Pandemic & vaccine perspectives

I thought I would briefly address two specific anti-pandemic-measures views, and then mention a few general things.

Someone I know is strongly against wearing masks, with the rationale that they don’t work as well as some assume. Another is against taking the vaccine because it can have side effects. 

I understand and see it differently. Perhaps because I have different priorities and may see it from a different perspective.


Masks may not filter the air very well, and a lot of the air goes in and out in the gaps between the mask and the face.

At the same time, we all spit when we talk, and often more than we are aware of. (Look at some high-speed footage and it will be obvious.) And these drops easily transmit the virus, so it makes sense to wear a mask.

It’s low cost. It’s easy to put on. And it prevents droplet transmission.


It’s the same with vaccines. We know they have serious side effects for some. They don’t prevent illness in all cases. And some even contract the virus and die even if they are fully vaccinated.

We also know that serious side effects are very rare. (It’s far more dangerous to do a lot of the things most people happily do in daily life, like driving a car.) It does prevent serious illness, in the vast majority of cases. And the ones who die while being fully vaccinated are typically very old or have a serious pre-existing illness.


At a collective level, the alternative to mass vaccinations is not very attractive. If we don’t vaccinate and don’t maintain the social restrictions, we’ll have large numbers of people dying, full hospitals, and people turned away from hospitals who desperately need help.

If we don’t vaccinate and don’t want to overload our healthcare system, we’ll have to keep the social restrictions indefinitely and likely for years.

In both cases, the only end of the pandemic is when most people have been infected. And that means a large number of people dying. A large number of people with long-term effects following the infection. And new virus mutations which may well include some that are far more dangerous than what we have seen so far.


At a personal level, as a member of society and humanity, I can choose to not vaccinate and be part of the group that delays a return to normal and puts us all at risk through continuing the pandemic and increasing the risk of dangerous mutations.

Or I vaccinate, and am part of bringing society back to normal, the pandemic to an end, and reducing the risk of dangerous mutations.


Also, at a personal level, it’s understandable to be a bit hesitant about vaccines. I don’t take them unless I have a very good reason to do so. But with the new mutations (currently the delta variant), and with likely coming mutations, it’s too much of Russian roulette for me to not take the vaccine.

We will all eventually be exposed to the virus, and we’ll get infected unless our system happens to know how to deal with it. (And it will only know that from previous exposure, which is the purpose of vaccines.)

A significant portion of those infected will have long-lasting and sometimes serious effects from the infection.

And, mainly, I don’t want to be responsible for infecting others, including people who can get seriously sick and die.


If none of this is convincing, we may look at what’s happening in the world today.

The majority of those dying from covid (mostly the delta variant) are unvaccinated.

In a sense, we are seeing natural selection at work here. Of the two groups, those who choose to vaccinate and not to vaccinate, life is weeding out more people in the second group.

The virus doesn’t care about our ideology. And at the same time, from now on, the survival rate in the two groups will likely be quite different.


I see some vaccine skeptics say that the pro-vaccine people are driven by fear. I see as much fear in the anti-vaccine people. And it’s equally true that the pro-vaccine view is just epidemiology.

The measures we collectively use to deal with the pandemic – quarantine, isolation, social restrictions, vaccines – is what we collectively have arrived at through centuries of trials and errors.

We have seen what works, and that’s what we use to deal with the current pandemic. None of it is new or what someone came up with on the fly in response to this particular pandemic.

Also, we need to take a collective view on this. We need to look at what works best for us as a society and species. If I am personally inconvenienced, so be it. It doesn’t matter much as long as we, collectively, do the best we can.

If we take the vaccine, the risk is only our own. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk. Not taking the vaccine, unless it’s for valid medical reasons, is supremely selfish and short-sighted.

Some say that the RNA vaccines are not tested very well. It’s not accurate since they have been tested for two decades. The general vaccine is well known, it has just been programmed for this specific virus. See for instance this article from The Guardian.

Some have fringe ideas about the virus, remedies, and so on. That’s fine, but we cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. Public policies have to be based on science, and that’s fortunately mostly what we see in this pandemic. (Apart from leaders like Trump who disregard the science and the advice from epidemiologists, and we have seen the consequences of that approach.)

And finally, I assume many or most of the people who are anti-vaccine, or don’t like the standard epidemiological measures used in this pandemic, are the same who would be very happy to follow the advice of other medical specialists. If they have a heart problem, they go to a heart specialist. If they have a broken bone, they go to a doctor who can set it and help it heal. So in a pandemic, why not listen to epidemiologists? Why not follow the best practices established – often long ago – in epidemiology in dealing with pandemics, just as we follow best practices in other fields of medicine.

In general, the anti-vaccine view seems to come from (a) lack of understanding of epidemiology and lack of a historical perspective, (b) misunderstandings about the vaccine, and perhaps (c) a narrow me-first view instead of a collective view.

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