Corporate media, politicians and self-promoting medicos are all engaging in the worst sort of Covid straw man propaganda. For them, anyone vaccine-hesitant is an unscientific conspiracy theorist, probably illiterate and innumerate, misled by Googling, or a mad anti-vaxxer.
I’ve already written about people who are right for the wrong reasons. Those wrong reasons can undermine serious arguments about Covid vaccines.
But we have to remember that people only resort to the straw man in the first place if they are unprincipled, propagandist hacks.
Most vaccine-hesitant people I know are fully-vaccinated for childhood illnesses. In my case, I spent long periods in the third world and have had the full suite of tropical vaccinations. When my friends started having children, I even got the full suite of childhood booster vaccinations, just in case. In the tropics I took prophylactic malaria medication, despite its nasty side effects.
For people like me, with quantitative degrees, studies in philosophy of science, and more than three years working in research clinical trials, vaccine-hesitancy is a question of scientific prudence and risk-benefit analysis.
Hesitancy, as opposed to opposition, is based on a true appreciation of the risk of death or serious illness from Covid, and on the limitations of the science and trials behind the vaccines.
The hesitant start from the position: I want to wait a few years, because the development and clinical trial process is broken, there are no true long term safety and efficacy data available, and the true risk of Covid to my demographic is less than an above-average Influenza A/B infection.
Rushed science is often bad science. Politicised science always is. And as the great Replication Crisis proves, even standard science is frequently wrong or fraudulent. Even what everyone would consider to be good science today has a very high chance of being wrong tomorrow. These are not controversial statements. They are part of the basic humility of the true scientist.
When I saw the development and clinical trial processes for Covid vaccines, and the political noise that surrounded them, I knew we were dealing with rushed and politicised science.
The way the Democrats turned from Don’t trust a rushed Trump vaccine to Get vaccinated now immediately following the election was evidence enough of politicisation. Anyone watching American politics closely would accept that most Federal agencies are irredeemably politicised and untrustworthy, even in medicine.
The appallingly slim level of clinical trials performed before the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorisation confirmed these concerns. The Pfizer vaccine was authorised based on a two month placebo-controlled trial on highly restricted patient population. Several steps of the standard new-drug process were removed. The mRNA approach to vaccines is new. No-one could have known long-term efficacy or safety, and they still can’t because the vaccines haven’t even been around for three years, let alone five or 10. Yet governments still rolled it out. And doctors, journalists and politicians bandy about the words no long-term side effects. Sadly, that includes some doctors I know.
Even so, if the Covid risk to a healthy, slim under-60 were large, and reliably communicated I would have considered taking the vaccine. If it were Ebola, with an average infection fatality rate approaching 50%, I certainly would have taken it.
But as is now clear, our politicians and health bureaucrats have been fiddling with case numbers and cause-of-death since March 2020. The examples are obvious: misuse of Case Fatality Rate statistics, skewed diagnostic criteria, twisted cause-of-death rules, financial incentives for Covid diagnosis, and ridiculous PCR cycle thresholds for diagnostic testing.
Worse is the current coordinated overpromotion of young deaths – even when not from Covid – to scare the under 60s into vaccination.
All this fiddling amplifies perceived risk with the intention of influencing what policy the electorate is willing to accept.
That doesn’t mean Covid-19 is a fraud, or it doesn’t kill. It does mean governments have intentionally magnified the risk of a precedented-but-bad virus and used it to expand political and social control in the name of keeping us safe.
When the vaccine question became a fully-political issue and the overt lies, demonisation, coercion, punishment and bad science began, it merely confirmed the necessity of waiting for the data.
What started out as rushed and politicised science has become a grab for absolute power paired with a punitive and vindictive attack on a new class of Deplorables. The vaccine-hesitant, who started out just being scientifically-prudent, are now forced to become revolutionaries for human rights.
Good job, you “science-believers”.