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The Information Plague

December 4, 2020

Well it didn’t take long. When I posted on Wednesday morning about Britain’s medicine’s agency approving the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, it was in the tiny window before the commentariat leapt in to create an argument out of a moment of genuine good news.

What I didn’t expect, but should have done, was that our government, or elements of our government accustomed to receiving cut-and-paste phrases that they could trot out as the “line to take”, claimed that certification of the vaccine was a triumph of Brexit that wouldn’t have been possible if we had remained in the European Union. They were immediately rebutted by others who maintained that our action was perfectly in line with European law, and that such claims were symptomatic of a desperation to point to any available good news about Brexit, since none was otherwise to be found. But too late. The snake was let loose.

The really bad news was that by turning the vaccine into a political football, the antivaxxers had a perfect opportunity to claim that the approval was the result of political pressure rather than medical evidence. Popped into the usual stew of conspiracy ingredients, the likely outcome is that less people will want to take the vaccine, fearing side effects, mind control device implantation and God knows what else.

And because less people will take the vaccine, the pandemic, at least Britain’s bit of it, will be prolonged further than it needs to be, with the result that more people will die needlessly.

What a shame, for reasons way beyond the loss of life. First, that Britain’s medicine agency, an apolitical organisation widely considered by scientists to be a centre of excellence, should have its integrity questioned without any valid evidence. Second, that the vaccine development effort, which is one of the few shining examples of international cooperation in an age of resurgent nationalism, should be characterised as the triumph of one country over others. And third, that if ever we need to celebrate international scientific achievement, it’s now, because other equally dangerous challenges, such as climate change, cannot be solved by the scientists of one country alone.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I shall have the vaccine as soon as it’s available. I don’t believe that the three consortia that have published their data thus far are cynical profiteers who are trying to foist an ineffective and dangerous solution on us unwitting dupes. Nor do I think that Bill Gates and his fellow lizards are going for world domination.

What I do think is that I have maybe ten or twenty years left, whereas if the virus gets me it might end up being weeks or months. Since I have to make a choice between a vaccine that has a one in ten chance of making me ill, and a virus that has a much greater chance of killing me, it’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Just as every other vaccine that has been pumped into my arm over the past seven decades has also been a no-brainer. The fact that I’ve avoided polio, smallpox, TB and a host of other nasties, and that I’m still here despite determined efforts on my part to compromise my health, is evidence enough to me that in a world full of risk, vaccines rank pretty low on the actuarial scale.

For those of you who choose not to get the jab, tant pis, as the French might say. Politeness dictates that I should respect your opinion. But under the mask of civility, you will find within me a feeling of sadness that your minds have been so frazzled with conspiracies, disinformation, paranoia and manipulation that you don’t know which way to turn. That you’re so fearful and angry that you’ve lost the ability to think for yourselves. That you’ve lost the ability to trust anybody or anything.

I don’t blame you. I don’t think you’re stupid. You have your reasons. And I don’t think of myself as particularly smart. I just think that long after I’m gone, people will look back on this time, and see a pandemic far more virulent, pervasive and long-lasting than the coronavirus: the information plague.

Assuming there are people still around to look back, of course.

From → Education, Politics, Social, UK

  1. Absolutely first rate work Steve, well done.

  2. 1984 gone mad, poor George Orwell must be turning in his grave and his ghost shouting ” I told you so” !
    In any case so many people are bamboozled by this plague of so-called information that there will be fewer who are inclined to risk getting the vaccine.
    I am reminded also of the supposed cure for the afliction of ‘morning sickness’, thalidomide. It was supposed to have been approved by those responsible for approving drugs, but it was a disaster. I was given it, but it had such a weird effect that I only took one dose, it didn’t stop morning sickness either.
    We really do need to be wary of a vaccine which may not have been properly tested. How can it have been in such a short time? How long did it take for Dr Salk to perfect his vaccine against polio? I’ll check it out and post my finding.

  3. Well, it’s not only the Salk vaccine which has helped to almost eradicate polio, and research and testing has continued for many years.

    • All good points Rachel. But I have no reason to disbelieve the medicines agency when they say that no corners have been cut. I think it’s relevant that many of the earlier vaccines took a long time to approve was that they were competing for time and attention with other products. I get the sense this time that the decks have been cleared. Anyway, I’m prepared to take the chance. S

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