Covid — to vaccinate or not?

Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

Setting aside the conspiracy theorists, why are such a large proportion of the younger generations questioning the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines? One of the reasons may be that today’s students often choose to follow the Art pathway rather than that of Science at an early age.

As a retired veterinary surgeon with a degree of medical knowledge I was surprised to learn that my 50 year old daughter, enjoying a very successful career in the City of London, did not know the difference between an artery and a vein. She is highly intelligent but has no concept of scientific knowledge apart from that promulgated by social media on which her generation is reliant with all its advantages and disadvantages. She can tell a scam at a thousand paces but she can also be influenced by quasi-scientific information which is totally wrong. How is she to know what is scientifically proven — at this moment in time — and what is not?

Putting aside a significant part of the 76 million Americans who voted for a man who suggested drinking bleach as a remedy for coronavirus, there are a lot of young people who have valid questions that must be answered

The scientific knowledge of the Covid-19 coronavirus is changing by the week. We are playing ‘catch-up’ — but we expect the Government to tell us the whole truth and when this changes from week to week, the electorate lose more and more faith in their leadership. Who can be certain that the vaccines are both safe and effective if they do not have the mind-training to question the experts? OK, so only those who believe that the California forest fires were started by laser beams from Jewish satellites and that Hilary Clinton eats new-born babies, are likely to believe that each vaccine contains a microchip designed to track our every movement and render women infertile. Putting aside a significant part of the 76 million Americans who voted for a man who suggested drinking bleach as a remedy for coronavirus, there are a lot of young people who have valid questions that must be answered

Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, states that, over the longer term, “We need to rebuild trust in public institutions and expert knowledge. As crises like the current pandemic make clear, trust is the foundation stone of our community. Without it, even the most significant medical breakthroughs can seem like cause for suspicion.”

It really comes down to a matter of faith — especially when the Presidents of both France and Germany have cast doubts on the efficacy of the available vaccines. Fortunately both leaders have now reversed their opinions but the damage has been done. The fact that vaccination has largely eliminated smallpox, polio, tetanus and Rubella (German Measles) from the developed nations seems to have passed into the mists of history.

This is Western medicine which millions of the further Eastern nations prefer to set aside in favour of their own forms of treatment which have served them well for millennia. How can we persuade these individuals to accept a vaccine which is largely alien to their medical thinking when inaccurate social media articles lead them to believe that the current vaccines contain extracts of pig or microchips that will track their every movement?

Many Chinese genuinely believe that boiled, and then baked, pangolin scales will significantly increase lactation in nursing mothers while curing many other conditions in the same way that powdered ivory elephant tusk can relieve suffering — in humans if not in the elephants themselves. Many people still sincerely believe that they have been cured by the process known as moxibustion.

Moxibustion? Ever heard of it?

It is the burning of a small bonfire of herbs on the belly of the patient. I have even seen it recommended for the treatment of family pets although how they manged to restrain the dog from running for its life I have no idea.

The miasmatists in Europe continued to believe that cholera was spread by ‘noxious vapours’, or miasmas, for many decades after scientific innovation proved that the disease was water-borne.

The African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government vowed in 2001 that the forthcoming decade would incorporate the practice of African traditional medicine into their health care systems by increasing institutional capacity and developing national regulatory frameworks.

Herbal medicine of the Middle Ages is still practised in many forms today despite the ridicule it has suffered over the tears. Dr Samuel Johnson, travelling through Shropshire by coach in the latter half of the 18th century, recognised a woman by the roadside who he had seen as suffering from dropsy (a form of oedema or swelling especially in the legs and ankles), the year before but was now apparently free of the condition. She attributed her recovery to the use of a Foxglove Remedy prescribed to her by a Dr William Withering. Foxglove’s main medicinal constituent is digitalis, still today, a potent treatment for congestive heart failure which results in oedema. As with many alternative therapies there are beneficial remedies to be found today. Unfortunately these effective remedies are all too often buried within a heap of completely ineffectual concoctions.

Even completely erroneous medical theories can lead to significant benefits to the human population. The miasmatists in Europe continued to believe that cholera was spread by ‘noxious vapours’, or miasmas, for many decades after scientific innovation proved that the disease was water-borne. They were totally wrong at the time but the theory of atmospheric contamination by industrial particles and poisonous chemicals causing disease has been proved correct by the very sciences that contradicted them in the 19th century. We have to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Homeopathy has had a chequered reputation and yet out 94 year old Queen has sworn by its benefits for years. During overseas engagements she would be accompanied by a small leather case with a “bewildering” supply of homeopathic remedies, according to the Daily Mail’s, Richard Kay. The case would include arsenicum album for food poisoning, cocculus for travel sickness, nux vomica for indigestion and arnica, for jet-lag and bruising.
As a retired practising veterinary surgeon I was completely surprised to find that certain homeopathic remedies — especially Arnica and Argent. Nit.- had profound and long-lasting beneficial effects on several of my patients. This did not prevent me from recommending vaccination against distemper, leptospirosis, feline viral enteritis and cat flu all of which are rarely seen by the veterinary clinicians of today.

The human body is a remarkably delicate structure which responds in many different ways in different individuals. Take the placebo effect. If someone takes an innocuous pill in the belief that they are receiving a curative medicine, they may show an apparent relief of their symptoms. The mind can override the body in the opposite way as witnessed by the nosebo effect. This is seen when a person, expecting that the medication will cause negative side effects, experiences those unpleasant side effects even though the medication that they are taking is actually an inert substance.

The problem remains that, unless we can convince the doubters to accept the vaccine, it is going to be very difficult to allow freedom of travel between countries that have differing opinions about the benefits and side effects of Covid vaccination. More information is needed from the devoted band of dedicated scientists. For instance, we don’t know yet whether vaccinated patients can transmit the coronavirus.

Taking meningitis as an example, for the kind caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, there are many vaccines that can prevent 85–90% of disease cases. However, several clinical trials have shown that vaccinated people can still carry the bacterium.

We simply have to wait — often impatiently — for proven knowledge to become available but it has been a long wait and the patience of the populace is wearing thin. They consider that their rights are being infringed by being told to wear a mask, to maintain social distancing, to deny ourselves Easter holiday breaks and summers in the sun or meet friends for a communal meal in the local pub.

There is no completely correct answer to the question posed at the head of this article.

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Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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Adrian Arnold

Adrian Arnold

Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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