Views on Vaccines


Back in my rave days (1989-99), I took a substantial amount of ecstasy/mdma. Lots of arms waving above heads. Dancing bodies, joyful rushing, huge smiles. Not always though. There were a few hard times (such as Castlemorton in 1992, the last large free festival in the UK). And once a friend and I took some pills. I had a good time and she got really sick. None of what we were taking had been thoroughly tested. Much of what we were taking was made by dodgy backstreet chemists.

I am not a fan of pharmaceutical corporations, though I know their products can alleviate all kinds of suffering. This includes the millions of lives that have been saved by vaccination. Life expectancy has been substantially lengthened. Severe illnesses and significant disabilities avoided. However, nothing in life is risk-free. ‘Do no harm’, in medical terms, is relative rather than absolute. More accurately, it means minimising harm and lessening risk. The best form of health care is self-care and community solidarity. I believe that the coronavirus vaccine is a vital tool for resolving this pandemic crisis (so minimising harm and lessening risk) and that taking the vaccine is an act of solidarity with others.

Vaccinations are not magic bullets (they cannot be guaranteed to be 100% effective; nor 100% safe – this is life!). Holistic strategies are required. Because coronavirus has brutally exposed the existing socio-economic inequalities. In the UK, in terms of economic status, those in the bottom 10% are nearly three times more likely to die from coronavirus than those in the top 10%. The radical filmmaker Adam Curtis said: “Covid has been like lightning on a dark night. Suddenly you see what has been there the whole time.”

Of course, some disagree. But surely we can agree that the earth is round (a few say it is flat); that the moon landings did happen (rather than a hoax); that the coronavirus pandemic is real (not fake news)? A few people because of health reasons are unable to take vaccines. A few people for other reasons will not take vaccines. Debate and dissent are essential for healthy growth. However, statements such as likening coronavirus vaccination efforts to the Auschwitz concentration camp or saying that Bill Gates is using vaccines to microchip people are demeaning and absurd.

How we behave and how we live have huge impacts on our health. Practising the three jewels of 'eat well, exercise well, rest well' can be enormously beneficial. As can taking Vitamin D, hugging trees, wearing masks, connecting with friends...

The novelist Elif Shafak wrote on 29 January: "We must challenge the culture of hyper-individuality and greedy neoliberalism that does not pay attention to things that cannot be measured in money... We need to become more active, engaged citizens; choose knowledge over information; internationalism over nationalism; and pluralistic democracy over jingoistic populism."

Many different strategies. Many different views. Self-care and community solidarity are definitely constructive steps to deal with this pandemic. Varied approaches help: communal connections and social distancing; wearing masks and eating well; Vitamin D and vaccinations; socialised health care and plenty of exercise. Can we go beyond the stuckness of binary silos to see broader multi-dimensional pictures?