Allow me to ask a question or two about two Covid-related issues, not as ends in themselves, but as part of an emerging Covid culture in which, stressed out as we are, we tend to accept as gospel anything Covid foisted on us by the authorities without weighing the pros and cons.
Take, for example, the sombre option coming from the top that it’s either life with the vaccine or death without it! As against this kind of extremism, is there no intermediate position where one can weigh the evolving data about the vaccine and make an intelligent choice? And there other “must do” Covid situations which one must accept without question.
But first, I would like to acknowledge that the interview from which these issues above arise was a refreshing experience, the host Jesse Ramdeo, telling and relevant without being abrasive, and Dr Parasram, informative and welcomingly, fairly apolitical.
On the issue of the stats, the idea that the numbers were often aggregated and not necessarily daily was reassuring, and the prospect of such numbers “plateauing” and then slowly dropping, equally so, which is the hope that we all share.
About the Sinopharm vaccine about which, when compared to the others, many people are cautious, information about its 79 per cent efficacy and its extended expiry date is welcome and the argument about taking the vaccine to fortify your immune system and achieve the desired herd immunity was persuasive enough, but the doctor asking people with co-morbidities to seek advice from their doctors is something of a “grey” area, which brings me to my first point of focus:
• Doctors’ advice on co-morbidities.
Advice from doctors is good, generally, but are they in a position to give advice on this specific issue, as per above? Surely they may be able to say yea or nay depending on your situation, but are they able to say, in a precise and specific way, what impact a vaccine may have on your condition without having the proven scientific data to make that call?
When the vaccines against measles, polio et al were given final approval they would have been tried and tested over a long period of time—in some cases ten years—and the data accumulated would have been the enabling factor. Not that there were no side effects, but these were duly noted and included as part of the literature on the particular vaccine.
Covid-19 has been around less than two years, and the vaccines emerging in response would have been tentative measures in a critical emergency situation with the facts about Covid in a continuous state of evolution. Up to this point no one is able to say in any specific way that a particular vaccine is a cure for Covid in any absolute sense, much less make judgements on its possible impact on people with co-morbidities, hence the “fallacy” about asking doctors whether to take the vaccine or not. Perhaps it is good measure to bring some psychological relief to people, stressed out as they are, even up to a point now where the threat of death is real, but the evolving data does not seem to hold up, as with some other Covid measures where the facts do not justify the claims for their implementation.
• Take the vaccine because its benefits far outweigh the risks.
How convincing is this as an argument? Certainly the vaccines are providing protection the world over and many countries are achieving the herd immunity which is slowly overcoming this virus. But there are many reported risks about these vaccines which, admittedly, seem to be few and far in between, and which many say is the norm for vaccines in general.
But does it give you any comfort that your particular genetic chemistry of all others, may single you out for a negative Covid impact? Some may say that this is paranoia and one should have faith, but faith should never be blind and should have some basis in fact! Still with the circumstances as real as they are with possible death if infected, the obligation is there to be vaccinated, even with the risks, mindful of the fact that it is not only for yourself but for the protection of all the people.
One must remember that risk is a way of life and that any risk is risky but this is one risk we must be prepared to take.
Dr Errol N Benjamin