Ten vaccine thoughts, nine nervous nellies, eight…

I have the results of the poll!

How many of you would take the vaccine, and how many said, “No chance”? All will be revealed…

I think this will be my last piece on the vaccine.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my two-week immersion in the vaccine discussion though.

But first, I want to say a big thank you.

Thank you to those kind souls who took the time to remind me that I clearly have no medical knowledge or experience, and should keep my mouth shut as a result.

It’s reminded me to say this, quite clearly, right now:

Believe it or not, I am in fact just an investment analyst.

I am not actually a full-time doctor, nurse, immunologist or virologist.

I have not merely been moonlighting as an investor this whole time.

And incredibly, I have not kept a secret career in medicine going this whole time.

Perhaps reassuringly for any of you who pay attention to my market musings, I am a full-time (and very committed) investment analyst.

Seriously though, I do want to thank everyone who wrote in with helpful, informative, educational words and advice on this topic.

I am so significantly better off for it.

Right – the poll.

Results are in…

YES: 1,680
NO: 872

Interesting! So roughly a third of people in this small survey wouldn’t take this vaccine, if it appeared on their doorstep next week.

My suspicion is that the yes camp will strengthen over time though.

That some people just need a little reassurance.

Some other countries to approve the vaccine, perhaps.

A few months to make sure nothing goes awry.

Some positive stories of people returning to normality after having it.

Or maybe this chart, which shows the appearance of Covid-19 cases in people who got the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (blue) vs people who only got the placebo (red).

Source: FDA Briefing Document (10/12/2020)

That’s one heck of a chart.

It’s obviously quite hard for me to imagine, but the vaccine is offering hope for so many elderly or vulnerable people across the world – it’s a truly amazing thing.

People who have been locked away at home, perhaps not being able to hug children and grandchildren, maybe not even seeing them at Christmas this year.

Suddenly, they can start hoping and dreaming and planning for a return to normal life.

What a wondrous transition that must be for them.

Anyway, there are some final thoughts I’d like to share.

Ten, to be precise, so I’ll order them in some kind of horrible, attention-grabbing list.

They are not meant to be pros or cons, or arguments or solutions. Just musings really, the product of a fortnight of discussion and thinking.

1) Just because someone isn’t 100% keen on this particular vaccine at this time does not make them an anti-vaxxer. Most people don’t have the medical background to properly assess this thing on its merits, and are just doing their best with the information given to them.

Trust can take time, and just because not everyone is ready to have this in their arm doesn’t make them mad, dangerous, or stupid.

2) It would be better to think in bell curves, which has long been my favourite way of looking at the world (even since Hans Rosling’s brilliant TED Talks). In bell curves, most cases are in the middle of the hump, with a few outliers to the left and the right.

In these examples, most people are just like me, regular citizens with no medical knowledge to support taking the vaccine, and no great belief in the wildest conspiracy theories either. But there are some medical professionals on one tail, and some wild conspiracy theorists on the other.

But most people lie in the middle, veering a touch to the left or a smidge to the right, but let’s do less of us and them, and more bell-curve thinking.

3) A personal risk assessment is key. Someone much older, with underlying health conditions, should think very differently to someone who’s young and fit. You need to make a personal risk assessment based on your own research, and decide from there if you should take it.

Every transaction has a risk and a reward, and just like investment, we don’t know what the exact outcome will be. But the vaccine is neither a silver bullet nor a death knell, so figure out what your risks and opportunities are, and decide from there.

4) There is very compelling evidence from both sides. But citing one video, one doctor or one professor who has a compelling case against the vaccine does not equal the tens of thousands of medical professionals who support it.

5) Many of the responses, delivered so confidently with supporting evidence, reminded me of the danger of echo chambers, and confirmation bias. I myself, and all of us, must remember to try and read things which disagree with our preconceptions and views, and to remember that Google, Facebook and other big tech firms use algorithms determined by our reading history to suggest similar content.

Our browsing and phone apps are encouraging reinforcement of our existing views, and so sometimes we need to break out of our self-made echo chambers and try and seek out opposing views, in order to come out more balanced. I am happy to see increased focus on the dangers of such strategies.

6) That while our current crop of politicians are about as useful as sunglasses in a Scottish winter, our institutions remain as fantastic as ever. So don’t believe for a second that Boris, Raab, Gove or Hancock is somehow responsible for this vaccine or its approval.

It’s the regulatory body, the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which has approved this vaccine. For decades, through challenges and with improvements, it has become one of the best in the world. It may not feel that way from reading the papers, but we do still live in one of the best run countries on earth, and I would trust our health regulator as much as any other.

7) The Pfizer vaccine is a protein, not a drug, and so it disintegrates after use. I am told that this lowers the chances of side effects in the long run. What’s more, the mRNA protein has been in development for years, and so the rapid turnaround this year is somewhat misleading, as the pandemic arrived just as mRNA research was perfecting it for use as a vaccine.

8) Even if you don’t die from getting Covid-19, it can still be incredibly grim. Death is not the only risk here, and Covid-19 is likely still worth avoiding.

9) All those people that paraded Sweden for its strategy a couple of months ago have gone awfully quiet. While I am not exactly a huge fan of the current lockdown, the tier systems or the government’s constant flip-flapping, and am yet to see convincing evidence for the effectiveness of lockdowns, a totally relaxed approach to Covid-19 – eg, masks and social distancing, and general caution – does seem to have dealt Sweden a particularly bad blow.

The second wave in Sweden is starting to look just as bad as the first one, showing little to no gain from staying open and trying to reach herd immunity.

Those who shared the Mike Yeadon video would do well to take note, I feel. Though very interesting and thought-provoking, he made similar claims about London having developed herd immunity, which have been proven quite wrong by the evidence of the last few weeks.

10) This is my favourite point, and all credit goes to my (anon) flatmate actually.

He and I have spoken a lot about this in recent weeks, which has helped my thinking enormously.

He suggests that once those who are truly at risk have been offered it, most people in the safe category are probably wondering whether they really need it. After all, many younger people have incredibly low risk from it.

Everyone is very concerned about their nearest and dearest right now, quite rightly, but once vulnerable relatives and contacts have been vaccinated, perhaps “safe” people could just… give their vaccine away.

Because while we fortunate Brits have bought up 340 million doses of four different kinds of vaccine…

… and have brilliant hospitals, can work from home, and socially distance safely…

… there are billions of people out there who don’t have such advantages.

Much of the developed world is much more at risk from this virus, are less informed about how to stay safe, not nearly wealthy enough to buy up multiple vaccines per person, and are unable distribute them for free even if they do get them.

There has possibly never been a more charitable opportunity than this, to offer your vaccine to someone else, who needs it much more than you.

I think that this a lovely idea.

Someone figure out a way to do it!

Best wishes to you all, and thanks again for your helpful contributions to this vaccine series.

Kit Winder
Editor, UK Uncensored

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