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The anti-vaxxer

Sushma Joshi

Sushma Joshi

The anti-vaxxer

The coronavius is a multi-headed hydra that requires careful, rational response from governments, policymakers, anthropologists, nutritionists, and traditional healers / PHOTO: Getty Images

Any rational discourse around vaccines is impossible because the Americans have decided—and put an enormous amount of media attention—on creating the anti-vaxxer. This individual is always irrational, motivated not by science but by propaganda, and hysterical in their response to vaccines. They reject all vaccines not on the basis of rational evidence, but an intrinsic notion that vaccines are malefic.

Americans of course love to reject the grasp of the authoritarian state and any restrictions on personal freedom and choice, which is why they’re averse to both masks and vaccines, in equal measure.

This creates an added problem when individuals outside America try to debate the merits and demerits of vaccines. Americans assume everyone is a default American and we all think the same way. This, however, is not true, although it might not be apparent to the average liberal American who reads the New York Times and rants against anti-vaxxers.

I come from Nepal where everyone gets vaccinated and wears masks. But I still have questions about vaccines.

Let’s take the Covid-19 vaccine, rapidly being developed by Russia, China, UK, US, India, and myriad other countries. There’s a race to be the first country to create it, in the same way nations raced to get to space.

Because of Bill Gates and GAVI, the idea that a vaccine will cure this pandemic is seen to be the only answer. Gates cunningly managed to get $9 billion, from rich and poor nations, for his vaccine solution. The last interview of Mr. Gates, adoringly presented by some big media houses, showed him talking about how at least one among the six or seven vaccines being developed should work. It was unclear whether he thought people should take them simultaneously, or one after the other.   

Will the vaccine cure the pandemic? In Italy, large number of elderly people died in February and March 2020. One factor that stands out is the quadrivalent flu vaccine the Italian government provided for free to all citizens. “Quadrivalent” refers to the vaccine’s ability to suppress four types of flu virus strains. Elders over 65 were encouraged to get themselves vaccinated. The new vaccine was thought to be cost effective at 6 euros for a shot, cutting down the cost of hospitalization for pneumonia and bronchitis.

Yet despite the vaccinations, according to an article “Investigating the impact of influenza on excess mortality in all ages in Italy during recent seasons (2013/14–2016/17 seasons)” published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, Italy had a higher prevalence of influenza deaths than other European countries.

“Italy showed a higher influenza attributable excess mortality compared to other European countries, especially in the elderly.”

Quadrivalent vaccines are cell-based. They are grown inside mammalian cells, instead of inside chicken eggs. So already we have an added complication here in which we have to trust the vaccine makers not to make a mistake with microscopic cells. These are not the simple vaccines of the past. This is a whole new and unknown biological apparatus in which multiple factors could go wrong.

Italy’s hundreds of coronavirus deaths among the elderly (9 percent mortality rate) may have been triggered by the quadrivalent vaccine, which suppressed their immune response to coronavirus. A small cold boosts immunity by building up the immune response. When people are shielded and show no response to the viruses of everyday, any new viral infection can bring down the house.

Are vaccines always safe? Italy suspended two batches of a Fluad flu vaccine made by Swiss firm Novartis after four people died shortly after receiving the drug, according to BBC. TIME magazine reports 11 deaths. Vaccine safety is never guaranteed. 

As science has become more complicated and opaque, so has disease. The Covid-19, for instance, seems to have a link with a bat virus which scientists in China were collecting from bats in caves. For some inexplicable reason, scientists then spliced these viruses into human cells to see if they would spread respiratory diseases. The fact a pandemic followed soon after is vociferously rejected by Chinese scientists as having any link with their research. But rationally we can assume there might be a connection between bats, artificial insertion of virus into human cells, and subsequent pandemic. This research was conducted with US government funds going to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, via American NGO EcoHealth Alliance.

So why is this pumped up version of genetically modified science, which glorifies the minute workings of the microscopic cell, the in-thing right now? Why is it getting all the funding? Why is there no ethical review of its potential harmful impacts? Is it because it gives an added measure of power to scientists by working with phenomena that ordinary people can’t see and understand?

Is the vaccine, created in troubling, opaque ways, and which in the past has shown to cause large number of deaths in Italy’s elderly, still the answer? Or are we pursuing this in the mistaken belief that science is supreme and we must follow its logic above all else?

The coronavius is a multi-headed hydra that requires careful, rational response from governments, policymakers, anthropologists, nutritionists, and traditional healers, among others. We can’t leave this at the hands of one man whose main qualification is selling the world a lot of clunky, soon-to-be-obsolete software.