To vax or not to vax? It’s not really a question…

I know this debate attracts a lot of controversy and negativity, so I would like to start on a positive note by congratulating you on making it past your fifth birthday! That’s no mean feat, given a quarter of children don’t get that far. Oh, sorry, my mistake. It’s 2020, not 1900; vaccines are routine and free of charge; 99.6% of us don’t die before we’re five; and I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.  

No-nuance November may be over, but I’m still not planning on offering any – welcome to no-discussion December. I will hereby present some common vaccine-sceptic arguments and attempt to unceremoniously debunk them in as few words as possible – we’ve all got lives to lead, in no small part because none of us died tragically from rubella as an infant. 

‘The Covid vaccine seems to have been rushed through – how do we know it’s safe?’ 

Short answer: you don’t. No one knows that any medicine they take is safe. A quick glance at some run-of-the-mill ibuprofen warns of possible side-effects including meningitis and heart failure. These are listed as ‘rare’ because they affect less than 1 in 10,000 people. Meanwhile, the rate of serious side effects in existing vaccines is around 1 in 1 million. That said, it is entirely reasonable to have questions and concerns about a new vaccine, especially one that appears to have been sped through the usual regulatory processes. However, when experts in the field unanimously give their assurance that everything is fine, one has to wonder what their motivation would be for lying. Which leads us on to… 

‘I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies to have our best interests at heart’ 

Good instinct! You shouldn’t! They don’t! Big pharma doesn’t care about you, because it’s a business, and that’s capitalism, baby. But the financial impact of the reputational damage and medical malpractice lawsuits that would result from a dodgy vaccine would be astronomical. Also note that the only good customer is one that’s alive. Corporations ‘not caring about you’ doesn’t equate to them ‘actively conspiring to kill you’. I don’t care about the vast majority of people, and I’ve only elaborately plotted the murder of three, tops. 

‘What if the government is trying to microchip us so they can turn us into a police state?’ 

First off, how interesting do you actually think you are? I mean it – how heavily afflicted are you by main character syndrome that you think that Boris, or GCHQ, or some shadowy organisation you’ve made up actually gives half their left bollock about your twice-daily trips to Lidl to buy cheap crisps?  In any event, assuming you’re finding your vaccine-sceptic information on the internet, I would hate to be the one to have to explain the concept of irony to you for the very first time. 

‘It still seems a bit fishy…you can’t rule out a conspiracy’ 

You can never rule out a conspiracy theory. That’s the whole point of them. They are, by their nature, non-falsifiable because they make such ridiculous accusations that it’s impossible to fully disprove them. And if you genuinely think that our current government is capable of conspiring further than their next meal, you’re already giving them far too much credit. 

‘Well no one should force us to be vaccinated – it’s a free country’ 

That’s right. It IS a free country. No one can force you be vaccinated. That’s one of the defining features of not living in a police state. However, herd immunity only works if the overwhelming majority of people are vaccinated, so it’s not just your own freedom you’re playing with, but also that of millions of other people, particularly the most vulnerable. But keep fighting the good fight, yeah? 

Cathi Westall

Cathi is a Masters student with the PoLIS department and Deputy Editor (Print) for 2020/1.

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