The Unreliable Guide to…Vax or Not to Vax
Ok, this is not a discussion about whether or not you should get your children vaccinated against measles, etc. That’s not a question, it’s a no-brainer, so go and do it you muppet. This is about the new, very new, range of Covid-19 vaccinations heading our way.
2020 was a scary year and 2021 seems to be offering an injectable solution, but should we trust these vaccines? Which one should we go for if we have a choice? Feeling overwhelmed? Scared by social media misinformation? Never fear, The Unreliable Guide is here to walk you through some of the Covid-19 vaccine questions you might have.
How did they get a vaccine so quickly?
Before COVID-19, infectious disease vaccines took several years to develop, test and verify. The first COVID vaccines were out within ten months and this has fuelled some pretty bizarre conspiracy theories. I won’t bother repeating them here, because they are mental and the truth is far more exciting. The vaccines were fast-tracked by an unprecedented, international co-operation of scientists, coupled with a tsunami of research funding from individuals, governments, international health organisations and the multinational pharmaceutical industry. By June 2020, tens of billions of dollars had been pledged. The Oxford researchers went from worrying about the gas bill to chartering a private jet to pick up some Italian virus samples. In addition, the scientists did not start from scratch. Although there was no human vaccine, vaccines were already available against several animal diseases caused by coronaviruses. Scientists around the world built on that knowledge and worked their nerdy cotton socks off. Then thousands of brave volunteers acted as guinea pigs to test the safety of the new vaccines. Legends. This is the power we have when we work together.
Which vaccine should I choose?
You probably won’t get to choose, but at the time of writing nine vaccines around the world have been approved, with another twenty-six candidates still under trial. The much-heralded Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for Australia at the end of January, but ultimately most of us are more likely to be given the Novavax or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. Why? Because we can produce these more traditional vaccines here in Australia, they are cheaper, plus they are happy being stored at an easily achievable minus 2-8°C. This means they are much easier to care for and distribute than the Pfizer vaccine which requires a frosty minus 70°C and has to be imported because messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are a super-new way of immunising. Confused? Not surprising. This situation seems to change by the day, but speak to your GP – not some random on Twitter or Facebook.
Why should I bother?
If you’re young, you may think there’s no point in getting immunised because COVID won’t affect you. Wrong. If we want any semblance of normal life around the world we need to fight this virus together. Don’t care about grandma kicking the bucket and just want to party like it’s 2019? Fine. Get vaccinated, or international travel, clubbing, festivals and proper raging house parties will be on and off the menu for a very long time.
Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests we remember that we are extremely lucky. We have very few cases here and our government can afford to vaccinate all of us. But the only lasting response to a pandemic is a global one. WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros, believes the unequal distribution of vaccines means, “The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.” With the world death rate rising exponentially and the lasting effects of COVID as yet unknown, I for one will be offering up my upper arm to the vaccine needle and supporting the Covax global vaccine access scheme.