AS WE move towards the fag end of another year of disruption and turmoil, Badger reflects on the things that make life worthwhile.
Let’s start with something basic.
If you are reading this column, you are alive.
Despite fortune’s outrageous slings and arrows, you are here, conscious and either reading these words or – in the case of some of the permanently outraged or terminally daft – having them read to you.
Over the last twenty months or so, you’ve survived a pandemic that’s claimed 146,000 lives across the UK, including 6,500 in Wales and 618 in the Hywel Dda UHB area.
By any measure, that’s a lot of families bereaved and loved ones lost.
The numbers are large, the consequences heart-rending.
The upheaval caused by Covid-19 has affected all of us in every part of our lives: work, leisure, and pleasure have been hit.
And while Covid has not killed as many as the most over-the-top of doom-mongers predicted, it’s slain enough to give everyone the chance to reflect on their luck in dodging the pandemic bullet.
The figures cited above refer only to deaths; they do not include those left suffering from “long-Covid” or left permanently disabled by Covid’s ravages.
So, reader, pause and reflect.
And while you pause and reflect, chew on this: many of you will have survived because you took the steps necessary to protect yourselves and your families or have received vaccinations.
Vaccinations are not a cure; they prevent you from suffering Covid’s worst symptoms. Suppose you contract Covid after you’ve received the vaccine. In that case, you are less likely to become seriously ill, to be hospitalised, to die.
If you elect not to take the vaccine, that’s your personal choice. However, you don’t bear the consequences of that decision alone. Among the risks the unvaccinated take is passing the virus to a person who dies or is left unwell due to contracting Covid from them.
Principles can come with a hefty price tag, and it’s not only you that might bear the cost.
Suppose you reject the idea of the principle of receiving any vaccine voluntarily. In that case, you will never travel overseas to countries that require you to be vaccinated against Covid19.
In the same principled vein, you do not accept vaccinations against diseases if you travel abroad – even to Europe.
Let’s clear the path for a moment: vaccines, combined with tireless public health campaigns, have reduced the incidence of polio, tuberculosis, measles, and smallpox—all diseases which slew our ancestors in impressive numbers.
If we travel abroad, medical staff can even inoculate us against things like bubonic plague, typhoid, West Nile Virus, and rabies – decidedly lethal diseases which are still prevalent in nations without access to sufficient stocks of immunising agents or where the take-up of vaccines is low allowing such illnesses to circulate more easily among populations.
There’s no credible scientific debate about vaccines.
On the one hand, you have the last few hundred years of scientific advances and people who have studied and understood how diseases spread. On the other, there’s a combination of the genuinely fearful and those who get some perverse pleasure from being contrarian fear-mongers.
Badger is only stunned that those on the latter side don’t reject the whole of modern medicine – up to and including surgery – and elect to live their lives as their ancestors did: briefly and in pain and ill-health.
Badger’s fellow columnist, Matthew Paul, passingly mentioned a name last week: Andrew Wakefield.
In recent years, measles has come roaring back as a childhood illness. For many, it is a relatively minor disease. In a statistically significant minority of cases, measles can cause life-altering injury and death in a minority of cases.
This rise is directly attributable to the discredited and fraudulent ‘science’ of a single discredited and fraudulent rogue researcher, Andrew Wakefield.
Wakefield was PAID to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. So he did.
As the British Medical Journal put it: “Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross. Moreover, although the scale of the GMC’s 217-day hearing precluded additional charges focused directly on the fraud, the panel found him guilty of dishonesty concerning the study’s admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards.”
Wakefield fled to the USA with the money he’d coined from others’ misery.
The results of Wakefield’s fraud are still being felt today.
That is a continuing instance in which decisions based on crappy and demonstrably fraudulent science have had and continue to have long-term adverse effects on public health.
Suppose anyone’s principled stand against being vaccinated against Covid-19 is fuelled by the havoc Andrew Wakefield’s fraud caused. In that case, Badger implores you to reflect on the bad faith and junk research that underpins your position.
Badger sets aside the poor deluded fools who think Covid-19 is a conspiracy and vaccination an effort to allow Bill Gates to monitor their consumption of marmalade or tinned mackerel. Whatever motivates them requires the attention of psychiatrists or even exorcists.
Badger respects the individual’s right to choose, provided their foundation for that choice is sincere.
Suppose a person declines the vaccine on the principle that they don’t feel like taking it because they don’t like being told what to do. There’s a word to describe that stance: selfish. Or moronic, take your pick, readers.
If individuals decline vaccinations, they must face the foreseeable consequences of their free choice: namely, a restricted right to travel outside the UK in the future and the risk – especially in the care, health, and public sectors – that an employer might elect to reduce the risk they present to others by laying them off.
The choice is always the individual’s, and the outcomes of that choice are solely their responsibility.
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