It was a week of disappointment and confusion. Disappointment that the promised lifting of restrictions could not go ahead as planned, and some confusion as to why this was so.
A publican said that his business was being held to ransom by the 10% who haven’t been vaccinated. The publican’s assumption appears to be that the restrictions are in place because of the unvaccinated and not because of the virus, which he apparently believes has been nullified by the vaccine.
Naturally, everyone wants the pandemic to be over, but wishing it so doesn’t make it so. Yet, this desire for normality is adding to the confusion, not least in terms of those people who appear to assume that the vaccine is 100% effective and that all other safeguards can now be shelved.
On Saturday the Indo reported that Dr Susan Hopkins told a seminar in Dublin that the pandemic was likely to last at least another six months. At the same seminar Dr Cillian de Gascun said that the current generation of vaccines were “not enough to end this pandemic”, adding that “Pandemic viruses don’t just disappear.”
Earlier in the week, the Tánaiste, contributing to the confusion, told the Dáil that he was in no doubt that if there was a 100% vaccination uptake that business would return to normal. But the Tánaiste has a track record in scapegoating minorities and parking blame elsewhere, and it would appear that he was politicising the confusion and essentially framing the unvaccinated 10% as the primary cause of the delay in re-opening the country.
He contradicted this view a day or two later when he said that booster vaccines would be necessary, because the vaccine is not 100% effective.
As for the 10% unvaccinated, it would appear that these are mainly made up of people who have either had the virus and have produced their own anti-bodies and see the risk of vaccine side-effects as an unnecessary one; and people of a certain frame of mind who simply don’t trust the authorities’ making health decisions in their best interests. A stance that is not really so incredible when you consider the shortcomings of privatisation of services that led to oversights in the cervical smear scandal, for instance.
The Sunday Indo then reported that only 30% of pregnant women had opted for the vaccine. Clearly these aren’t “anti-vaxxers” in the classical sense of irrational naysayers, but are simply women concerned for the welfare of their unborn children, reluctant to expose them to a vaccine which is still essentially in trial.
And yet this idea persists that people who haven’t opted for the vaccine are somehow wrong-headed or misled. The Examiner reported that “Professor Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit, said research shows concerns about the speed of vaccine development still linger.” But he also said that the unvaccinated were likely out of touch with mainstream society. Which seems like a nice way of saying that they don’t know their arse from their elbow.
“NIAC Chair Professor Karina Butler” told the Indo that “health officials and Government need to work to ‘fill the information gaps’ so that the 370,000 adults that are not fully vaccinated in Ireland are given the ‘confidence and trust’ about getting vaccinated.”
When Colm Henry of the HSE was asked on Six One News (October14) why Ireland’s covid infection rate is the worst in Europe while its vaccination uptake is the best in Europe, he produced a temporary information gap by initially evading the question, going on to talk about the hospitals being busy with other things at this time of year, and how people need to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the virus, in order to alleviate pressure on the hospitals.
He eventually came around to a kind of answer to the question when he said that people need to continue to take the standard precautions like social distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing and so on.
But his initial evasion and reference to hospitals under pressure implied that the unvaccinated are solely responsible, for not only the latest resurgence of the virus, but also for the ailing health service, which has been systematically picked apart and weakened by neo-liberal politicians, particularly over the last 10 years.
Confusion is also sewn when mainstream reporters routinely lump the covid vaccine in with vaccines in general. RTÉ Six One did something similar on this during the week when they screened an item on the late cervical cancer campaigner, Laura Brennan, who had raised awareness on the HPV vaccine. Somehow the item ended on a kind of ad for vaccines being uniformly “good”.
Lots of Questions
The current climate seems like one of evasion, lack of clarity and a covert presumption to manipulate the population like a herd of cattle. And still questions remain unanswered.
What is a booster jab anyway? Does it necessitate two vaccine jabs and then a booster? Or is it a stand-alone kind of jab, doing the work of what it previously took two jabs to achieve? Will you need another one next year? Or in six months’ time? Or every year?
And what of those people who have developed natural immunity? Does the vaccine interfere with or undermine their natural immunity? Do they need booster shots too? If so, why?
And what of primary school-children? Are they not also susceptible to catching and spreading the virus? If not, what do they have that rest of us don’t have? Some kind of enzyme? Can it be packaged to stop the spread? Or is their supposed immunity baloney?
And where are the media reports of people with vaccine side-effects? Are there none? There must be some. All studies admit that statistically there are some, no matter how small that number may be. Are their stories to be concealed in the wider interest of achieving a 100% vaccine uptake?
Professor Kingston Mills told RTÉ that booster jabs are necessary due to waning vaccine immunity. Does natural immunity also wane? If so, is the rate of waning of natural immunity different from waning vaccine immunity? Which is best: natural or artificial immunity? Are political choices between the two shaped by market considerations?
These are valid questions and they are not really being addressed. Instead, it seems as if a false impression is being deliberately cultivated at official level that “antivaxxers” are causing the pandemic to continue, by holding everyone back from achieving the magic 100% vaccine uptake.
That 100% vaccination target is a simple statistical goal, the type of thing that politicians love to get behind. But it is as if all other questions are being side-lined in favour of pursuit of that one statistical goal, which is itself undermined by the simple fact that the vaccine is less than 100% effective.
Eamonn Kelly is a Galway-based freelance Writer and Playwright. His weekly round-up appears here every Monday.
Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet
Earlier: Derek Mooney: This Week’s Reopening Must Go Ahead