Opinion with Melissa Todd: Vaccine mistrust and why politicians should be mortified by the reason

Vaccine development

I was super excited to hear about the Covid vaccination, and grateful to the scientific minds that have worked to create it so quickly. And then utterly distraught when I discovered that for humanity to develop herd immunity, at least 55% of the population must be vaccinated, and currently only 54% of 4000 respondents said they would definitely roll up their sleeves.

Worse still, that figure dropped by 6.47% when the respondents were shown misinformation online. You know the sort of thing. The vaccine will turn you into Bigfoot, a lawnmower, purple mushed up goo fit only for feeding lizards.

The Labour party have proposed that social media firms who don’t remove false scare stories about vaccines should be fined. I think that’s a terrible idea. Banning people from saying stuff doesn’t stop them saying stuff. They just say the stuff more quietly and get ever more convinced what they’re saying must be important, for it to warrant legislation to stop them saying it. But the anti-vaxxers’ argument isn’t important, it’s wrong. Completely different. The answer isn’t to ban the anti-vaxxers but to explain why they are mistaken on every available platform, which is why I’m writing this when I could be staring at telly.

Do you really think the toffs that allegedly run this country are capable of a conspiracy to cull the population? They couldn’t run a bun fight in a bakery. Why would they spend a heap of cash ordering vaccines to kill and maim us, when Covid is doing such a splendid job gratis?

There are 223 vaccinations against the bug currently in development. Of these, 39 have got through the first phase of safety trials, which checks whether it’s safe, rather than effective; 18 have made it through phase two, which involves it being tested on a much bigger sample of volunteers; 11 have got through phase three, which is where the vaccine is tested to see if it actually works – thousands of volunteers are randomly assigned the vaccine or a placebo, and then measured to see if significantly fewer of them develop Covid, which is obviously another safety trial as well as a test of the vaccine’s efficacy.

Of these eleven, the Pfizer product is showing extremely promising results, proving to be about 90% effective. It still needs to be peer reviewed, and various health authorities need to approve it, but it’s really starting to look hopeful that next year needn’t be as boring and wretched as this one.

Pfizer’s breakthrough is an unprecedented triumph, equivalent to the invention of the wheel, the internet, space travel. Usually vaccines take 5-10 years to develop, but in this instance the world’s most brilliant virologists have co operated, shared information and studies, and had billions and billions of dollars thrown at them by private investors, investment funds and governments. They have committed to this research because Covid has stopped the world, wiped billions off the stock market, stretched national health services to their limit and beyond. Pandemics are bad news for everyone. They are an equal opportunity nightmare. It is in everyone’s interests to kick their skanky little tushes.

Now it’s true that Covid isn’t the scariest, deadliest disease going. If I get it I’ll almost certainly be fine. But I know plenty of people who won’t be, and I bet you do too. Like my mum, who has an auto-immune disease and has barely left her house all year, or my mate Bill, who’s having cancer treatment. Anyway, however low the risk of Covid is to you personally, the risk of the vaccine is considerably lower. It’s true too that there have been instances historically of medicines being approved prematurely. But there have been instances of cars, planes, boats being sold with deadly faults, fridges that catch fire, cosmetics containing carcinogens. Yet we continue to drive and wear make up and use white goods because we understand that faults are corrected, manufacturers learn from their mistakes, go on to produce ever better, safer products, which are put through yet more rigorous tests.

Vaccines prevent three million deaths worldwide each year. They have resulted in the near total eradication of smallpox, polio and tetanus, while measles and diphtheria have been reduced by 99.9%. And yet the World Health Organisation lists hesitancy to take up vaccines as one of the top ten biggest threats to global health.

Vaccine distrust is reflective of government distrust. It exists predominantly in developed nations – in less economically advantaged parts of the world, they tend to be of the opinion that dying painfully and prematurely is better avoided. But here in the West we’ve seen a marked and intriguing phenomenon: the greater the levels of social inequality in a country, the higher the prevalence of anti-vaxxers.

It makes a sort of sense I guess. When I conducted a totally unscientific, unrepresentative poll among my Facebook friends, I heard: “Why would we trust them? Look what happened at Grenfell” and “have you seen how much money Pfizer are earning out of this?” The Greek chorus of the last forty or so years (in addition to forever, obviously, but particularly since Thatcher)  has been rich people shafting poor people; profiting from their labour, misery, hunger, ambition. Vaccine distrust is not so much a sickness as a symptom: a symptom of a much wider, longstanding social problem, that of the ever growing chasm between the haves and have nots.

Our politicians and public servants should be mortified and broken with shame on discovering that a huge proportion of its citizens genuinely believe them capable of mass murder, if mass murder means profit. They should vow to restore public trust and confidence by any necessary means.

But they won’t. And so 2021 threatens to be as boring and wretched as 2020.

28 Comments

  1. I’m 100% an advocate of some sort of vaxx pass. If you’ve had your jabs, you get some sort of certificate, a QR coded card or some such.
    It’s your right to decline a vaccination.
    It’s my right to say that you can’t come in my pub, cafe, etc.

    • Until the same crowd that doesn’t want to be vaccinated then claim discrimination for “my choice!”

      With a lot of people, they want the right to choose but don’t want to burden the responsibility of that choice.

  2. Personally I am very sceptical but don’t fit neatly into your classification of they because as you define me I would need to believe that there was a conspiracy to cull the population and that the agenda is mass murder. Is this how you intend to discredit those who are suspicious of rushed vaccines? You’ve read the goverment consultation documents that detail how the usual safety prohibitions have been lifted under emergency legislation so that vaccine licensing is not as scrupulous as it has been in the past, haven’t you? You’ve read the changes to medicines consultation document too I take it?
    You will appreciate the ridiculously limited amount of animal reaseach, the low effacacy and lack of longitudinal data that the vaccine trials are limited by, right? I take it you’ve read about why one of the vaccines needs storing at below 70 degrees because some of it’s proteins are proteins that have never before been ingredients in a vaccine right?
    It’s not just a lack of trust in the government. I think the majority of the population are sensible enough to have some scepticism. It’s that people are doing their own research and reading articles and studies that suggest the vaccine has potential pitfalls. It doesn’t help that the vaccine companies are immune from any liability.
    I read from both sides and keep an open mind!! Because there will be risks won’t there? And that cannot be denied! Not just to me but to these so called vulnerable that were all shamed into protecting for there own good. So to make an uninformed choice could be disastrous if it then has a negative affect on the vulnerable.
    Tell me this. If the vaccines work then why would the unvaccinated present a risk to the vaccinated. We you’d have to believe they didn’t work to see the unvaccinated as a risk, wouldn’t you???

    • The unvaccinated are a risk to the unvaccinated. But I don’t see that that means a vaccinated person wants an unvaccinated one around them, as currently we don’t know when or if vaccine-given immunity wears off.

    • Reading the tosh that you uncle Billy posts on Facebook, that he heard from his mate at work, that his brother told him, doesn’t count as doing your own research. Listening to reasonable arguments from peer reviewed scientific researchers is far more reliable.

  3. The problem is pharmaceutical companies regularly hide negative trial data, people who drop out due to side effects or even pass on during the trials are classed as non-compliant, the trial data is not published in a timely manner in medical journals so it can be peer reviewed-as profit trumps safety. As you say vaccines usually take 5-10 years to develop & there are good reasons for that-something rushed through & bypassing regulations is extremely worrying.

    Here we have vaccines being bought by world governments before the trials have been completed, being looked at by a regulator & given a matter of days to determine its safety without peer review & we are just expected to trust something we have no idea what the long-term side effects of are. Remember that clinical trial in 2006 where six participants became seriously ill & still suffer side effects 14 years later? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theralizumab

    • I agree with Steve completely. This is a rather naive and insulting article, attempting to shame people who do not want a rushed to the market vaccine where the legal liability for any harm from side effects is waived for the drugs companies involved, and GPs are asking for similar. Many medical and scientific experts worldwide have also spoken out on the dangers, and millions of intelligent people can see the obvious dangers. There are many sources easy to reference on this. And, if people do not think it is chilling that the Labour Party wants censorship of people’s views then I’m not sure what understanding of democracy or free speech they have any more. Look at the Sunday Time’s campaigning work to bring the thalidomide scandal to the public eye years ago, and the suffering of the families involved. I expect the author here would have carelessly branded that a ‘conspiracy theory.’ And that’s a propaganda framing term for those with the brain cells to understand.

      • Exactly, the tone of the government about in the words of the prime minister & Rees-Mogg ‘anti vax nuts’ has been very similar to this article & there is a huge difference between those who believe Andrew Wakefield’s long discredited nonsense & his vapid celebrity supporters like Jenny McCarthy claiming that tried & tested, proven to work vaccines gave her son autism etc & those with genuine concerns that most of the world is going to be injected with something rushed to production & bypassing peer review.

        For those that think this is total nonsense & that these drug companies would never put out a product that could cause huge damage knowingly to make huge profits I would recommend reading Dr Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma & Dr David Healy’s book Pharmageddon-these are respected medical experts spelling out how these people operate, not Playboy models & Hollywood actors with zero scientific training or knowledge.

      • “. Many medical and scientific experts worldwide have also spoken out on the dangers, and millions of intelligent people can see the obvious dangers”
        And, thankfully, many many millions more scientists and intelligent (well read) people can see the obvious benefits.
        Every medical intervention has risks. Have you read the information leaflet included with your statins, your antibiotics, your aspirin?
        The job of the regulatory bodies is to look at the benefits and weigh them against the risks.
        Until that’s done, no vaccine will be licenced for public use.
        Someone commented that pharma withhold negative data. Why would they do that? Why would they release a damaging drug – because in the long run, the pharma company would lose out.

  4. Not quite sure I follow about the faulty cars, fridges, cosmetics etc & how they are improved upon. We are not talking about skin irritation, a car, fridge, tumble dryer catching fire etc-while these can kill people generally they don’t & we are talking about injecting various rushed through, non peer reviewed drugs without the trial data having been released into millions, if not billions of people-there is no waiting for the improved formula once it is in you, you then have to live or possibly die with the side effects.

    The medical professionals who are going to be trusted with administering it in possibly weeks are currently on the news shows being interviewed with no idea about the finer details, because there has been nothing released to them, or presumably the government by these companies.

  5. All very well, but not a single mention in the article of all those who’ve burdened the nhs with covid as a result in many cases of their lifestyle choices. If we’re to be pushed towards vaccnation to protect the nhs/ country why wil there not be similar policies towards those that are significantly overweight ( with the associated issues), those that won’t try to get fitter, want to live on drive thru fast food, the smokers and drinkers?
    Or are we to be expected to all be vccinated against something that does next to no harm to those under 70 and in reasonable health in order to allow the fat/unfit/unhealthy to carry on regardless and burden the nhs anyway.
    Targeted protections and vacinations ( as per the annual flu shot ) for the vulnerable surely makes far more sense.
    Why the the obsession with complicating things rather than looking at the basics . All the drivel about an nhs under pressure of course it is just as it is every winter and always will be when the population is so fat ( 16 billion a year to treat the overweight/obese and the associated problems) reducing that number by 50% would fund the nhs as it would like and pay for decent social care for the elderly and thats before you look at the wider benefits to the individual and society.

  6. Unfortunately history has shown people have good reason to distrust governments-I am glad Melissa has such trust considering the history books tell us this is rather foolhardy.

    Let us not forget the NHS buying of US blood taken mostly from prisoners containing HIV, Hepatitis etc that killed & has ruined the lives of so many during the 1970’s, 1980’s & even into the 1990’s-that the toff governments have for decades tried to hide & deny compensation to those affected or the families of those who died. Remember Porton Down?

    In America we have seen many human rights abuses/atrocities-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unethical_human_experimentation_in_the_United_States

  7. I have a flu vaccination every autumn and I shall certainly have an anti-covid-19 vaccine because it will provide immunity for some time at least.

    I distrust governments because it looks as if all they’re interested in is votes. But I don’t distrust most scientists – they’re correct so often that they should be trusted, on the whole.

    • Unfortunately scientists in the pay of private companies are not always going to be ethical-the pharma business is more about hype than reality, especially for their blockbuster drugs. If you ever visit your doctors surgery & see the doctor has a mug, pen etc from a drug company that means your doctor is meeting with sales reps from that drug company & that likely means the surgery itself is doing the same-they organise free lunches, free booze etc & in return that doctor or doctors will feel duty bound to prescribe their latest blockbuster drug over other varieties. There is also huge pressure on doctors from surgeries & the NHS where this is a regular practice to prescribe that drug. Basically they have been flimflammed into losing objectivity.

      This does not mean the doctor is clued in-the trial data released to them will usually be what the company wishes to put out-often they will only publish up to when people start becoming ill & drop out of the trials, or drop dead & mark these as non-compliant rather than deceased or became unwell & access to all the data is not released for study & peer review.

      Scientists are no different than the rest of us-they have biases & see random patterns that aren’t reality, which is why the correct settings have to be put on trials with double & triple blind procedures & most importantly why studies have to be published in full, in a timely manner, so they can be peer reviewed & replicated. None of that is going to happen with these vaccines. This is a gargantuan gamble with the lives of millions or billions.

  8. Feel free not to have the vaccination. It’s your choice.
    The development of some (at least) of the vaccines has not been “rushed through”. Some (at least) have been on the “back burner” for years, since the SARS and MERS outbreaks.
    Vaccine developmentis usually slow because there is no imperative to develop it. There is little funding, little resource made available in labs.
    The CV pandemic is different. Huge amounts of money, both public and private, has been poured into vaccine development. Labs in universities and pharma companies the world over have been turned over to research and development of a vaccine for Coronavirus. Projects that were simmering away for years have been brought up to the boil.
    No unlicensed vaccine will be used on the public. Regulatory authorities will scrutinise peer reviewed data before grantinga licence. And once in use, the outcomes will be closely scrutinised for problems.
    We are routinely vaccinated against legion of viruses: polio, measles, smallpox … with fantastic results forthe health of the individual and the nation.
    It is your choice. But with your “right” comes your “responsibility”

    • Yep & those vaccines have been around for decades, proven effective to work, peer reviewed etc. That is being bypassed here. How can something be peer reviewed if the results haven’t been published yet & we are told these are going to be available in December? Good luck to those lining up to be the first to get jabbed-because it is basically the toss of a coin as to whether or not you develop serious side effects.

  9. How do you explain about vaccination to people who believe that the world is run by lizard people who have suborned democratic institutions,the judiciary and the ‘elite’, into running a world wide paedophile ring and that Donald.J.Trump is our only salvation.They believe that climate change and Covid are hoaxes and that 5G masts and EMP pulses from small nuclear weapons are a mortal threat.
    At some level there has to be an agreed set of principles, a meeting point,an understanding; but as far as I can see there isn’t.
    Their world and that of some here in Thanet is so far from the principles of fairness, empathy and the free interchange of ideas, where you can agree to disagree,that I wonder if we will ever be ‘all in it together’.
    What the Labour party is getting at is not that aberrant ideas are afloat and must be crushed, but that the likes of Facebook etc monetise it and allow those who peddle these crank theories to do the same.
    If we cannot even discuss the revival of a minor provincial airport reasonably, how an earth can we come to an understanding about something as fundamental as vaccination.

  10. I survived the war, although my older sister Beryl didn’t after we were bombed, I have survived several other near death experiences although not without injury! I avoided tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, measles etc which was once rife, and killed millions, because after the war we were all vaccinated! I went into the last of the National Service army and soon after found myself in what was the British Southern Cameroons, West Africa. Before we left we were vaccinated against Typhoid, Cholera, Tetanus, and Yellow fever! I have had someone contact me urging me not to be vaccinated against Covid 19! I replied and said she must be mental, because all the diseases listed above have been largely eradicated, saving millions of lives!

    • A voice of reason! A beacon of hope!! A ray of sunshine!!!
      I had feared that the prevalence of CV in Thanet had swept all common sense away. But no. The re is still a small corner here or there where enlightenment and understanding are to the fore.

  11. There is clearly an effort to recruit more people into the antivax scene. They are loud, very vocal & put a lot of time into trying to persuade you with omission, misinformation & manipulation tactics. The reasons being paranoia, in extremely rare cases an unplanned reaction & sometimes just because they like trouble. You have greater risks crossing the road but covid is more likely to be worse or fatal.

    • The problem is the government is deliberately mixing up people with legitimate concerns & the conspiracy whackos. There is a massive difference between people who are pro vaccines showing concern that good medical practice is being bypassed here & people who claim that vaccines cause autism etc despite the evidence clearly showing this is nonsense.

      Bad reactions can happen to any medicine, any vaccine, any food etc & that is totally different than potentially suppressed or even unknown side effects by the companies making these vaccines for vast profit. The difference being if you eat peanuts & have a bad reaction there is an EpiPen, adrenaline etc & once administered & medical care given the issue is resolved. If you get something rushed into production & bypassing peer review etc injected into your body then you are stuck with it-just like the Thalidomide children.

      • Nothing is being rushed into production. Some of these vaccines have been in basic development since the days of SARS and MERS.
        Thalidomide wasn’t rushed into production either. At that time (it was used extensively in Germany in the 1950s) there were not the testing regimes we have nowadays. One of the consequences of the thalidomide disaster is that we now *do* have strict checks for dangerous consequences of new drugs.
        Nothing will bypass peer review. That is what is and will happen when the vaccines are put forward for approval.
        I don’t know what your problem is, Steve.
        Bit it is your choice to be vaccinated or not.
        It’s my choice not to let you in my pub, cafe, bar, restaurant, massage parlour, train, bus ….

  12. As Dumpton says all those other diseases have been completely or at a very low level of infected people I completely agree with him and will take up the covid vaccination when made available, but I will never take the flu vaccination again as the one & only time I have taken it some years ago now 10 or more years approx I was very ill coincidence maybe test said I had flu I agree it was all flu related. Not to take a covid – 19 vaccine would be silly and stupid of me as no other injection has made me ill there is coincidence in flu as same year was a bad for flu suffering. And Chris T I agree with you seems the anti vaccination mob are more vociferous in slamming a vaccine which will be checked by the peers and be fully data checked, this is not a new disease its a different version of it they have been working on these types of vaccine for a few years now, awaiting the day when another strain of sars, bird flu etc would break out and test there expertise on getting a cure for it, it’s been quick in being made as money from all sources has been made available to get a cure through. Those who don’t take the vaccine when available and end up getting covid – 19 will you go to hospital if you need to because you are having a trouble breathing difficulties because of COVID-19 yes you will your entitled to as you are to refuse the vaccine. Good luck to us all whatever side of the vaccine you are.

  13. I wonder how many of the anti vax militia smoke, drink or have ever done a little more exotic intakes? All proven to be very dangerous. It’s simple. If you don’t want to be vaccinated then don’t. But if your friends or family go down with it and suffer serious illness or death then consider how they got it!!

  14. Well done Melissa! This is a really important article – and it’s exposed some very scary attitudes towards public health in the comments. I wonder how we overcome the scepticism – would a change of PM help?

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