Alec Hogg’s Inbox: There needs to be some differentiation in the vaccination debate

Not surprisingly, my inbox is still attracting a lot of emails about the pandemic. One of the most rational came from Harvard House director Robin Gibson who wrote:

The problem with the world today is we are suffering from choice overload. Specifically in the media environment. It is difficult to distinguish what is right from wrong and fake from true, and that is before we reach the deep fake possibility!

I have followed the Vaccination debate closely and think there needs to be some differentiation:

  1. An Anti-Vaxxer and anti-Covid Vaccine is not the same thing. While the former is highly likely to be the latter, the reverse does not follow.
  2. As pointed out by your readers, the Covid Vaccine does not protect you against getting Covid, it merely decreases your odds of a potentially worse medical result than without it (it doesn’t guarantee you will not die, it just lowers the probability – a bit like wearing a seatbelt in a car)
  3. The implication of point 2 is that for those who are criticising people opting to not have the Covid Vaccine are ill informed. They are not placing you at any greater risk from Covid,. If you are that worried then get your vaccine, social distance and eliminate the risks (to revert to my seatbelt example – don’t go in a car at all)
  4. The only legitimate critic of an anti-Covid Vaccine stance is the medical fraternity who have been overwhelmed by the volume, length and intensity of Covid hospitalisations.
  5. There is a strong argument for taking the vaccine, because it is still unclear as to what increases the probability of mortality. While co-morbidities are clearly a factor, there have been some seemingly strange deaths of rather fit and healthy individuals and survival of surprising frail individuals. To use another illustration, you have more chance of being hit by lightning than getting a hole-in-one, but we all know how often that happens. A low probability is no protection!
  6. What the anti-Covid vaccine individuals are concerned about, however, is if the “cure” (vaccine) is worse than the illness. We know the outcomes of Covid and the broad probabilities. What science will not make very clear (and yet you sign to say you indemnify and acknowledge prior to getting your vaccine) is that they cannot categorically state that the vaccine is safe, because it hasn’t been in human bodies long enough to show long term side effects (which will probably only be demonstrated by long term statistics of health events in 20 years’ time – read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers on this idea).

Sadly this diversity and conflation can be applied to so many subjects today, it just makes you wonder whether bringing Hyde Park Corner into everyman’s’ home was such a good idea?

Chic Chamberlain of Macit Tours & Travel offered some one-the-ground scepticism about allowing the public sector to make decisions that impact areas in which they are unqualified. He wrote:

While I initially did not believe in the conspiracy theory that this whole Covid crisis is being engineered, when you look at the irrational decisions that are being made by governments around the world, not just ours (whom we expect to make irrational decisions), you actually start believing in a conspiracy.

Being in the travel and tourism business, (which is one of those being hardest hit by this nonsense) we are continually faced by irrational decisions made by foreign governments as well as our own. Some examples are:

  1. We had a young lady going back to Britain to continue her studies who wanted to isolate in Holland with some relatives before going on to Britain. She was stopped by the Dutch immigration officials and interrogated for about five hours before finally being let in on the basis that her father, who lives in South Africa, is Italian.
  2. We have another client who wants to visit Greece with his wife. He has an Irish (EU) passport and gets in without having to quarantine. His wife, on a South African passport, is officially required to quarantine. The fact that they have both live in South Africa and have been vaccinated is irrelevant. His EU passport is what obviously gives him immunity. I am not sure if that logic is Irish or Greek.

When you look at the British government categorising countries into Red, Amber and Green and making changes seemingly irrationally from time to time, and then Facebook, Youtube and other stupid social media channels censoring information they don’t agree with, how can you not believe in a conspiracy theory?

Close off today with Andrew Cormack’s rational insights:

With respect to Covid, it seems that many people are getting their information from WhatsApp groups or Facebook rather than more “official” sources. You are correct when you say that the Covid vaccines are not designed to be a complete shield. They are modelled after the flu vaccination strategy which targets reduction of severity rather than elimination of infection. In other words, shift the extreme right-hand tails leftwards. People will still get Covid but, all things being equal, deaths will be reduced and severe cases become moderate or mild. This means that, yes, people can still transmit the virus.

As for why France (and other countries) are permitting vaccinated travellers, it is a simple issue of risk-based policy. Governments need to balance economic imperatives with health issues. Permitting vaccinated travellers into a population that has been vaccinated should be low-risk: any negative impact caused will likely be less than the economic consequences of barring travellers altogether.

In short: people need to get informed….and not by WhatsApp or through anecdotes about someone’s friend’s uncle.

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