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Why do stories keep downplaying the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines?


This is not only good news, it is much better news than the lede would indicate:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine works safely, paving the way for the approval of a third vaccine in the U.S. as early as this weekend.

The vaccine was 66.1% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease and appeared safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday, and the shot also showed tantalizing signs of slowing the spread of the virus.

Seeing that “66.1% effective” number, it would not be irrational for someone to hold out for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The most important finding in the FDA’s authorization, conversely, is buried well within the piece:

Generally in the study, the vaccine proved to be effective protecting against moderate and severe Covid-19. There were seven Covid-19 deaths among study subjects getting a placebo, compared with no deaths among those who got the vaccine, the FDA said. Likewise, fewer people who got the vaccine developed critical Covid-19 cases than volunteers on placebo did.


The FDA found there were two Covid-19 hospitalizations starting 14 days in the vaccine group, versus 29 in the placebo group. There were no new hospitalizations after 28 days in people vaccinated, while in the placebo group there were 29.

The story, to its credit, quotes experts saying you should take whatever vaccine is offered, but I wish it were clearer about why you should: namely, that nobody who took the vaccine died of COVID and nobody got a case that even required hospitalization after a month.

And yet story after story leads with the highly misleading “66.1 effective” number (72% in the U.S. actually, but anyway.) I don’t get it. The fact that the vaccine not only stop most infections but makes the infections that do occur more like a bad cold in the vast majority of cases and so far has eliminated fatal cases in every case is a huge deal!

…and, yes, as Denverite says another trademark of vaccine Eeyoreism is to simply act under the assumption that the vaccines won’t reduce transmission from people with asymptomatic infections, when in fact there is increasing evidence is that they do.

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