I took some persuading, and I’ll be off to the health-centre with fingers crossed that I don’t drop dead or, in five years time, sprout tusks, but on Tuesday, at 8.30am, I will join the other 15,403,200 Brits who will by then have had the Covid vaccination – and around 3 weeks later, when my body has had time to produce antibodies, I will be significantly less likely to die of the effects of China’s bio-weapon.
I say “took some persuading”, but even a month ago, wild horses wouldn’t have got me to have the damn thing. And then I did some research. Not having a particularly scientific mind, I will have to put it simply: this vaccine is of a new kind, which does not rely on being injected with dead virus. Instead, it uses a copy of the DNA of the virus. This means it has been far easier to produce. It is a triumph for Britain in particular: because of the swift action and foresight enabled by our new-found independence, 140 shots are being administered every minute: 140 people, every minute, who are contributing to the end of lock-down and to the beginning of national recovery. In a war in which the weapons were conceived in a laboratory, it is something of a patriotic act, to ensure that the virus finds no breeding ground within our own bodies.
The figures, too, speak for themselves: it is six weeks since the first defensive shots were fired, so to speak, in this war. Now, in my borough, in the past week alone, new Covid infections are down by 35.5%, deaths from Covid are down by 32.4%, hospital admissions for Covid down by 25.9%. Every ICU bed not taken by a Covid patient, means that someone sick from some other cause can have the vital surgery they need. The bio-weapon is being nuked – and only around 25% of the population has so far had the jab.
The drop in the percentage of infections will be naturally greater than the percentage of the population vaccinated, because of how a virus spreads when people are going about their every-day life normally: during the symptomless incubation period (in the case of Covid, about five days) every 24 hours, an infected individual passes the virus to approximately 14 people.
So, on Day One, Person A infects 14 people who, within a day, have each infected 14 people who, within a day, have each infected 14 people, who, within a day, have each infected 14 people who, within a day, have each infected 14 people. So, by Day Five, when the first person gets that tell-tale sore throat/cough/fever, Person A has potentially infected thousands. (Social distancing, hand sanitising, and wearing a mask to prevent the spread of droplet-spray, reduces the numbers of course, but at a huge cost to economy, social life and sanity.)
But when Person A can no longer catch and spread the virus, then those first 14 victims are not infected, and therefore, thousands of new infections are nipped in the bud – they simply do not happen. The misery of lockdown is vital when no other solution exists – the results without it would have been catastrophic – but it is ultimately an air-rifle, compared to the nuclear war-head which is vaccination. Infections, deaths, and hospital admissions down by an average of 1/3, when only 25% of the population has been vaccinated, and only half of those have achieved that 3-week anti-body-building period; now imagine how low the percentage of new infections, deaths and hospital admissions will be when three times as many people have been vaccinated. This is when life begins again, and normal service can be resumed. Or at least, after a fashion.
Personally, I hope lessons will be learned about the way people deal with personal hygiene. Whenever there has been a disaster, people have had to take on board new ways of living, in the light of new information: following the Great Plague, people were no longer allowed to empty chamber-pots out of windows into the street. Following hospitals noting the death-rate among new mothers delivered by surgeons with blood-stained hands, compared to mid-wives in clean aprons, people learned the importance of washing their hands for instance. In the 1980s, when AIDS reared it’s head, people had to relearn the use of condoms. Now, we have all had to learn what medical and caring staff have always known: that infection is literally huffed out into the air which others breathe (buildings with air-conditioning are hotbeds of infection for this reason.) As for the sanitising of hands, and how that helps prevent spread of whatever we are harbouring, then try a simple test: colour your fingers with something, maybe some food colouring. Now go about your normal life in your home and at the end of four hours, check the number of print marks. If you are carrying an infection, then you will have left it wherever those print marks are – only invisible, waiting to be picked up by someone else. And viruses live for hours, even days, on some surfaces.
I know that a great many people want to drum their heels and protest about having to keep their hands clean, stop invading other people’s space, wear a mask in public. But then, back in the day, a great many people objected to using Penicillin because it was “made of mould”, protested that a few stiff whiskeys before a trip made them a better driver, claimed that wearing a seat belt in a car infringed their personal liberty to hurl themselves and their passengers through their car windscreens at 70 mph. But these people are now considered among the lunatic fringe – about as acceptable as someone having a dump in the street because it infringes their personal liberty to have to look for a toilet. I admit, I find it really annoying when people think only of their own convenience in the face of a biological invasion: it is precisely this kind of wilfulness which the nasty little white-coated killers of Wuhan banked on for success, when they released their weapon among us.
I have also heard the rather shameful argument made that “masks don’t protect US, they only protect OTHERS” – which sort of misses the point. There are no rights for us, if we do not observe duties for others. If you think about it, there are far more things which we cannot do, when we meet someone, than things we can do.
Picture the scene: at a bus-stop, you find one other person waiting. Legally, you can talk to them about the weather/the timetable etc. You cannot tell them they are scum because they belong to any number of minority groups, hug them, kiss them, show them your bum, grab their groin, ask them for sexual favours, punch them in the face, steal their purse, or urinate in their shopping-bag. Naturally, most people don’t want to do these things. But should those who do want to, have the “right” to do just as they please, no matter the cost to others? In these restrictions, lies civilisation. So, knowing that infections are spread by droplets in breath, and by touching things touched by an infected person, why should someone have the right to risk making someone else ill, simply because they don’t want to cover their nose and mouth, and keep their hands clean? And why would anyone want to stand closer than 6 feet to someone they don’t know, anyway? We live and learn – if not, we would still be living in caves, and reading goat-entrails.
Distancing of one sort or another has always been practiced to avoid infection – with varying degrees of success – but vaccination is the key to endling the life-cycle of a disease. And the vaccine doesn’t have to be 100%, either. The Polio vaccine, for example, is around 80% effective, but every time it is given, the reservoir of the disease has grown smaller, so that now, in the west, the dreadful disease no longer destroys limbs and lives. The same goes for things which were once killers of children, such as Diptheria and Whooping Cough, or deformers of unborn babies, such as Rubella. The figures show, the same will happen with the anti-Kung Flu nuke, which is the vaccine, developed at great cost, and with bold ingenuity, secured for us by a government which was finally free to move fast and effectively in the interests of the people of this country.
Being a virus which mutates quickly – as with influenza – the Covid vaccination will probably have to be given every year. But this country will have laid the groundwork to rebuild after the King Flu War, and this ingenuity enabled by our independence is a kind of finest hour if ever there was one. One thing’s for certain: it will win us this war.
I admit, I will be nervous as I become Vaccinated Brit Number 15,403,201. But I’m proud that our country, our Brexit government, and our beleaguered NHS, are leading the western world and leaving the EU standing, on this. And if I am scared, it’s only because this vaccine is something new. As was everything, once.
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