To vaccinate or not?
This is not a simple question. If it were, then there wouldn't be about half of Americans refusing to vaccinate.
There are a number of reasons not to vaccinate, but the most convincing reason would be, if the harm caused by vaccination, was (on the average) greater that the harm caused by not vaccinating.
We've got used to the idea that vaccination is a no-brainer. The elimination of smallpox, the near-elimination of pertussis, rubella, polio, TB - we take those for granted. We've killed those diseases so effectively, that people no longer have the spectre of polio in front of their eyes. Kids don't die of whooping-cough. There are no more TB sanatoriums.
Now add to that - people trust governments a lot less than they used to. And, in the USA, people have no good reason to trust their healthcare provider, because in the USA, healthcare is a business, and the function of a business is to make a profit for the shareholders. In the UK, we don't have that problem - the function of the NHS is to make us healthy.
So, we have to make the case for vaccination. But first, let's look at some of the cases against.
The most convincing data I could find, is compensation given for vaccine injury. This covers the period 1/1/2006 to 12/31/2018, so that's 13 years. Over that period, there were 3,761,744,351 vaccinations, and 5151 successful claims. That's 1.4 successful claims per million vaccinations. But let's put that into perspective. 5151 claims over 13 years, is 396 claims per year. If we look at injuries caused by lightning in the USA, there are 400 injuries and 40 deaths.
So the chance of getting a vaccine injury is about the same as the chance of getting hit by lightning.
Another case against vaccines, is the fact that fetal cells are used. Yes, that's true for some vaccines (Varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis A, and one preparation of rabies). These are cells from elective termination of pregnancies in 1960; the cells are reproduced in the lab, and used to make vaccines. So they come from a 60 year old source, and not since then.
But the vaccines do not themselves contain fetal cells, or any human DNA segments.
The form of mercury being considered here, is thimerosal. But thimerosal is not used in childhood vaccines. Flu vaccines are available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions. It was removed from UK vaccines between 2003 and 2005.
Someone did a study that purported to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It turned out that, not only was there a lot wrong with the study, but the doctor who wrote it was guilty of such egregious fraud, that he got struck off. And since then, everyone, including the National Autistic Society, have agreed that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Vaccines take four years to develop. The Covid-19 vaccine has been rushed into production - how do I know that it's been properly tested?
That one is easy to refute. That simply isn't true. How do you think that we get flu shots each year? They cannot be taking four years to develop!
The true length is about five months. And that can be shortened, if you're willing to take the financial risk of going into mass production before the tests are complete. If you do that, and the tests prove bad, then you have to incinerate all that vaccine, which is a financial cost.
And, as with many processes, if you're willing to spend unusually large amounts of money no it, you can make some parts of it happen faster.
"I don't want anyone injecting poison into my child" - that's hard to argue with. Especially if you're arguing with someone who smokes, drinks alcohol, and eats Kentucky Fried Chicken. So I'm not going to try.
I kid you not - there is a small but vocal group of people who think it's all a plot to inject us with quantum dots, that can be used as identifiers for us. Or microchips. The objective is to
1) Inoculate against religion
2) Implanted identification
3) Mind control
4) Some evil plot by some evil mastermind. Yes, Windows was a pain.
Again - I'm not going to argue this one. You'll just have to accept that it's a fantasy. Or not, make up your own mind.
The case for vaccination
So now, let's look at the case for vaccination. What are the benefits?
I'm not going to talk about polio, tetanus, tuberculosis or rabies. They are, in the western world, quite rare. And the issue is going to be Covid-19. So let's look at the vaccination that is probably most similar - the influenza vaccine.
Each year, I have a flu jab. In the UK, it's free, and recommended by the NHS, and I trust the NHS, and that's important. Because Americans have less reason to trust their healthcare provider (who stands to make $5 to $30 from the jab).
Each year, the flu shot contains inactive virus for the three strains of influenza expected to be most common that year. One of the problems of flu, is that it mutates rapidly, and each year, a different version becomes the main problem.
In the UK, there are around 8,000 deaths per year from flu (in 2018/19, that was 1700. The vaccine uptake is 71 to 75%. On the average, the flu vaccine is 50 to 60% effective. We don't know how many people get the flu each year, because most people just fight it off without hospital help, but with a 50% effectiveness rate and a death toll of 8000, that would mean that with a zero effectiveness rate (i.e., no-one is vaccinated) that would mean about twice as many deaths. So, the flu vaccine is saving thousands of lives each year.
In the UK, Covid-19 has killed 47,000 people, and that's after six months. The death rate has now come down to around 1200-1500 per month. If we had a 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine, and if 75% of people accepted it, that would save about 500 lives per month. But, more importantly, it would mean that people could go back to work, back to school, and back to the pubs.
The case for vaccination is that it lets us get back to normal, although it would be a "new normal". Now that businesses have found that they don't actually have to travel to important meetings, now that many people have found that they can work from home, now that people have found that online sales are more convenient than they had realised - the new normal will accelerate trends that were already happening.
There has been much talk of "herd immunity". When a large enough percentage of people in the human "herd" are immune, the virus finds it difficult to infect new victims. At what percentage does this happen?
The general thinking is that this happens at about 60 to 70% of the population, although there's no hard-and-fast figure for this. It might be less. The point of herd immunity, is that even those who are not vaccinated, are protected, because the virus can't get close to them, with all the immune people getting in the way. And some people can't be vaccinated, for medical reasons. Herd immunity protects them, as well as the 50% for which the vaccination is ineffective.
So it would be very good to reach the goal of herd immunity. But even without that, vaccination benefits the individuals who choose to vaccinate.
Should vaccination be compulsory? The herd immunity is the reason in favour of that - it protects those who can't vaccinate for medical reasons. But I think that the political cost of compulsory vaccination would be too grat. We've never done it before, because people have always made their own decisions, and made the right decisions. So I don't think it should be compulsory.
The bottom line is this. I understand the science, and I've looked at the numbers. I've seen the arguments for and against. Even if I didn't, I trust our NHS.
As soon as the vaccine is available, ladysolly and myself will be taking it.