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Adverse Effects of Covid Vaccines or Institutional Trust? | The ONS’ Refusal To Comply With FOI Requests

Adverse Effects of Covid Vaccines or Institutional Trust? | The ONS’ Refusal To Comply With FOI Requests

“Why are you asking the question if you already know the answer?”

My mother said this to me years ago. “Maybe you don’t want to hear the answer?” I was wondering where we’d go for a summer vacation, mistakenly using the collective noun. They went to the beach. I went to the supermarket to bag groceries for nine dollars an hour. 


The first COVID death hits the United States on the west coast.


Last year, in 2020, my summer plans got canned, not by character-building gainful employment, but by a worldwide pandemic that, in many ways, still grips the western hemisphere by the neck with two unwashed, germ-riddled hands. 

I stayed cautious. With forthright trust in our leaders, I masked up, I stayed home, and I ate. A lot. I was such a damn good COVID citizen—I even made the local paper


We reach the first day with over 100 COVID deaths.


Like many, I had a slew of unanswerable questions for nobody in particular. I sat inside with a screaming 2-year-old and a brooding pregnant wife, watching a year of our lives slip away as comfortably as a loose tooth popping out and dragging down your esophagus to be slowly and mercilessly digested in an enzyme pool. As the death toll rose in our area of the United States, so did numbers worldwide. I became very familiar with the phrase “underlying conditions” and realized how many one man can attain from a life of comfort and leisure. 


Over 1000 people died in the U.S. in one day from COVID complication on March 25, 2020.


It is difficult to think back to those early days of 2020 and wonder what we, the collective noun, would have done for a vaccine. But after broken promises of re-opening and grandstanding politicians, individuals stuck in the bedrooms of their cramped apartments or suburban back yards started to ask questions. If you asked my mother, she’d quickly tell you that you’re asking the wrong questions because you don’t want to know the answer. 

Everyday conversations took a back seat to COVID musings. What had Bill done on his time off? Golfed? More golf? Nice. And how about that COVID? Oh, he probably had it. Mildly symptomatic. He’s a bastion of modern health. He only gained 12 pounds, he says proudly, showing off his new Tommy Hilfiger elastic pants. Wow—he does fill out those pants nicely. How are your parents handling all of this? They’re older right? 


At this point, everyone knows someone either dead or crossing the river. 1 in 1,000 Americans had died of Covid 19 complications as of December 2020.


The vaccine’s entrance into our collective vernacular came with another onslaught of unanswerable questions. The one that nobody wanted the answer to was clear: will it kill me? Still to this day, people in the U.K. are waiting for the Office of National Statistics to release how many people have died from complications of taking the Coronavirus vaccines. 

The CDC played it close to the PPE vest, but all sound minds and public signs pointed to a safe, albeit quick for some, Band-Aid to the problem. What the public health officials failed to account for while they were in their labs, pouring over previous years of research and trials to try and save the planet, was the misinformation machine lurching to a greasy, apoplectic start.

Before a single dose was doled out, my neighbor, a carpenter, had heard from others like him, the wizened youth of the Southern states of America’s Carpentry Association, that Bill Gates would track you with the vaccine. He told me this while wearing an Apple watch and showing off the new Garmin mapping system in his truck. So definitely don’t get the vaccine, Jim. They’ll never find you! 


Millions of vaccine inectiosn take place with six recorded complications across the entire U.S. as of February 2021.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has received multiple Freedom of Information requests to reveal how many individuals have either died or had complications with each iteration of the vaccine. The ONS explains on their website that they use a two-pronged approach to this question. First, they look at the cause of death listed on the death certificate. There are two parts to a standard death certificate—the direct cause and any underlying contributions to the death. Then, according to their website, the ONS inputs this information into an algorithm built to increase consistency and accuracy in reporting. 

Then, when all the certificates are scanned, and the numbers crunched, the machine spits out the gobstopper and—nothing. The ONS will be holding onto this information until further notice under Section 22(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, “whereby information is exempt from release if there is a view to publishing the information in the future” or if it is not “in the public interest.” 

To some, this seems highly suspicious in consideration of the public receiving daily, often hourly, updates on infection, hospitalization, and death rates from across the U.K. and the world. And to me, I have to wonder what the data shows. In the same way, I might question why people pay to go to Disney World or why Marvel movies are such a hit?

These are questions my mother might tell me I’m avoiding the answer to because I already know it. I know why people enjoy Marvel movies. It’s a quick, easy escape into a world where everything works out. However, the amount of time people of a certain age spend in Disney World remains a mystery to me. 

But the reason the ONS isn’t releasing the numbers now is also evident. This isn’t a mystery thriller. We aren’t in an alternate reality where conspiracies rule the day. This is simply, most likely, bureaucratic red tape at its shiniest. Section 22(1) allows ONS to delay the publication of findings if it plans to publish the information in the future. The intent behind Section 22(1) hides the true answer:

They aren’t giving up the information because they don’t have to.   

After the rapid rise in COVID cases across the world, highlighted in under-vaccinated areas, like a commonsense Rorschach, the ONS is keeping a lid on its information—most likely to save lives, not hide potential risk. In the United States, after six adverse results (blood clots) out of millions of doses of the vaccine, momentum sputtered, and any bipartisan momentum died. Six.

Nevertheless, how is risk not the key talking point of the ONS? Risk assessment should be built into the very foundation of the offices at ONS—numbers are crunched for probability and patterns. Any patterns in vaccine reactions and underlying conditions would be at least helpful to those living with those conditions.

As an American that eats too much pizza, I’d enjoy knowing if other Yankee pie lovers came down with a significant brand of side effects after their vaccination. I can’t speak for diabetics, pregnant women, or Marvel fans, but I don’t think it’s much of a quantum leap to assume they would like to know the probability and patterns found by the office designated to find probabilities and patterns.

If they were hiding a decent hand, wouldn’t they show?


COVID cases begin to rise once more in the United States, and again 100 people die in one day.


Look to America for the best and worst of the vaccine. People avoiding the vaccine as droves of new COVID cases crop up every day, deaths rising faster than Gamestop stock. While some cut lines to get the vaccine as quickly as possible—a friend of mine ran a marathon one weekend then tried to qualify as morbidly overweight the next to get the shot—others have quit work or sued their bosses to avoid it.

What if the ONS isn’t tricking carpenters or robbing Peter to pay Paul? What if they’re just trying to get this thing right and the information gathering is either slow moving or complicated enough that they can’t decipher the proper classifications and don’t want to alarm an already fragile public?

Perhaps they’re not showing their hand because nobody’s called.

Again, I wonder if I’m asking the right question. Instead of how many have died from the vaccine, I find myself wrestling with how many will die without it. But am I afraid to ask the real question because I know the answer? Are they not revealing data because they’ve spotted a pattern and have weighed the risk adverse vaccination news has on high vaccination rates? Are beans to be counted. Yes. An absolute yes.

Selfishly, I just hope this doesn’t ruin another summer of plans.


Illustrated by Anna Ring

About The Author

C.E. O'Banion

C.E. O'Banion is a graduate of Louisiana State University's undergraduate arts program and law school. He is currently teaching fiction and creative writing at Antioch University in Los Angeles. O'Banion has held positions within several publications, including The Southern Review Literary Journal, The Houston Chronicle, and The National Enquirer. O'Banion is the politics editor of Mouthing Off Magazine and contributor in fiction and prose. He's got a wife, two kids, and a cat named EZ Mac.

1 Comment

  1. Mary

    Enjoyed the article! Funny but right on—

    Reply

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