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Science and Math Changed My Mind

In looking over my early posts to this new blog, I realize that something very important fell into the gaping hole between September 2020 and July 2022, and I want to amend the record now.

In June 2020 I wrote about how, despite being pro-vax in general, the fact that all vaccines come with extra, horrifying risk for me in particular left me fearful of getting a covid vaccine. But data continued to come in, and by the time vaccines were actually available, I had changed my mind. At this point I have now been covid-jabbed no less than five separate times.

None of what I said in June 2020 is untrue, but ultimately it came down to this: getting either the vaccine or the disease itself can trigger a PTS/NA flare for me. But covid carries its own long-term, horrifying risks in addition, and it’s ridiculously contagious and also, by all current evidence, here to stay. The data on risk of a neuropathic autoimmune reaction to covid vaccines is extremely sparse, but it appears to be some tiny fraction of one percent; the chance of having long covid for years or permanently is somewhere between fifteen and twenty percent … increasing each time you catch it anew. No matter how you slice it, my risk is higher without the vaccines than with them.

In summer 2021 we drove up to Texas and stayed with family for four weeks while we got our first pair of mRNA shots. I woke up sick on the morning before my second appointment — Jak and I were on lockdown, but our hosting family members were not, and one of them brought something into the house. At the time everyone assumed it was the flu or some other non-covid respiratory virus, because our symptoms did not match those of the known variants (and this was before testing was available).

What we didn’t know until about a week later was that the Delta variant had already begun sweeping through Texas when we got sick, and its common symptoms were significantly different from Beta and Gamma — and also exactly the ones I experienced. Jak also came down with it, although recovered more quickly than I. After we got home to Mexico, we discussed getting a PCR test to find out whether it had been covid, but each one cost something like US$120, and we decided against it. So to this day, I do not know whether I had Delta covid or something else.

I went ahead with my second vax that same day, and the next morning I woke up with about 50% less functionality in my right arm. No pain, just … nonfunctional nerves and muscles. I believe this was a second, unilateral PTS/NA flare; painless ones are extremely rare, but documented in the scientific literature. But because of the confluence of possible inciting events, I don’t know the cause. Was it the vaccine? Delta covid? Some other respiratory virus? I can never know.

I’ve had three more covid vaccines since then (as well as a chickenpox vaccine, because I didn’t have it as a kid and chickenpox as an adult is terribad). I continue to decline flu vaccines, however, because the risk calculus works out differently — all my extensive covid precautions also minimize flu risk, and flu is far less likely to have serious long-term effects.

So far, that one painless flare is the only neuralgic reaction — to either vaccines or illness — that I’ve had. Things are definitely grim, but not quite as bad as they looked when I wrote that entry in June 2020. At the time, our best available mask option was Chinese KN-95s (which are unregulated, so of totally unknown efficacy) that restricted my breathing so much I would go into a total freakout panic attack in under two minutes. So I simply was unable to see people other than Jak, period.

But by fall of 2021, I was able to stock up on quality NIOSH-approved N-99s with a rubber seal that I have fit-tested on myself and know provide maximal protection, that I can breathe through for hours at a time, (and as a bonus, have behind-the-head loops instead of the ear ones that I find so maddening). I don’t enjoy them but I can live with them. A couple months ago we also got a portable Aranet CO2 monitor, so we can better judge ventilation and therefore covid exposure risk.

Jak and I took another road trip up to Texas last week, in part so I could get an mRNA bivalent booster. At this point, we know that covid vaccines’ protection only lasts between four and six months … and with the Biden administration eliminating covid funding, I fear this will be the last one. However, we also know that the vaccines are not much use (only 15% reduction) against long covid, which worries me personally more than actual death … and in every other way the risk is already maximized nearly everywhere, as institutions and individuals alike have broadly given up masking. So I guess lack of vaccines will only make things a little worse than they already are. <slashface>

Mexico also seems to have mostly given up on vaccines, incidentally, and they had only a minuscule supply of mRNA doses to begin with; they primarily bought the cheap Russian and Chinese versions that performed so poorly against covid that it actually was not worth the risk for me to get them, which is why we kept traveling back to the States. And masking is so rare and sloppy here that it’s functionally non-existent.

All of this is Darwin-award-worthy stupidity playing out at a societal level, and when that bill comes due — when the mass-disabling effects are so widespread that it’s impossible for anyone to pretend anymore like it’s not happening — I absolutely will be part of the bitter, frustrated minority (not coincidentally, a high percentage of those of us who are already physically disabled) saying “WE TRIED TO WARN YOU.”

Anyway, I just wanted to put it on the record that I did in fact get multiply covid-vaxxed, and will continue to do so for as long as good vaccines remain available — although strict masking and avoidance of high-risk situations remains far more important to my anti-covid strategy.

Published inDisabilityPandemic

2 Comments

  1. David Gates David Gates

    Well – what to say? – I’m totally with you on this one. BTW, I read these posts with a lot of interest but don’t always have meaningful things to say in response. So, just to say, no reply does not mean lack of interest.

    As far as this post is concerned, I find I have been experiencing the same societal stupidity here in Canada and not knowing how to respond. It is very frustrating because I am not able (psychologically) to totally isolate myself socially. I wish I had an answer for you (us) but I don’t – good luck.

  2. Karawynn Karawynn

    Thanks, David, I appreciate that.

    The single riskiest thing I’ve done in three whole years was that plane trip to Seattle & environs this past summer … and it was also the most psychologically healing thing, to reconnect with those people, in person. I’d be in a lot worse shape emotionally right now if I didn’t have that to look back on and hold onto. So I understand the dilemma, I do. I’m just also EXTREMELY protective of what brain functionality age isn’t already taking from me, so long covid is terrifying.

    Now that our Year of Construction is over, we are starting to do a tiny bit of very careful in-person socializing, one or two people at a time … but the majority of our important connections are still in the States, and probably always will be. The reality of expat life was more isolating than I expected even without a pandemic; I’m still trying to find a workable balance in this new normal.

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