I've not posted a blog on the subject of the pandemic for a little while now, but as I've been talking to someone who knows what they are talking about recently, I thought I'd just summarise what their opinion is on the way the government is currently handling the pandemic. I always find it fascinating talking to people who have a deeper understanding of such subjects.
So when and where might you want to consider wearing a mask. There is an infectious virus circulating in our society. Lets consider what this means. Firstly lets consider what the term infectious means. It means that the disease is spread by being passed on from one person to another. Unlike cancer or lumbago, one person can infect a lot of other people in a short period of time. It is largely spread through airborne contact. The virus is usually dispersed in droplets when a host (infected person) coughs or sneezes. This is propelled through the air and if it is breathed in, it can cause an infection. When you see claims about the size of a virus, bear in mind these travel far further when propelled in droplets of flem from your nose and throat in the action of coughing. In open spaces, the virus is fairly well dispersed, in badly ventilated, confined spaces this is less true. So what should Boris Johnson be telling us to do if we don't want to get infected? Well the first thing is meet people from outside our household outside where possible. As to masks, if you are in a badly ventilated, confined space with lots of people, it would be wise to wear a mask. It would be wise to sanitise your hands when taking it off. It would be wise to disinfect it when it has been used or dispose of it. If you are outside and no one is coming within 2 meters of you, it will have no effect and is in effect a fashion statement. Bear in mind, the main reason for wearing a mask is to stop your own coughs and sneezes spreading the virus to other people. We should consider it an act of good manners to wear one in confined, busy spaces. It is not a macho thing to wear or not wear one. It is just good manners and considerate. It may stop you causing harm to others.
Vaccination. There are many myths about vaccination. Some people talk about 'trusting their own immune system, rather than a vaccine'. This is a complete misunderstanding of science. A vaccine simply trains your immune system to recognise a vaccine. This means that when you come into contact with a virus, the immune system has a head start and knows to attack it. Vaccines do not make you immune to anything, they mean that your body deals with the infection more quickly. If you have a robust immune system, your body will deal with it very quickly, you will most likely have no symptoms and the infection will not develop to a level where you can pass it on. If your immune system is less robust, you may have mild symptoms and might pass it on before your body gets to grip with it. If your immune system is compromised, you may still get serious illness or die. You may also simply be unlucky and be more susceptible to the virus than other people. Whatever the situation, a vaccination will make you more, not less able to deal with an infection.
Why are people still getting infected when 80% of the adult population has been vaccinated? One in five adults haven't. We tend to associate with like minded people, so if you are vaccinated, it is likely most of your friends will be. If you have decided not to vaccinate, more of your friends are statistically less likely to be vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, if your friends are not vaccinated, you are more likely to pass it on and suffer ill effects than a social circle that are vaccinated. In the UK there are nearly 60 million people, so millions are not vaccinated and many hang out together. That does not mean they will all infect each other, but there is a well of potential spread.
Why should fit, healthy people under 60 bother with vaccination as they are unlikely to die? There are three main reasons. The first is that it is possible that a mutation will emerge that will have more serious effects on that group. Vaccination reduced the prevalence, so mutations become less likely The second is that people under 60 can still become seriously ill and die. The third is because we really shouldn't want to risk passing it on to vulnerable people. We shouldn't push the vulnerable to the margins of society. In short it is the community minded thing to do.
Is there anyone who should not get vaccinated? I would recommend that everyone ha a doctor they trust. I trust mine. He stopped me from dying of cancer. If he says don't get vaccinated I wont. I don't know anyone who has been told by a GP not to get vaccinated, except one person who was pregnant during the early stages of the vaccination program. Ask your doctor if there is a genuine medical reason to be vaccinated. If you don't trust your doctor on the subject of vaccination, then you need a new doctor who you can trust.
Why are there so many anti vaxxers if the vaccine is safe? The internet is full of very loud anti vaccine campaigners. In the west, we live ina free society and people have the right to be sceptical about anything. Many do not trust governments and 'big pharma'. Given the behaviour of some of our leaders, who can blame them. However, vaccines are not developed by Dodgy Prime Ministers. They are developed by large teams of people, many of whom have spent decades working for the benefit of humanity. I know a few people involved in medical research and they are sane, sensible people. They produce peer reviewed research and they place their professional credibility on the line when they do so. Sadly, the sceptics do not work under the same constraints.
Given the short development time, how can we be sure that vaccines are safe? Nothing is ever 100% safe. Of course some people will get an adverse reaction to the vaccine, but statistically, this is far less likely to happen than a bad reaction to the virus. Given that over a billin people have been vaccinated, if it wasn't safe, we would start seeing hospitals filling up with people suffering side effects. We are not.
What are the chances of another lockdown? Boris Johnson does not want another lockdown. We are having what appears to be a rather strong economic bounce back, and the last thing he wants is that to grind to a halt. From what I can ascertain, the only reason Boris would want another Lockdown is if the NHS became overhwhelmed. It seems that the UK's high vaccine take up may spare us this.
So what should Boris be saying? I think his position on masks is absurd. We should be wearing them on crowded public transport services and other places where people are in close proximity in badly ventilated spaces. We should be sanitising our hands still. Vaccination is our way out of this mess and if we want to fully get back to a normal life, the more who are vaccinated the better. We need to take the heat out of the debate. When Aunty Peggy sends you an alarming Youtube video, respect the fact that she has a different view and don't get cross if she won't 'listen to reason'. Personally I'd give friends who have no vaccinated a bit of a wide berth at the moment, but that doesn't have to be done in an obvious way. Boris should set up a task force to counter vaccine scepticism with proper information produced by mainstream scientists. Personally I would like to see medical professionals called to account if they make claims that cannot be verified. It is the Prime Ministers job to show leadership.