A few thoughts on the pandemic and vaccines

I thought I would revisit some points about the pandemic and vaccines, and especially vaccine skepticism.

Fear. 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 especially in the more extreme conspiracy theories. And it’s equally true that the pro-vaccine view is just epidemiology. It’s a sane approach designed to end the pandemic, and the pandemic-related restrictions, as quickly as possible. (I chose to use a seatbelt because it makes sense, not primarily because of fear.)

Pandemic measures evolved over centuries. 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.

Collective view. 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. I have certainly had a lot of restrictions in my life due to the pandemic, but I don’t complain because I know it’s for our collective good.

Taking personal risk vs putting others and society at risk. 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.

Two decades of vaccine testing. Some say that the mRNA vaccines are not tested very well. It’s not quite true 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.

Cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. 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.)

Following specialist medical advice. 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?

Conspiracies. To me, it seems that going into conspiracy theories is often a trauma response. The reasons why people go into it may be complex, from trauma-behavior, going into internet rabbit-holes and echo-chambers, wanting to feel included, wanting to feel they know something others don’t, lack of source-examination, lack of critical thinking skills, and so on. What surprises me the most is the mindset that has to be behind assuming that a large number of people in the world – researchers, universities, medical doctors, media, governments, and so on – are in on a globally coordinated conspiracy to harm people.

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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