמין
    The scientists were given wisdom by הקדוש ברוך הוא and to question that is as much אפיקורסות as anything else. Yes. He brought the mageifa and He will take it away. But nes comes through teva. Accept it.

    Vaccines save lives. Always have and will continue to.

  4. Absence of proof doesn’t constitute proof of absence.
    But in fact there is loads of proof that these injections affect fertility. For anyone to ignore the reports of irregular cycles, missed cycles, too-short cycles, never-ending cycles or post-menopausal cycles after taking the injections is blatant irresponsibility and contrary to halacha. Unlike the goyim we don’t have the option of fooling around with our fertility. We have a mitzvah of p’ru u’rvu and cannot risk anything that may come between us and fulfilling that mitzvah.

  5. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-vaccines/advice

    WHO SHOULD GET VACCINATED

    The COVID-19 vaccines are safe for most people 18 years and older, including those with pre-existing conditions of any kind, including auto-immune disorders. These conditions include: hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver and kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled.

    If supplies are limited in your area, discuss your situation with your care provider if you:

    Have a compromised immune system
    Are pregnant (if you are already breastfeeding, you should continue after vaccination)
    Have a history of severe allergies, particularly to a vaccine (or any of the ingredients in the vaccine)
    Are severely frail
    Children should not be vaccinated for the moment.

    There is not yet enough evidence on the use of vaccines against COVID-19 in children to make recommendations for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults. However, children should continue to have the recommended childhood vaccines.

  6. This essay is so full of lies and deceptions and — yes, I am using their word “disinformation,” — that yesterday, when I first saw it, I absolutely did not want to lower myself to to have to take the time to answer its sick propaganda. So, Chatasi Mazkir HaYom – Today, I admit my sin, that is what I did; all day yesterday and all through last night, I did not write any response to this article. Of course, though, I was wrong, for while, of course, it is certainly terrible that ANY person should have to take his or her time to answer such bunk, as this propaganda IS there before us, it does need to be answered.

    Therefore, I am greatly heartened that, Boruch Hashem, three people did post here three comments so far about the opinion piece, in which they said some pretty sharp words against it that definitely needed to be said. B’Ezras Hashem, I will se what I can write.

  7. This essay is so full of lies and deceptions and — yes, I am using their word — “disinformation,” that, yesterday, when I first saw it, I absolutely did not want to lower myself to have to take the time to answer its sick propaganda. So, Chatasi Mazkir HaYom – Today, I admit my sin, that is what I did; all day yesterday and all through last night, I did not write any response to this article. Of course, though, I was wrong, for while, of course, it is certainly terrible that ANY person should have to take his or her time to answer such bunk, as this propaganda IS there before us, it does need to be answered.

    Therefore, I am greatly heartened that, Boruch Hashem, three people did post here three comments so far about the opinion piece, in which they said some pretty sharp words against it that definitely needed to be said. B’Ezras Hashem, I will see what I can write.

  8. B’Ezras Hashem, I will start with quoting the beginning of paragraph 12: “People are also concerned about a new technology in vaccines using messenger RNA. The technology actually began more than 10 years ago with SARS-1.” Now, this particular line: “The technology actually began more than 10 years ago with SARS-1,” is correct, as this mRNA technology is not quite as “new” as we think it is, for they have been working on it for the last decade. HOWEVER, he does not mention one “little” fact: that in all these 10 years of work on it, they FAILED, repeatedly, in their attempts to make it into a vaccine. For every time they tried to try out their concoction on some animals, the animals died!! This time around (in 2020 with the Covid thing) though, they brilliantly “solved” that problem: they skipped the tests on animals!! (However, in the tests they ran on humans, they did not escape trouble; most of the people got sick when taking one dose, EVERYONE got sick when taking two doses, and a few people died too. Despite those obvious problems though, they still said that “everything” checked out with the new vaccines “A.O.K.”)

  9. B’Ezras Hashem, I will continue the quote from paragraph 12: “It is a fascinating new technology that might introduce new vaccines and improve older ones. Instead of vaccinating with a live or killed vaccine, we are using the genetic fingerprint, in the form of messenger RNA, of one protein of the virus to produce the protein in the body and induce an immune response.” Well, again, he is correct on one aspect: the words “fascinating” and “new” are virtual synonyms, as items that are “new” are usually pretty “fascinating,” and the way he excitedly describes this new mRNA contraption, he certainly does make it sound quite “fascinating”!

    HOWEVER, the way of life with ANY new item is that, no matter how beautiful it appears to be and no matter how fascinating its description sounds, BEFORE it can be used, it must be tried out! Everything about it must be tested to make sure that everything does works correctly and that nothing about it works not correctly and certainly that nothing about it works so not correctly that, Chas V’Shalom, it presents a danger to people.

    Regarding this new mRNA contraption of the new Covid vaccines, again, its description certainly sounds exciting and fascinating.

    BUT WAS EVERYTHING ABOUT IT TESTED???????

    THE ANSWER IS A CAPITAL LETTER “N” AND A CAPITAL LETTER “O”!!!!!!!!!!

    When in all the animal trials the animals died and in the human trials most of the people got pretty sick — and some of them died too — and in the “rush-to-development” in the Covid crises, more animal trials and other crucial trials WERE OMITTED:

    I AM SORRY, BUT THAT IS NOT CALLED “PROPERLY TESTED”!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. As all four of the new Covid vaccines WERE NOT put through the proper procedures of the extensive series of needed tests, the Food & Drug Administration – the FDA, DID NOT give any of them its official approval. All that the FDA did permit was “Approval for Emergency Use.” “Approval for Emergency Use” means that even though these vaccines were not properly tested and thus are not really good, since we are in an “emergency” situation, we are permitted to use them. The “emergency” situation we are in is that we are in this terrible Covid pandemic in which massive numbers of people are dying, and we have no way at all to fight it — except for these new vaccines. So, even though they are not “good” (as they were not well tested) — we have literally nothing else! So, we use them, because that is all we got.

    First of all, this painting of our situation as a hyper “emergency” in which (besides the vaccines) we have no remedy against the pandemic IS A HUGE MASSIVE LIE!! For there absolutely ARE many — I am using his own word — “fascinating” cures and preventions for the disease, both in the realm of Modern Pharmaceutical Medicine and in the realm of Natural Healing Medicine.

    Second of all, as these new vaccines were not well tested and were thus NOT given regular approval by the FDA, countless people, understandably, do not want to use them!! There are countless doctors and lay people, who clearly state that they solidly believe in vaccinations and thus fully vaccinate themselves and their children with all the shots; however, regarding these new Covid ones, they bluntly declare that they do not want to come near them with even a one hundred foot pole!!

  11. B’Ezras Hashem, I will quote from paragraph 10: “The reluctance to vaccinate emanates . . . . . primarily from a proliferation of false and distorted information. In our world of social media, one human being on the planet can invent an idea that spreads around the world more quickly than the virus itself. For example, the leading fear is that of infertility issues. There is absolutely no basis for this. There is not even a plausible biologic theory to account for such a possibility.”

    It just so happens to be that the issue of Covid vaccines causing problems of infertility, Rachmana Litzlan, IS ABSOLUTELY NOT “an idea” that was “invented” by “one human being on the planet”!! As the comment above titled “Don’t ignore the evidence” alludes to, governmental vaccine agencies have received THOUSANDS OF REPORTS of women who, upon Covid vaccination, experienced extremely terrible things, including: all kinds of BIZARRE CHANGES AND DISRUPTIONS of menstrual cycles, outright unstoppable bleeding, miscarriages, and stillborn births — yes, children they were carrying DIED, either before birth or at birth.

  12. B’Ezras Hashem, I will quote paragraphs 13 and 14: “With regard to real adverse effects, blood clots, including in the brain, have been related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They occurred only in women aged 18-48 and were rare. Furthermore, at this point the condition is recognized and almost always treated effectively.”

    “Myocarditis has been reported, especially in young men. Again, the incidence is rare, and almost all of the cases have been mild. There is not been a single death in the United States related to this. Almost all of the individuals with myocarditis have recovered uneventfully.”

    These two short paragraphs are packed with more brazen lies and deceptions than the number of sentences in them!! Yes, the initial reports in Europe of blood clots were with Johnson & Johnson’s product, but almost immediately it became apparent that ALL four of the Covid vaccines cause bizarre huge blood clots and dangerous heart inflammation IN BOTH men and women of all ages. And these occurrences were absolutely NOT “rare”!! Now, I can assume that a few of the cases were relatively “mild,” and, Boruch Hashem, some of those patients recovered up pretty nicely. However, the vast majority of them were quite serious, with often deteriorating into strokes and heart attacks and death. The numbers of the vaccine blood clot caused deaths in the United States and elsewhere go well into many tens of thousands, Hashem Yinakem Damam.

  13. BY definition, Corona simply ain’t over until we can go & visit Israel & Daven at the כותל. Until then, we are still in the midst of Corona.
    Anyone who hasn’t bothered taking the vaccination, has no respect but full unmitigated contempt for human life, and is a רשע גמור for flouting everyone else’s safety.
    Let’s be quite clear:- democrats commissioned the lab in China to spread Corona across the world to hurt President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. When that didn’t work, because President Donald Trump was duly reelected, the democrats simply stole the election.

    • RASHA gamut?!

      It takes one to know one. You should continue to wear your adult diaper over your face forever and ever. Even in yeneh velt you should make sure to wear your diaper. You don’t want to make the Malachi chabala sick. Only kofrim wear diapers covering their face. Only losers.

    • to 147 . vaccines are for protecting the ones who take them. If you take them, you are protected. If you don’t take them, you are not “flouting everyone’s safety” ie. harming anyone else who did take them.

      If you don’t believe the above, then you don’t believe that vaccines actually work.

      which one is it?

  14. It should be noted that Dr. Daniel Berman’s Montefiore Medical Center has received almost $2 million from Biden’s 2021 American Rescue Plan. One legitimate use of those funds, according to the official HRSA website is to: “Plan, prepare for, PROMOTE, distribute, administer, and track COVID–19 vaccines, and carry out other vaccine-related activities. ” (Cap locks added)

    https://bphc.hrsa.gov/program-opportunities/american-rescue-plan/awards/ny
    https://bphc.hrsa.gov/program-opportunities/american-rescue-plan/allowable-uses-funding

    This is a MAJOR conflict of interest and should be exposed. The article itself is full of fear tactics and straight-up misinformation.

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