Monday, 30 November 2020

Why taking a vaccine is a sociable and sensible thing to do

 Why would you want to listen to me on this subject? I have no qualifications beyond an A level in biology taken 40 years ago and a short holiday work placement in the immunology dept of the National Institiute for Medical Research, as a lab porter, which I took over the Xmas holiday in 1979 to assist with a project. So in short, I know marginally more than someone who knows nothing at all. If you want to tell me I am talking nonsense and have a more impressive qualification, can demonstrate your argumenst with peer reviewed studies and research, I will quite happily update this blog. However I am thoroughly sick and tired of people who know even less than I do making pronouncements on Twitter and Facebook, talking with the faith of a Pope from the middle ages on the subject, claiming that we should not take the vaccine for a variety of reasons that at best are rather dodgy and at worst seem to be based on evidence posted with malicious intent to put people at risk. Here is my take on it.

1. Are vaccines safe? I doubt there is anything that is 100% safe for everyone. Every day someone is killed by bad reactions to peanuts, coffee, alcohol, flour etc. But the whole point of medical trials is to ensure that such reactions are extremely rare. Just about everyone in the UK has been vaccinated at some point and the eradication of diseases such as Polio is a direct result of this. My eldest brother had polio in the 1950's and still suffers as a result. My grandmother was killed by TB in 1960, two years before I was born. Vaccination has ensured that neither TB nor Polio will kill me. Several years ago I had to travel to India for work. I had all of the vaccinations required, mandatory and optional. A colleague didn't have the optional Japanese Encephalitus vaccination. He caught it and is now medically pensioned off. As an individual there is a small chance that you will have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Should you catch the disease, there is a statistically far higher chance of severe harm or death. As far as I can see, the most sane and rational thing to do is to be vaccinated as whilst nothing is 100% safe it is far safer than the alternative.

2. Why should I have the vaccine if I am not at risk? There are three aspects to this. The first is that you have to ask yourself how you would feel if you passed it on to someone else, maybe a loved one who died as a result? I know if I did that and I could have avoided it with a vaccination, I would find it a difficult thing to live with. The second thing is that the higher the uptake, the quicker the population will have 'herd immunity' which means the virus will be deprived of hosts, on whom it can find new victims. The third is that not everyone who is vulnerable actually  realises they are vulnerable. Whilst it seems rare for young, fit, healthy people to die of covid, it is not unknown. I would take the view that if I was going to get a bad reaction to a vaccine, I may well get a much worse reaction to the real live virus. I have no way of knowing if that is a correct view, but it would seem likely to me that if there was some element of a deactivated virus that upset my immune system, the real thing would be worse. Of course if everyone else takes the vaccine, you won't be at risk. But that simply isn't going to happen.

3. Is the corona virus vaccine part of some massive conspiracy? This is the one that really gets me. I've yet to understand exactly what Bill Gates is supposed to want to achieve and what the "Bill Gates Vaccine" is meant to do, but if those 'in charge' really wanted to do some dastardly deed, I'm sure there are far easier ways. Given that we smoke, drink alcohol, eat all manner of illness inducing foods and sugary drinks etc, it seems to me that we don't really need Bill Gates help to harm ourselves. Any casual observer would conclude that Boris and his government are doing a fine job trashing the economy but I believe anyone who thinks this is anything other than ineptitude has been smoking something I could use right now. 

4. The vaccine cannot have been properly tested in such a short time? I'm not qualified to comment on how a vaccine can be safely tested, but science has moved rapidly over the last twenty years. Modern IT systems allow results to be collated and analysed far more quickly than when things such as the polio vaccine was developed. Scientists also know what they are doing to a far greater extent. Vaccines work by generating an immune response. For a vaccine to work, your body will have to develop some degree of immunity to whatever foreign agent is contained in the vaccine. I'm not aware of any cases where some monstrous side effect kicks in ten years after a vaccine has been administered as there is something 'lurking there'. 

5. Will the politicians be taking it? I have no idea. I hope so and I would not vote for any that didn't.As I beleive it is the sensible thing to do, I would have to conclude that any politicans who don't are not sensible people.

6. Do I need the vaccine if I've had corona virus. My understanding is that once you've had the virus, you are immune for a period. I doubt that people who have survived the virus will be offered it any time soon.But there may be reasons, such as different variants that make it desireable. I'd ask a doctor if you are unsure. 

7. The incidence of Corona virus is low in my area so why do I need it? I guess the answer to this is that it is a contageous disease, the incidence is low everywhere until it is not low. 

8. There is no proof the vaccine works, why should I take the risk? I've seen a few tweets claiming this. The amazing thing about science is that there is proof. The trials ensure there is. The science of vaccines has been developed over  acouple of hundred years. The rules for releasing vaccines on the public ensure there is evidence. It may not be good enough to satisfy you, but that is a different thing altogether. The gist of what I've read is that virus sceptics believe the results are somehow faked. Like the lunar landings, the death of Hitler and the round Earth. There are some people who will dismiss all of the evidence that doesn't suit their viewpoint. .

If the whole thing is a great big scam, then doctors, scientists, public health officials etc are part of the conspiracy. Members of mty family, friends etc are part of it and are allowing friends and family to fall victim. To me that is just too ridiculous a concept.

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