When the first polio vaccines were created and mass immunizations against that dreaded disease happened in this country the scientists who led the way (Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk) were hailed as heroes.
That’s right: the country—and the rest of the world—thought of them as heroes.
Many have greeted the emergence of the various corona virus vaccines as a godsend. Which they are, of course, as we can finally move toward that elusive goal of “herd immunity.” People have been aching for a “return to normal” after this long year of restrictions and lockdowns and the vaccines are a key piece, if not the most important step, in that process.
Then you have the anti-vaxxers. I can hardly maintain a rational, even-handed approach to the so-called arguments these people use. I’m going to say something I rarely say: they are wrong. Dead wrong. Stupid wrong. Dangerous wrong.
I like to keep an open mind. I like to recognize uncertainty. I try not to be doctrinaire, or rigidly opinionated.
But we are in the midst of a global health crisis. Many of the strategies to deal with COVID-19 involve only simple behavior changes. Wearing a mask, for example, and practicing social distancing. These are things that require no pharmaceutical companies and no multi-million-dollar research labs. The problem is that people have to actually do them! Unfortunately, we have conflated reasonable public health measures with an assault on civil liberties, and a significant number of people steadfastly refuse to participate and thus continue to spread the disease.
So we need a vaccine. We’d need one anyway, because that is how we deal with viral diseases. Some vaccines are spectacularly successful, like smallpox, and the aforementioned polio vaccines. In Afghanistan, where the Taliban have control, doctors and nurses who try to administer polio vaccines are intimidated, threatened, and even killed to prevent them from inoculating children. But we all know the Taliban is a morally corrupt, violent, and intellectually stunted bunch of fanatics. We should expect that kind of idiocy from them.
Here in the States we have educated, middle class people, along with their celebrity cheerleaders, who are opposed to vaccines for almost the same reasons the Taliban opposes them!
Somehow a vaccine is bad because it is not “natural.” What could be more natural than using the infectious agent against itself? Isn’t that the basis of homeopathy? Isn’t that one of the so-called “alternative” medicines embraced by the “natural” crowd? RNA is older than humanity. Older than most life forms. What could be more natural than RNA? Do these people really think essential oils and herbal potions will prevent them from getting a viral infection and/or viral disease?
As an old schoolteacher I have to say I see now who paid attention in science class!
People happily drive cars and use computers and cell phones, all of these things the products of a high-tech, industrial society with big, bad multinational corporations doing the bulk of the work. Yet people object to vaccines because they are produced by the same big, bad corporations in the same high-tech, industrial economy!
Almost everyone in the States was vaccinated as a child against things like diptheria, measles, pertussis, tetanus, etc. These things killed children by the score in every town in the world for millenia. Now they don’t. The very thing the anti-vaxxers are against actually protects their un-vaccinated children! Because almost everyone else is vaccinated, un-vaccinated children in the US are relatively safe. Things would be different if they were in a third-world country where those diseases are still prevalent.
People happily vaccinate their dogs against rabies, parvo, and distemper, but balk at getting vaccines for themselves. It doesn’t add up. It’s an intellectually indefensible position. I get that some folks have auto-immune diseases or other complications that make vaccines problematic for them. But that’s a very small subset of the general population. The vast majority of us will benefit from vaccines with little or no complications.
ALL MEDICAL PROCEDURES HAVE RISK. All medical procedures have risk. Say that again and again to yourself. There is no ABSOLUTELY SAFE treatment for anything! 100% safe is an illusion. NOTHING is 100% safe.
Vaccines are pretty damn close. One of the things that phased trials do is make things safe. Vaccines have to be safe FIRST, and effective SECOND. You can count on vaccines being safe. Some don’t work so well, but they won’t hurt you. Your risk from the vaccine is far, far, far, far less than the risk from the disease you are being inoculated against.
So when it is your turn to get the corona virus vaccine, go get it. Don’t hesitate. Do you want to get this pandemic under better control? Do you want some return to normalcy?
THEN GET THE VACCINE!
And don’t listen to celebrities, You-Tubers, conspiracy theorists, “natural” healers (hah!), and the other cranks who didn’t pay attention in science class.