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  • Helz

The Great Vax-Debate

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

I'm going to just address the elephant in the room and start this off by saying I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m not going to name call and dismiss the beliefs of anti-vaxxers, after all everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I do believe that many just come anti-vaxxers have become so due to mis-information.

We live at an incredible time when information is so so easily accessible that all you have to do is turn on a device and it’s at your fingertips. We even live in an age were you can ask a device a question and an AI will answer that question for you. Like I said - accessible. The flip side to that accessibility is trustworthiness. Is it legit? There is so much information available that you could find anything to back up an argument no matter how ludicrous. For example: If I said “The Nazis were good people” In one short google search I could probably find a tons of articles to support that statement but that doesn’t make it factually accurate, as we all know morally and ethically Nazis were not great people. Good people don’t go around murdering millions of people because they dislike them. So my point is just because you read an article posted online it doesn’t make it factually true. Alas, mis-information.

The thing about this great wealth of information that is available is that it is only as good as your fact checking ability and your will to fact check. If I had £1 for every thing that is factually inaccurate that I have seen people repost online, well let’s just say I’d be chilling on a yacht somewhere hot right now. It seems a lot of people read a piece of false information and believe it as fact, they then start either searching these things in a loose attempt at fact checking but the algorithm has already clocked them so the initial search will probably bring up things they feel may support their argument. Little do they realise these ‘articles’ they’re reading have been authored by Linda in HR who barely has a BTEC in basket weaving and community dance let alone is a specialist in Virology or Epidemiology, or worse still Dozey Dave in his tinfoil hat who never finished his GCSEs, lives in his mothers basement, sitting there with a vampiric complexion, mad at the world and churning out conspiracy theories. In the real world if you met Linda or Dave you would not believe a word they said, why would you? What is the basis for their knowledge? But for some weird reason when it’s published online anonymously people suddenly think it holds some kind of validity. The danger comes though when so called ‘influencers’ who may or may not hold some kind of qualification start chiming in and spreading their opinion as fact.

So… where to begin?

Autism? Vaccines give autism, right? Is it a particular vaccine or all vaccines? Do you even know what autism is? As someone who comes from a medical family of which every single person has been vaccinated, no one in my family has been diagnosed as on the spectrum. Did we all some how just get lucky or do vaccines not actually cause autism? Also as someone who works every single day with children who are on the spectrum and as someone who has friends who are on the spectrum I’ve learned a little about autism over the years and I may not hold a medical degree but I can tell you with a level of certainty autism is not caused by vaccines.

Andrew Wakefield was a former physician who sometime in the 90s wrote a paper on the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was not peer reviewed and was published in a medical journal. Upon review it was removed and his entire hypothesis was proven to be wildly inaccurate. Andrew Wakefield was struck off and is no longer a practicing doctor but like the ‘influencer’ effect of today “A doctor said it so it must be true.” I repeat, it had not been peer reviewed. He did the 90s equivalent of Dozey Dave in his basement and posted that information without anyone fact checking. And as people still say “Vaccines cause autism” clearly what he said had some lasting impact. It’s a bit like when you hear on the news a celebrity was found innocent of sexual misconduct charges but you can never quite look at them the same way again and there’s always that feeling at the back of your mind that they’re a bit rapey. Anyway, I digress. Wakefield undoubtedly did a lot of damage. Following the whole scandal, even after it was confirmed as untrue, vaccine uptake in the following years reduced dramatically. And the irony is, parents didn’t want to vaccinate their children because they heard a rumour it would be detrimental to their child’s health but its scientifically proven that not vaccinating your child is detrimental not only to their health but also public health. But I guess it comes down to what you choose to believe? What information you keep to support your argument factually accurate or not.

Anyway the lack of uptake following Wakefield’s claims basically led to a rise in illnesses that were and are wholly treatable. Parents who thought they were protecting their child by not vaccinating them ended up having their children suffer from these illnesses, suffer long term effects of these illnesses and in some cases die. Unvaccinated children were legit dying from measles, from mumps, from rubella. Treatable illnesses.

Do you personally know anyone who has had or died from polio? Yeah, me either. Do you know anyone who has died from Smallpox? Nah, me either. Funny that.

It isn’t just the children though. So if a pregnant woman contracts measles it can be detrimental to her unborn child. A friend of mine was pregnant. She works in a school. A mother of an unvaccinated child sent her sick child - with measles - to school (because obviously school is childcare) so at what point does the parents right not to vaccinate their child stop and the pregnant teachers right to work in a safe environment begin? Cool you don’t want to vaccinate your child that is totally your choice but when your child is sick that’s also your responsibility, not the school’s. And the thing is with measles in pregnancy, you don’t know if it’s affected the child until birth. Fortunately my friend had a beautiful, healthy baby but that could have gone the other way so easily due to selfish negligence. Not to mention, if that child got the bus to school and sat next to a pregnant woman or multiple pregnant women or even other non-vaccinated children…


Covid vaccine…

I had my vaccine a week ago. I have been shielding for almost a year, I have a bunch of medical issues so I was offered the vaccine early and I took it. Not just for me but to protect my friends and family. I don’t know about you but I know a lot of people who have been seriously ill with Covid, I know several people who have died from Covid so it’s never been a joke to me. I want to be able to hang out with my friends and see my family overseas and to a lot of people that means nothing because your behaviours didn’t change during the past year despite whatever guidance was given. And I’m not judging, each to their own. I did what I had to do to look after myself and my family, you do whatever you have to do to look after yourself and your family and if you’re happy to take certain advice and ignore other advice then that’s totally fine and entirely within your right. We live in a world of free will. Personally, I’m not a doctor. I have a law degree, I do not have a medical degree. I’ve spent much of my life in and out of hospital over the years and by osmosis have picked up some knowledge and I’ve watched every season of Grey’s Anatomy so in my head I’m a doctor but I’m smart enough to know I don’t know. But you know who does know? The scientific experts and the scientists who create vaccines and the licensed doctors who have spent their professional lives training to do that job. When I go on holiday I don’t turn up at the airport and insist on flying the plane because I trust the pilot who has trained to do that job.

I do admit I had reservations about the vaccine, specifically about the amount of time it had been trialed. I felt it was a bit too soon. I had a lot of my anti-vax friends trying to convince me not to take the vaccine. None of the people who tried to convince me not to take it were medical professionals, and although their ‘advice’ probably came from a place of love I’m not the person to be swayed by biased opinion over fact and I’m definitely not the person to base my life choices on something I saw on an Instagram story. Never that. My reservations strictly came from the fact I have been on a drug trial for the last 4 years and in that time I have gained some knowledge in how these things work so for me it very quick but then I remember almost every scientist and virologist and epidemiologist in the world was working on this thing and it goes through many a peer review and regulatory body before it goes public so nothing is going to go public that will knowingly harm the public. This is not Thalidomide (which was actually opposed by some regulatory bodies and never FDA approved but in those days information was not as widely accessible and, you know good old fact checking was a bit harder). No, we do not know the long term effects which was my main reservation but I’m an adult, I’ll take my chances and live with whatever the consequences of my decision are. It’s my decision. For me it was never about the “You don’t know what you’re putting in your body”. Like I said, I’ve been on a drug trial injections God knows what into my body for the last 4 years so ‘putting chemicals’ in my body, no an issue.

I’ve been on the ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ list and feel I’ve lost a year of my life, I took the vaccine so I don’t waste another. And if it kills me, we all die, right?

That’s another thing I’m hearing from people is the “People die” argument. “Why should we have to stay inside to protect the vulnerable, people die!” And “I’m not taking the vaccine, what’s the point people die!” I can’t deny the facts - people do die. I could walk out of my house now and get hit by a bus. The thing with that argument is I don’t know about you but I don’t cross the road with my eyes closed. I take certain precautions to try not to get hit by the bus, such as looking left and right and crossing the road with my eyes open so I’m not blindsided by hazards such as oncoming busses. If I take all measures to not get hit and still get hit then it was meant to be. So are we just supposed to accept that everyone dies and not take any precautions to minimise that risk? For those that are old enough, remember the AIDs epidemic of the 80s and 90s. During that time those diagnosed with HIV or AIDs were dying at an exponential rate. In the last 40 years however the development and treatment for HIV and AIDs has advanced so much that an HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it once was. I have friends who are HIV positive and but thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy the virus is undetectable in them and they live a normal life. If we go by the "We all die" yard stick should these people not accept medical intervention? Yes like everyone on the planet they're going to die some day but that day doesn't have to be today.

Also, I must admit the “people die” argument doesn’t sit well with me because essentially it’s saying you picked the short straw health wise so you deserve to die. It sits less well with me knowing this virus is effecting BAME communities disproportionately and some people are cool with that because people die, innit? So because someone has benefited from an elevated socioeconomic status or are fortunate to have a good current state of health they shouldn’t have to deal with restrictions or protect others. I should point out ‘people die’ so a clinically vulnerable person could potentially outlive a ‘healthy person’ but they shouldn’t be afforded that opportunity right now? That kind of playing God doesn’t sit well with me.

I also don’t like the ‘people die’ argument because I don’t believe the people who use it really truly believe it themselves. Of course they believe people die, I wouldn’t insult their intelligence but I mean if it came down to it I don’t think they’d be okay if it was their mother, sibling, child or partner that was the one dying especially when measures could have been taken that may have prevented it. Because let’s be real, if you’re saying people die then that’s saying “I’m cool for my child/Mum/loved ones to die” and the fact people don’t want to take the vaccine and don’t want to vaccinate their child because they’re worried about effects detrimental to their health leads me to believe they don’t really fuck with ‘people die’ as a sentiment. For example: If you had a child, would you be okay with your healthy child dying from something that is easily treatable, because they’re going to die anyway, right? I’m not a parent but if I was was, I wouldn’t be okay with that. Your Mum, she’s gonna die anyway so F her. Your Nana? F her. All these people that fall into a vulnerable group for no other reason than either being born with a predisposition to some medical condition or they’re just old…. Survival of the fittest. A baby, 13 days old died from Covid. That’s the youngest victim I believe, so by the ‘we’re all going to die sometime’ measurement it was that baby’s time to go - oh well. That’s great if you’re fine with that. I wish I had reached that level of zero fuckery but I’m not quite there yet especially when something as simple as wearing a fucking mask, washing my hands and keeping a 2 metre distance from people is all it takes to protect myself and others and that’s before any vaccine talk.

I wonder if these ‘people die’ people go to the gym every day. I wonder if they eat healthy and get their 5 a day. I wonder if they go to the doctor when they get sick… If so, I wonder why they do those things if they believe ‘people die’? Like to me that seems counterintuitive, no? People go to the gym to stay fit and healthy, they eat healthy to be healthy, they go to the doctor to get treatment to make them well…. They’re measures to minimise risk of mortality but they are not a cure for anything so why would you do those things if we’re all just going to die anyway? Eat what the fuck you want, don’t go to the gym you know you don’t really enjoy it and the doctor? Psssh Why!? We’re all just going to die anyway so why prolong it!?

In the same vain I also wonder if those against vaccines, those who say they care about what they put in their body, I wonder if they consume alcohol? Alcohol consumption has been linked to a menagerie of illnesses - heart disease, liver problems, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer etc... Do they use drugs recreationally? They sure as shit don't know what is going into the coke, ecstacy, LSD or plethora of other recreational drugs that go into their body. Again, if they do these things in my mind at least it seems a bit weird they don't trust something that a qualified pharmacologist who has been trained and spent their professional career developing vaccines and drug therapies but would trust Dave the Rave with his 2 GCSEs and his 2 grams of session gak. To me it just doesn't make sense is all.

Staying healthy is great. As my Gran used to say "Prevention is better than cure" and my Gran knew her shit. Of course not getting something is better than getting something and having to cure it. However, staying healthy isn't a substitute. There is a great chasm of a difference between treating an illness and living a healthy lifestyle. Eating your vegetables won't stop you getting cancer, it might make it less likely but it's not a cure. Going to the gym won't stop you getting AIDs. Being 'healthy' isn't always enough. Healthy people get sick too, viruses are indiscriminate like that. They are opportunistic. You could be totally healthy, catch a virus and if your body can't produce the antibodies to fight it then that is the way it is. One of my friends who passed away last year from Covid was 38 years old. He was a regular in the gym. He had no pre-existing medical conditions. On paper he should have been fine but that's not how these things work.


Where does that leave us?

It leaves us right where we started.

Everyone is free to believe what they want to believe. Everyone is free to do with their bodies what they wish to do with their bodies. But everyone should also be wary of why they are making certain choices and who or what is influencing those choices. Don’t base life or death decisions on sources you have not fact checked for unbiased accuracy. Don’t use misinformation to back up your arguments or try to influence others to your way of thinking using misinformation, you lose any credibility. It’s not woke. It’s not informed. It’s not rebellious or controversial, it’s negligent and potentially harmful to others. Make informed choices based on reliable information from reliable sources, not just because “Tina who works the tills down at the Co-Op told me” or “I saw it on social media so it must be true”. Get your facts, not other peoples opinions which may not necessarily be factually accurate. And at the end make an informed choice. I should clarify, making an informed choice doesn’t mean not being an anti-vaxxer but at least you know with factual clarity why you are against vaccines other than “People die’, ‘autism’ or whatever dubious or factually inaccurate statements anti-vaxxers use as justification. Believe it or not I can see why people would be cautious or against vaccines and I get it, I really do, so I don’t think it’s a wild and wacky concept to be against vaccines, I just think it’s ridiculous when you’re against vaccines but don’t even know why or are against vaccines based on misinformation. If you don’t want to vaccinate yourself that’s completely fine (yay free will!) but just know your decisions don’t just impact yourself because if you don’t get vaccinated you’re relying on those who do for your protection.

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