Ignore the Anti-vaxers

Cllr David Cavill FRSA represents Paxcroft on Trowbridge Town Council

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the wave of support from those who have become known as the ‘Anti-Vaxers’, for it has become clear that there are many, including some in Trowbridge, who are prepared to ignore evidence and act on social media posts, wild conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated hearsay.

Posters have been appearing in Trowbridge supporting fake ideologies and ideas which are not supported by any reputable organisation.

The person originally responsible for these ridiculous and unfounded views, the disgraced and discredited ex-physician Andrew Wakefield, was thoroughly exposed by respected scientists and was stripped of his status as a doctor and researcher when it was found that he falsified the data upon which he made his damaging announcements about the relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. Just to be clear, there is no relationship.

It is true that occasionally people who are vaccinated will have unexpected and sometimes dangerous reactions to the inoculation analogous to the way some people are allergic to nuts, aspirin or penicillin and it is a concern but it is dependent entirely on their own unique metabolism.

But in terms of ‘risk’, vaccinations are very much more likely to protect than damage. Those who refuse them are at much greater risk of the infection than they are from any damaging reaction.

Anti-Vaxers tend to be extreme and obsessive, so they shout more loudly than reasonable and sensible groups. We should be very wary of them and any others that broadcast fake news on this and other subjects.

The technique is simple, sometimes referred to as ‘Trumpism’. It matters little whether what is said is true but regularly swamping a frightened and/or gullible audience with hundreds of unverifiable ‘facts’ (often with one or two true statements thrown into give the material some degree of credibility) eventually results in the irrational concept being accepted by some.

As a columnist and politician, it is not my role to persuade you or anyone else to any particular point of view, but I believe I do have a responsibility to provide the evidence which enables you to make up your own mind by providing factual information and data which challenges hearsay, emotion and prejudice.

Whether you believe that the earth is flat, that Kennedy was killed by the CIA or any other conspiracy theories which have no effect on the health of the population does not matter one way or the other.

But the Anti-Vaxer movement is an example of unsubstantiated theories which are extremely dangerous.

I am not suggesting that the UK Government has ‘got it right’ as far as Covid-19 (or anything else) is concerned. There is no doubt that mistakes have been made but it is important to remember that, in this case, almost every government in the world ‘got it wrong’ so we are not on our own.

There have been no successful scenarios. Some countries, such as Japan, have been lucky in that their social structure militate against the spread of any infection but even there, their Prime Minister felt he had to resign because his electorate felt he had failed to deal effectively with the crisis

Two countries often quoted took steps which were diametrically opposed.

South Korea was one of the first to ‘lock down’ early and effectively while Sweden (which took the chance of developing a ‘herd immunity’ and consequently had a higher death at the beginning of the spread) took an entirely different approach, neither of their scenarios has prevented a second wave.

Rightly or wrongly, blaming ‘the government’ gets us nowhere for it is likely that whoever was in power at the time will have made equally damaging, if different, mistakes.

The good news is that data collection, experience and research is enabling us to cope with the symptoms of infection better then we once did, so, although the numbers are rising, death rates remain lower than they were despite the increase in the number of infections.

Rapid diagnosis tests are promised and billions are being spent by governments all over the world to enable scientists to deliver an effective vaccine.

Courageous volunteers are coming forward prepared to test vaccines on your behalf so that any problems can be detected.

So long as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin or their ilk are not making the announcement that a vaccine is has been created, then I believe most governments can be believed if they say a safe inoculation against Covid-19 is available.

Vaccines have almost eliminated a number of diseases in some counties. They include tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis, tetanus, rubella, hepatitis B and diphtheria among many others, and where there is a resurgence, it is virtually always where the Anti-Vaxers have been spreading their dangerous and unsubstantiated messages. Please ignore them.

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