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  • Lawrence Bailey

Vaccinations : when science beats spin

It’s my experience that conspiracy theories often thrive on the principle of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

Whenever someone says to me they know something “on good authority”, I feel fairly sure that they don’t and that their source is probably just as dubious too.

A colleague of mine, who has a medical degree, told me how she was sitting in a café one day when she overheard someone on the next table say, “Do you know that they put something in coffee to make it addictive”.

Unable to help herself, she leaned over to whisper how they were dead right. It’s a stimulant of the methylxanthine class, she confided, and the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug. It’s street name is “caffeine”.

Sadly, it’s the same level of dipstickery that enables anti-vaxxers to engender fear with warnings of how the Covid-19 vaccine contains “dangerous amounts of aluminum which accumulate in the body”

Here’s a newsflash, aluminum is the third most abundant naturally occurring element on the planet after oxygen and silicon. It is found in plants, soil, water and air.

More importantly, it what’s known as an ‘adjuvant’ that helps boost the body’s immune response. The result is that fewer doses and less quantities are needed. It has been used in vaccines since 1926.

Typically, adults ingest 7 to 9 milligrams of aluminum a day. By comparison, a single vaccine dose contains about a quarter of a milligram.

Of course, anti-vaxxers would much prefer to depict the substance as a toxic heavy metal – which its isn’t – but that’s because their spurious nonsense relies on pseudo-science and half-truths.

You can be sure that the same cynical attempt at manipulation was at work when some character was recently discovered taking photos of empty corridors leading to a hospital ICU ward.

The idea, apparently, was to show how the pandemic is an elaborate hoax – but I’ve no idea as to the logic behind that one.

Maybe we should just ask that if it’s all a big-pharma fabrication, as they claim, then how come none of these freedom fighters have forced their way into a packed Covid ward to prove a point?

Labour leader Keir Starmer has been calling for legislation against anti-vaxxers and warned that misinformation will ‘cost lives’. In this instance he was talking about protests outside hospitals which hard-pressed NHS staff have found particularly distressing.

The government has promised to publish a paper on tougher controls but I’m guessing that it will turn out to be action of the too little, too late, variety.

Let me state here for the record that I understand how some people are nervous about vaccines and particularly how the drugs have become available so quickly.

You can do your own research but the facts are that there’s been unprecedented levels investment put into finding a solution. What’s more, scientists viewed a future pandemic as very likely given previous outbreaks and were already partially geared up.

We each have a choice to make but I’m sure we’d all prefer it to be an informed one.

I don’t pretend to understand the motivation of anti-vaxxers who use bogus means to exploit public fears. I suppose we should just be grateful that they’re proving so bad at it.


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