Writing And More - A Blog by Alan Devey
“There’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.”
– David Frum, The Atlantic, September 2021
Here’s a very contemporary fable: Entitled man refuses modern medicine. Entitled man gets virus more severely than he would have because of refusing modern medicine. Entitled man is rushed to hospital where he suddenly wants modern medicine very, very much. Modern medicine saves entitled man’s life. Entitled man leaves hospital then immediately goes back to feeling comfortable refusing modern medicine.
This is where the much-noted saintliness of NHS staff comes in to shame the likes of me. Were I a medical professional, I would struggle to treat those hospitalised after refusing the vaccine, whether that was down to brainwashing, foolishness or just plain fear on their part. They’d be on their own, my priority switching to the treatment of those who had accepted life-saving shots but still needed the assistance of doctors, nurses and surgeons. There are plenty of these patients after all, with waiting lists in the UK five million strong and rising.
As Frum’s quote illustrates, we’re not in as bad a shape as America, that place where half of Republican Trump followers see vaccine refusal as a matter of identity preservation. These men and women would rather die in the most horrendous way than get an inoculation that has been proved to be safe. This is their idea of “owning the libs” but actually it's more like firing the starting pistol on a nationwide Darwin Awards involving millions. Still, we can’t get complacent here in the UK, and, as ever, our useless government aren’t doing enough, let off the hook by an even more hopeless ‘opposition’ under careerist Blair impersonator Keir Starmer.
The epidemic of mental health issues this nation has been dealing with was exacerbated by Covid, with the number of children referred to such services doubling. Meanwhile background repercussions have hit our population at both ends of the libertarian spectrum. All those struggling ought to be able to access help, no matter how obnoxious or objectionable their beliefs, even if that’s just a session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from a trained professional who might help them with mounting anxiety. The fear varies, from struggling to ‘live with the virus’ as a vaccinated individual, to misinformation-inspired reluctance to get the shot in the first place.
At one end of the scale something like a tenth of the UK population still aren’t okay. Despite being fully vaccinated and, in many cases, suffering no underlying health conditions to put them at risk, they're unable to transition away from the worst eighteen months of their lives back into the old routines. That’s understandable, particularly when the virus is more prevalent here than in any other European country, with around a million British people continuing to get it every month. Human beings are notoriously bad at judging risk, and if you combine our de facto herd immunity policy with months of continual pressure to be ever-more fearful, it’s similar to what we saw with the terror hysteria (even though you’re more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than a terrorist). So this ongoing reluctance to re-enter the world shouldn’t be surprising.
But it is frustrating, because this virus isn’t going away. Covid will sit there in the background, just like the regular flu which, during the worst times like 2015-16, killed 23,000 vulnerable people in a season and was barely even reported. It’s also unfortunate because the vaccines have allowed many of us to inch our way back towards normal life (or better than normal life, if you hated your commute as much as I did). More than ever life is for the living, and if you've chosen to exist in a way that means your social patterns are indistinguishable from those of an agoraphobic, that isn’t really living. This is especially true when considering how the spiralling climate crisis means there’s much worse in store for humanity, all barrelling towards us in the near future.
As for those 10% of British adults who aren’t getting vaccinated (up to 38% in the London borough where I live), this reluctance is shocking and incomprehensible to those who know about the history of vaccines; who understand what life was like before the likes of smallpox and polio were eradicated. My mother caught the latter as a young girl and it was only thanks to my grandmother’s decisive intervention she wasn’t crippled for life and I’m here at all. Why on earth wouldn’t you take advantage of the scientific breakthroughs of recent decades? We don’t live longer nowadays by accident. My father, in his more lucid moments, recalls life before the NHS. It was a time when some woman on his street was the only maternity help available and she was called in to deliver babies despite a lack of formal qualifications. Meanwhile everyone in the house crossed their fingers, hoping mother and infant would survive.
I do think there’s a need for some empathy here, however. Many of the most impoverished don’t have the time or money to take a day off work and stay in bed, dealing with the transitory side effects from a vaccination. Meanwhile some have collective memories of times when the medical establishment didn’t have peoples’ best interests at heart (see the Thalidomide scandal here, or the Tuskegee study in the US). Also, and quite understandably, many Brits don’t trust a government of liars to do the right thing by them. But this compassion has its limits, and many of us are now reaching the end of our collective tether. You have to very determinedly bury your head in the sand not to see how every government around the world that isn’t run by an insane person, left, right or moderate, is putting out the same message: Get Vaccinated! Meanwhile the ‘wait and see’ crew are starting to look ridiculous, now that over six billion doses have been given with no side effects reported beyond the first eight weeks. In fact, we’re approaching the one year anniversary of the initial test subjects getting a shot and none of them have subsequently morphed into an A.I. murderbot or suffered elephantiasis of the testicles.
In fact, we now know that significant adverse reaction affects about one in every quarter of a million vaccinated citizens; much lower than other forms of medication, including the contraceptive pill. We also know that, as with the flu, here on plague island everyone is likely to contract Coronavirus sooner or later. When that happens, if you aren’t vaccinated, serious medical problems are much likelier, along with the risk of being debilitated by long Covid. By remaining unvaccinated you’re effectively playing Russian roulette with your health, in a way you simply wouldn’t risk elsewhere. If flying on a particular plane had a 10% risk of hospitalisation and life-changing after-effects, along with a one in a hundred chance of actual death, you wouldn’t go anywhere near that flight.
Yes, despicable anti-vaxxers are spreading misinformation to make money and some gullible folk have fallen for their bullshit. Yes, there is complacency among those who feel they have a good enough immune system to fight the virus without a vaccine boost (a notion many are now being disabused of, and in the most horrendous ways). Some will follow the logic of selfish individualism, having no sense of wider responsibility to the vulnerable in society or even those who care about them. A few may even possess a kind of nihilistic death wish. But when I delve deeper into why most are refusing a new vaccine, it usually comes down to one thing: sheer cowardice.
How the ‘vaccine hesitant’ have come to fear the (generally slight) side effects of a life-saving shot over Covid is an essay in itself, but to them I would say: visit the Covid ward of any hospital in this country, observe the state of affairs there and see if a dose of reality can put things into perspective (there is no ‘vaccine side effect ward’ in any hospital by the way, funny that). Of course, we know all about the usual suspects: dodgy stats, anecdotal exaggeration and the anti-scientific nonsense amoral twats use to shore up their support base; getting publicity to sell snake oil, whether that amounts to useless homeopathic remedies, bleach or fucking horse dewormer. But, you know, the cowardice we’re seeing from rich footballers, lads down the pub and Laurence fucking Fox maps pretty closely to a fear that underpins their belief in conspiracy theories (as opposed to actual, provable, historical conspiracies). Adam Curtis touches on this in his recent document series ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ - how the conspiracy theorist isn’t intellectually mature enough to accept that no one is actually in control of the complex and confusing set of systems we call a world. Rather than come to terms with this, they choose to invent or endorse outlandish scenarios, thereby offering themselves some reassurance. Such imaginings involve the illuminati, billionaires, our Royal family, the EU, media barons, world government or some other shadowy cabal. In reality, none of them control very much. If they did, we wouldn’t be living through our current chaos.
If you believe the government is competent enough to control the British population through lockdowns and vaccination, or that 9/11 was an inside job, or Jeremy Corbyn really is the centre of some weird racist movement, or Hillary Clinton runs a paedophile ring based out of a pizza restaurant please, drop me a line, I’ve some magic beans to sell you. Alternatively, you can grow the fuck up, stop holding on to comfort blanket delusions and accept that no one in power really knows what the hell they’re doing; especially our cosseted politicians. Sadly, at the time of writing, many have taken this anti-rational bullshit to their hearts and would rather choose delusion over reality.
And what is it that has trained them to turn away from the empirical world in this way? To embrace anti-rationalism their whole lives, from childhood indoctrination to adult conformism? In most cases it isn’t malevolent Facebook groups, message board warriors or internet dens. No, it is religion. I touch upon this in relation to Brexit fantasies in my novel The Gestalt Switch, but think about it for a second: if you believe a man can rise from the dead, women remain virgins after being impregnated, a few loaves can feed multitudes and all this is overseen by some whimsical cloud-sitting sky-God who can send you to hell any moment for coveting thy neighbour’s oxen, it’s a very small step to believe Bill Gates has implanted you with a chip so you can’t go near 5G transmitters. Having heard from many supposedly God-fearing vaccine refuseniks who use the pathetic excuse of ‘religious belief’ to abnegate their societal responsibility, for me our situation is just another example of how organised religion ruins everything. Because when you’ve been taught to disbelieve science relating to fossils, dinosaurs and the age of our planet, it isn’t implausible to put your faith in the anti-vaxx movement, especially after hearing from a cousin that some bloke he knows had a stroke after getting the Pfizer jab, and correlation over causation be damned.
This is why we hear Christian anti-vaxxers say “Jesus didn’t get the shot”. No dear, he’s fictional. But even if he wasn’t and this same shaggy lad was hanging about now, we know all about his character from the good book. Jesus focussed on communal well-being over the power of the individual so of course he would get vaccinated. He cared about people, not just himself. Remember? Religious ‘exemptions’ also explain why Covid outbreaks have often been worse in ‘God-fearing’ communities that continued their (illegal) gatherings during lockdown. If you live your life by the outdated vagaries of some ancient religious text it's no surprise you end up contracting and spreading a novel virus. You aren’t changing your habits because Covid isn’t mentioned in the Bible? Really?
To play deity’s advocate for a moment, there are plenty of vaccinated believers around who do look out for others, who make consideration and selflessness the centre of their lives. But in the modern era their efforts are increasingly outweighed by the collective damage done by those clinging to an out-of-date, anti-scientific belief system. These faithful helped elect the likes of Trump, Modi and Bolsanaro and their way of living exists in an organised capacity purely for the enrichment of the Church. That’s why such institutions put their emphasis on tithing. Then they produce brainwashed believers, unable to reason with anyone because that would require a sustained period of cult-style deprogramming for them to think rationally.
Because, guess what? The vaccines have already saved hundreds of thousands of lives and will eventually save millions. They weren’t “rushed”; there were all the requisite trials, safeguards, checks and approvals, just in a compacted timeline. As every project manager knows, if you have limitless money, manpower and government cooperation, any undertaking can be completed a bloody sight faster. The information about what is in the mRNA technology, exactly how these vaccines work and their potential side effects; it’s all out there and easily available. It isn’t the creators’ fault morons like Minaj or your unvaccinated uncle are too lazy to try and understand the science. As this excellent Horizon documentary shows, not every prototype vaccine made it, as you might expect. But AstraZeneca had massive government funding and support around Europe, Moderna were working on similar technology for well over a decade beforehand and Pfizer chose to invest half a billion in a production and distribution infrastructure before they even knew their vaccine worked. That gamble paid off, other companies’ didn’t.
Here’s the reality: We’re able to get close to normal life again and obsess about things other than Covid because of all the work, sacrifice and heroism of those involved in making the vaccine. They should be lauded, venerated and appreciated, not subject to ignorant attacks from the kind of twats who think it’s an imposition on their personal freedom to protect the kids from disease, buckle a seatbelt or fail to operate a vehicle when shitfaced. Vaccine experts and their colleagues represent the best of humanity, and if they can pull together for the greater good, why on earth can’t the rest of us? Even animal rights fundamentalists put aside their deeply-held beliefs, because the inconvenient truth is that we wouldn’t have a vaccine without key early experimentation on mice and monkeys.
I believe that people who spread lies and misinformation about vaccines should be immediately deplatformed and, in the worst cases (hello Piers Corbyn!), prosecuted for endangering public health, along with the fraudulent behaviour that sees them continuing to peddle their snake oil. The situation right now couldn’t be more serious for humanity. For many months we waited, hoped and crossed our fingers, praying for a vaccine. Now, wonderfully, we have them. And with this technology comes freedom, security, a way out of perpetual fear. So don’t listen to the idiots and cowards and those peers who have the interests of no one but themselves at heart. Get vaccinated, now.