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Shot in the arm all that’s required

Opinion Piece

Until a few minutes ago, I thought the letters VHS meant Video Home System, one of the two competing video systems of my younger days. The other was called Betamax, a coinage based on the Japanese beta-beta, “all over”, but which sounded more like it was claiming only second place, like beta in the Greek alphabet.

VHS is now defunct, having outlived Betamax by a mere nine months, but a new meaning has sprung up to take over its duties as an acronym, which I have just heard on early-morning telly. VHS now stands for Vaccine Hesitancy Syndrome. Presumably most people who suffer from this are totally bonkers, since the WHO views VHS as a global health threat. (That's World Health Organisation, not the other Doctors.)

Acronyms formed from initial letters are certainly useful, if for no other reason than the time and printing ink they save. Why would anyone want constantly to refer to Tom A. Swift's Electric Rifle when they could just say “Taser” and be stunned, I mean done with it. Likewise, “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus” would just use up too much air, and I would donate and hurry on rather than have UNICEF explained to me in full.

Some acronyms are quite exotic, and their everyday use supplants their actual meaning in the public's consciousness. HSBC is the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Porsche has been defined as Proof Of Rich Spoiled Children Having Everything. And the word acronym itself is sometimes said to mean A Clever Re-Organisation Nudges Your Memory. Which reminds me — I wish I'd been a rich spoiled child.

In the normal course of events, I wouldn't be all that bothered by people whose wrong-headed views differed from my own carefully reasoned opinions. Good luck to them, I would say, as they went off to dance barefoot in wet grass to celebrate the summer solstice or jumped into a river on New Year's Day. Chacun a son gout, as French port drinkers say.

But the present circumstances are far from normal. The anti-vaxxers endanger the rest of us, unfortunately. Their denial of scientific, medical and statistical evidence is akin to disbelief that we (or some of us) landed on the moon. They are the new Luddites, refusing to accept — or believe in — progress. They probably still think Spam is spiced meat, or that the Sun goes round the Earth. (Although admittedly that is a tough one to figure out.) I bet they all still have Betamax recorders.

What should we do with the anti-vax brigade? Reason with them? Confine them to barracks? Inoculate them while they're sleeping? Sending them off somewhere together where they could mingle freely (Butlin's holiday camps, perhaps) might be counterproductive, like putting all the best escapers in Colditz Castle.

How can we escape them? How long will it take for the refuseniks to develop herd immunity to obtuseness?

■ David is a retired (74) language teacher and author who lives in Broughty Ferry in Scotland, and has worked in Germany, Qatar (for 12 years he wrote the state English exams), Cyprus and Hong Kong, and says most of his friends seem to be in New Zealand. He has written regular columns in The Gulf Times, The Cyprus Weekly, The Cyprus Mail, and the Dundee Courier.

  1. Will Dobbie says:

    Vaccine Hesitancy: A local story.
    Back in the 1990s, local beekeepers in NZ started noticing that some of them had suddenly become hyper-allergic to their bee-stings. Some of these people had been frequently stung on the job for years with not much more effect than a bit of localised swelling and itch. Suddenly a single bee sting would cause a massive allergic reaction: swollen airways threatening their breathing within 20 minutes. They began to live with an epi-pen of adrenaline always on them. Inject or die. Over the 5 years 1994 to 1998 I also know of three, possibly four; work-mates who developed this sudden adult allergy to bee stings, none of them beekeepers. All now keep their adrenaline ready to hand, whether out deer hunting, playing netball, or soccer in the back-yard.

    The only link between the beekeepers and the friends developing allergy that I could find is that all had been vaccinated against tetanus (as a precaution after having a large wound) within a year before the sudden bee allergy onset.

    So when in 2002 I had a dirty football sprig wound deep into the top of my foot; I refused the doctor who was insisting I had a tetanus booster shot. I was also doing some hobby beekeeping at the time. No way did I want to develop a life-threatening allergy.

    Interesting also that the doctor looked up their research portal at the time, and said “there is no research that shows there is a link between the vaccine and the allergy”.

    What I did not ask was “So how many research papers (and how many test people in the studies) have been done on investigating this linkage?” I suspect that actually, no research had been done, therefore there was no recorded evidence of a linkage.

    In any case; tetanus is a slowly progressing disease, and the symptoms can with care be treated until the body develops its own immune defence and defeats the disease, over about five weeks.
    Much more manageable than choking to death in 20 minutes somewhere back of a farm.

    Now; immunisation often works well, and avoids the terror of some fierce diseases such as rabies, smallpox, anthrax, and tetanus. However in this case of the tetanus booster, I am guessing that a new version of the mix had some different ingredient which led to the bee-sting complication: maybe an additive put in the shot to make it last longer, or to store at easier temperatures, or to mix well with water. Perhaps no one will ever know; because I do not have access to the research database that the doctors can call on. Perhaps the possible link has never even been investigated.

    So, David, and others who (hate?) speech against the “refuseniks”: Perhaps not all vaccines are as safe as advertised; and the reasonable questions about safety are sometimes ignored or dismissed by the wider medical system.

    Vaya con Dios. W

    1. Lara says:

      Will,
      A few important questions that perhaps you can shed light on for me. Did you keep any records yourself?
      1. Exactly how many local bee keepers developed the ‘massive allergic reaction’ to a bee sting after the tetanus shot.
      2. What year did these ‘massive allergic reactions’ take place?
      3. Where in NZ did these massive allergic reactions take place, was it Only here or everywhere?
      4. How come none of us read about these ‘massive allergic reactions in the media or in any medical journals?
      5. How many Epi Pens were prescribed to those who received a tetanus jab then had a ‘massive allergic reaction’ after returning to their work with bees?
      6. A massive allergic reaction suggests a real medical emergency. How many bee keepers were admitted to the ED?
      7. What else was going on at the time that might reasonably account for the situation you seek to attribute to a tetanus jab?

      1. WillD says:

        Lara;
        Could be you do not understand the sentence: “Perhaps no one will ever know; because I do not have access to the research database that the doctors can call on. Perhaps the possible link has never even been investigated.”
        Caio, W.

  2. Martin Hanson, Nelson says:

    I would define ‘anti-vaxxers’ as those who are against all vaccines. I am not an anti-vaxxer, but do not want this particular vaccine because of overseas reports of deaths and other side effects. Lumping those who object to one particular vaccine with those who are against all vaccines is intellectual laziness.

    1. Lara says:

      Hi Martin,
      It is normal to be worried about the unknown but there is plenty of robust data available should you care to look, clearly showing the Covid-19 vaccines are indeed safe and effective (so far at least).
      As of 30 March 2021, a total of 547,727,346 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide and of those only ONE person per million has had an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
      Here is the link to the most up-to-date information about Covid-19 I could find.
      https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

      1. Martin Hanson says:

        The graph you referenced is headed:
        “Share of people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine”
        Where are the data giving number of deaths following Covid vaccination?
        On the other hand, “4,000 in Europe died after adverse reactions to vaccines” ( https://freepressers.com/articles/4-000-in-europe-died-after-adverse-reactions-to-vaccines ). It’s possible this is incorrect, in which case, why is it incorrect? Simply stating that it’s contrary to government information does not make it incorrect. EVIDENCE, please

        1. Lara says:

          Martin,
          Look at the WHO site for information. Freepressers is not a reputable site for scientific information, it is a conspiracy theory riddled site. The clues are in the use of terms such as Big Tech. That is a sure sign you are following a rabbit down a hole.
          Try this site perhaps? The US have vaccinated a significant number of the population already.
          https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html
          I try to remember that the people who are developing vaccines are doing so to save our collective skins, they are people with children, wives and husbands.

          1. Martin Hanson says:

            Not sure whether you think high-level conspiracies don’t occur. There’s plenty of evidence that wealth and care for others are inversely related, though admittedly not a tight correlation. It’s naïve to suggest that corporations are moral; just the opposite, in fact, as you’ll discover if you read The Corporation; The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit, and The New Corporation, both by Joel Bakan, in which he explains why corporations are, quite literally, sociopathic; they are forbidden by law (in the U.S.) to put anything before shareholders’ profits. So a corporation that subordinates profits to public safety or the environment is quite literally breaking the law. As Bakan put it, “The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue, relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest, regardless of the often harmful consequences to others.”
            So if you think the pharmaceutical companies are motivated to ‘to save our collective skins’, you’ll forgive me if I take the view that they are motivated primarily by profit.

        2. Lara says:

          Martin
          At least be honest about your motivations. Here you were professing NOT to be an antivaxxer!
          Nail your colours to the mast. Don’t beat around the Bush.
          I disagree with your antivax stance. If you don’t wish to be vaccinated, that’s on you but don’t try to confuse people by citing unscientific babble. This is a serous issue.

          1. Martin Hanson says:

            If you’d read my earlier comment, I made it clear that I’m against THIS particular vaccine. The scientific basis for vaccination is rock solid, and I have no problems with vaccines against whooping cough, diphtheria, etc. People who are incapable of understanding that being against a vaccine that’s not been fully tested does not make one an ‘antivaxxer’. Sorry if I have to spell this out, but I suggest you read carefully before you reach for the keyboard.

          2. Martin Hanson says:

            Having re-read your comment, I see no point in continuing this ‘discussion’. No prospect of agreement.

        3. Aimee says:

          Hi Martin,
          That link you shared was not a reputable source at all. There have not been any deaths that have been specifically linked to the vaccine. Not even one. So where did they get 4000 from? Did they pluck it out of thin air to scare people into not having the vaccine? Why would anyone do that? It could lead to death . . . more death.
          If you’re ok with other vaccines, why not this one? Why would they be injecting millions of people if they thought they were killing them? mRNA isn’t that new. It’s been used before to treat other things, even cancer. The ingredients in this particular vaccine are just, in basic terms, salt, sugar, water and lipids. Fair enough to make your own choice, but don’t share ‘information’ that isn’t true. It’s not fair on anyone.
          I would encourage everyone reading your comments to talk to their GP or nurse if they have questions or concerns about the vaccine. Make an informed choice with the right information from the people qualified to give it.

  3. Tim Stewart says:

    Hey buddy – just how do anti-vaxers “endanger the rest of us”? Get your shot and then you are protected – right? The fact someone else does not have the shot should not matter to you in the least. I thought these vaccines are meant to work so if someone not having one is still a threat I suggest you take it up with the manufacturer. And stop trying to put other people down for not thinking like you, it makes you sound like a jerk.

    1. Aimee says:

      Hi Tim,
      The problem is not people who choose not to have the vaccine based on trustworthy information. The problem is anti vaxxers sharing total lies, half truths with no context or at the very least, misinformation. The reason that is a problem is because it puts other people off, for no good reason. Nobody is forcing anyone to have the vaccine and although I’m fiercely pro vax, I’m also pro informed consent and personal choice. However the definition of ‘informed’ seems to differ between anti vaxxers and medical professionals who ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about. Ask your GP or nurse if you have any concerns or questions and don’t believe everything you read from anti vaxxers. They’re not a reliable source.

      1. Martin Hanson says:

        To say that people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 are a threat to those who have been vaccinated would imply that the vaccine does not give protection. Could you explain this apparent contradiction?

        1. Aimee Milne says:

          It’s quite simple really. Some people are at risk because they are too young to be vaccinated, or have a true medical contraindication to getting vaccinated…so the unvaccinated can put them at risk.

      2. Martin Hanson says:

        It took me just two minutes to find this newspaper article giving details of the Centers for Disease Control data for 966 deaths following Covid vaccinations. (as of March 6)

        https://myvalleynews.com/blog/2021/03/07/adverse-incident-reports-show-966-deaths-following-vaccination-for-covid-19/

        Here are a couple of paragraphs:
        According to adverse incident reports collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 966 individuals have died after having received an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.

        Between Dec. 14 and Feb. 19, 19,769 reports were made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) following immunizations with either the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccines (the only two vaccines given during the time period assessed). At this time, VAERS data is not available after Feb. 19.

        No doubt you will say that the journalist’s headline, misrepresents the data; read the rest of the article for yourself.

        Footnote from Ed:
        Martin, the majority of people are being vaccinated against Covid-19, with the elderly getting shots as a priority. Hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated worldwide already, including more than 60 million having received first and second doses in the United States. Every day elderly people are dying of various causes, some of them coincidentally not long after they were vaccinated. There is no verified evidence that the vaccines themselves are causing any deaths, although a concern has been identified of a potential link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clot in young people.

        You’re a former science teacher, please apply yourself more than a few minutes to internet searches on this critical public health matter.

        FYI, the Epoch Times has emerged in recent years as a far-right newspaper in the States. It is affiliated with Falun Gong — a spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government — and became one of the most strident supporters of Donald Trump. It spent more than $US1.5 million on pro-Trump advertisements on Facebook in the six months to August 2019 — more than any organisation outside the Trump campaign itself.

        The article you referred to earlier comes from an organisation of apparent citizen journalists that says major media “is broken”: “A toxic diet of disinformation, devoid of the values which made America great, is taking a toll. The evidence is in plain sight.”

        Here is an investigation of the issue of claimed vaccine deaths by German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, published on March 15:

        https://www.dw.com/en/fact-check-no-links-found-between-vaccination-and-deaths/a-56458746

        See also:
        https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/440023/astrazeneca-regulators-still-recommend-vaccine-despite-possible-link-to-rare-blood-clots

        1. Martin Hanson says:

          I don’t doubt what you say about Epoch Times, a newspaper I would normally have no truck with. But I think you’ve missed the point; if you read the article itself, the data are from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and you can’t get more ‘official’ than that.
          I prefer to pay more attention to the message than to the messenger – even when I despise the latter.

        2. Aimee Milne says:

          VAERS reports can only be compared in reference to other VAERS reports, and can never be used to make inferences on incidence rates in the population as a whole as it has no epidemiological validity. We can say more people *reported* that they had GBS following vaccination than they reported for other vaccines, we cannot say that it actually occurred, we cannot say that it caused it, and we cannot say that the risk of GBS was higher among people who had Gardasil, for example, than other vaccines, as VAERS does not have epidemiological validity.
          We can’t really know from VAERS data, as you only get reports of people who claim to have had the vaccination and claim to have had an adverse event, meaning you don’t have any references of comparison beyond that “there seem to be more reports about x outcome with people who claim to have this vaccine compared with another vaccine”.

          1. Kim Pittar says:

            Hi Aimee – I am normally pro-vaccines and there seems to be a plethora of information about the current state of the Covid vaccines, both for and against. My concern is the relatively short time the Covid vaccines have been available, and no knowledge of the long-term effects. In the UK, according to an interview yesterday, you are more likely to die of a blood clot if vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine than die with Covid, if you are under 30. That was unexpected. No one knows the long-term effects of these vaccines and the effects they may have on future unborn children, and I have three children entering the child-bearing stage in the next 10 years. That is my concern.

          2. Aimee says:

            Hi Kim,
            You have valid concerns and that’s entirely understandable. Not sure what interview you listened to but the numbers I’ve seen in regards to AstraZeneca blood clots are saying that it’s very rare. 1 in 600,000. As opposed to 1 in 60,000 dying of COVID. mRNA biotechnology has been in the making for the past 50 years. Here is a great little video explaining how it works, which put my mind at ease. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XPeeCyJReZw&feature=youtu.be

            Footnote from Ed:
            Hi Kim and Aimee, here’s a BBC article that possibly followed that interview and has an interesting table on relative risks –
            https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-56665396
            Here’s another BBC article debunking claims on social media that the Covid vaccine could affect female fertility –
            https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56012529
            And here’s an article on vaccine side-effects published by Australia’s The Conversation, a network of not-for-profit media outlets that publish news stories written by academics and researchers, under a free Creative Commons licence –
            https://theconversation.com/how-do-we-know-the-covid-vaccine-wont-have-long-term-side-effects-155714