The great vaccine gamble

I forgot to reblog this from the other week. Worth noting that since then evidence has emerged to suggest that some of the current vaccines might not be effective against emerging strains of covid.

Within the row over nationalistic hoarding of vaccines that’s been going on, there is wider problem being missed. How the vaccines are in many cases being squandered and how some politicians don’t seem to understand the purpose of vaccinations. Most notably, the UK Tory government. Who, much as with brexit, have a nasty happen of placing good PR and friendly news headlines over reality.

To be effective the vaccines have to be given in two doses, spaced 3-4 weeks apart. This is what the vaccine manufacturers recommend and what most countries are doing. But some, notably the UK government, is leaving a 12 week gap between vaccinations, while reporting anyone who has had the one dose as being vaccinated. In truth, during that 12 week period the vaccine is only about 50% effective (in other words a coin toss odds of picking it up). And that’s against the older strains of the virus, not the newer ones that have emerged recently. By contrast, with the 2nd jab immunity jumps to 90% (you are now ten times less likely to get infected, fives times better protected than with one jab).

Given these facts, you can understand the distress of NHS England staff who have only had the one dose and are still expected to treat covid patients. Meanwhile up here in Scotland, while it appears that Scotland is lagging behind England, in truth this is because they’ve been focusing on giving people (including all NHS staff) both jabs and as well as focusing on vaccinating in places like care homes in order to prevent possible superspreader events.

Consider that there is a version of the coronavirus that effects dogs (different to the current strain of course, which is a human to human virus). Fortunately, there is a vaccine, which it is recommended be administered in two doses to puppies (as the young are more likely to get infected) no more than 4 weeks apart, with a further booster doses every 3 years. In some countries this schedule is mandated by law. Yes, the UK’s covid vaccination policy for dogs is better than the one for NHS staff!

Now you might well say, but 50% is better than nothing. Yes, in an ideal world populated entirely by sensible people. However, there is a risk of luring people into a false sense of security. I’ve long noticed a tendency of older people to not follow the quarantine rules properly (e.g. nose sticking out of their mask, if they are actually wearing one of course), well give them the vaccine and tell them they are cured and what do you think they’ll do? Socially distance? LOL! In fact quite a number have been trying to book foreign holidays!

Also, the point of vaccination does introduce a small risk of infection, as you are bringing lots of people together in one place (its still worthwhile vaccinating people, but we have to acknowledge the risk v’s reward trade off, a tiny risk for a ten fold increase in protection). Case in point, I’ve heard from my relatives of a care home in Ireland which has managed to get through this crisis without a single case of covid….until a few weeks ago…after the vaccines were administered (it could just be a cruel coincidence, or it could be that somehow the virus slipped in with one of those administering it).

This is the problem with the Boris Johnson ‘s government, they are more interested in looking good for the cameras than actually dealing with problems. Their brexit policy amounts to hiding the problems and telling UK companies to get around the brexit red tape by moving to the EU (British jobs….for EU workers! and brexit was supposedly justified on removing red tape!).

Last week Boris ran up to Scotland, in violation of Covid rules in order to elbow his way into a photo op regarding a new Scottish made vaccine, before anyone Scottish could take credit for it. He then complained (with no hint of irony) about how a 2nd indy ref won’t be fair as people won’t know what they are voting for. If I was to go back in time and write a work of fiction about Boris and the Tories it would be rejected as too outlandish to be believable.

But this has been the problem with him from the start. He’s not a details person, but a pathological liar and that can be very dangerous. I had a boss like him once, also a public school boy, and his management style could be described as a mix between seagull manager (comes in, makes lots of noise, craps on everything and then leaves) and Monty python’s black knight (as in he doesn’t give up even when its clear he’s lost). He’d propose policy A, “consult” with the staff (in much the way Kim Jung-un “consults” with his people), we’d tell him it can’t work because of X, Y and Z. He’d conclude A was a great idea and instruct us to implement it. We’d point out that’s impossible (again because of X, Y and Z). He’d still insist and demote or remove anyone who refused to go ahead with it. Then when it failed, blame others for why he was never told about X, Y and Z. Rinse and repeat.

My guess is that Boris and his cabinet are much the same. They got it into their heads that the vaccine is some sort of silver bullet solution to the crisis, which its not. Its another tool that can be used to slow the spread of infection. Nothing more, nothing less. Its worth remembering vaccination doesn’t grant permanent immunity, it only works for about 6-12 months in all probability and new strains will emerge which the vaccine doesn’t work against (this is why you have to get a flu shot once a year).

We will still have to deal with Covid years from now, but having a vaccine, combined with a strong health service (which the Tories want to sell off) and an effective track and trace system (which we still don’t have in the UK) means outbreaks will be easier to control. It will just be like any other disease we have to cope with outbreaks of from time to time (the flu, west Nile virus, cholera, etc.). Although that said, given that it can easily spread from country to country there is little to be gained by one country (or the west) hoarding the vaccines and leaving large parts of the world un-vaccinated. This just guarantees further outbreaks and pandemics of covid into the future.

So there is a real danger that the vaccine will be squandered. Which will have pretty serious implications. There’s already a whole host of plandemic” conspiracy theories going around, as well as anti-vacciers and inevitably if they start to hear cases of people who got the vaccine (i.e. only the one dose that’s not really effective) who then got sick and I think you can see where this could end up going.

To paraphrase a saying, when you prioritise good PR over reality you accrue a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt must be repaid.

About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology
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