Measure twice, cut once
More than a week ago, the Premier expressed concern that some families of elders who had loved ones in senior homes were refusing permission for the Covid vaccination to be administered to their relatives. I share his concern in the circumstances we face.
Given the implications of those decisions, I wish to encourage those family members to take a second look at the broader impact of the option they have chosen. We are reminded of the saying, “Measure twice, cut once”.
Of course, there will be those seniors who will not be vaccinated for bona fide medical reasons, pursuant to recommendations of their physicians. There are some who have been members of a faith community that urges abstinence regarding vaccinations and others tried-and-tested medical practices.
However, if certain families are deciding to disallow elderly relatives receiving the protection of the Covid vaccine, it not only directly impacts that relative but the whole micro-community of the elder homes in which they reside.
Their decision directly undermines the need to foster herd immunity within the most fragile environments — our Island’s elder homes. (The reality is that immunity is communal in character, with those who are vaccinated facilitating the protection of the small minority.)
This reality offers the basis for a conversation for those families involved and the wider community. It speaks to the relationship of individual rights and the rights of the entire community — independence and interdependence.
It is evident that our community has been unfortunately and overly influenced by our closest neighbour. The far Right ideologies that have taken root in the United States, promoted especially by the previous Trump Administration with their attitude against public health measures — including promoting mask wearing and the efficacy of vaccines — have some impact locally. Of course, this has resulted in the chaos we had witnessed previously in the US, the world’s richest nation, with 20 per cent of the planet’s Covid deaths from only 4 per cent of the global population.
A number of researchers have been examining the disinformation campaign that has been promoting the premise of anti-science. One of these is Peter Hotez, who has written the book Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science. Dr Hotez is the Co-Director of the Centre for Vaccine Development at the Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as the Dean of the National School for Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Being based in Texas, Hotez is exposed to a most regressive state government whose anti-science policies have resulted in a devastating impact owing to Covid — this especially affects the Black and Latino communities.
Dr Hotez’s book explores the roots of reasons for the anti-science, noting that it is a part of an ideology based on “Government can’t tell us what to do” paralleling the pro-gun movement. That movement is so successful that the US population possesses 300 per cent more guns per capita than the second developed country — Canada. Additionally, its gun-murder rate is 25 -times that of the second developed country’s overall murder rate. So we can see how the anti-science could be rebranded as “ anti-rational”.
Dr Hotez notes that the anti-science cuts across a variety of matters. The smoking of cigarettes was conclusively determined by researchers in London to lead to lung cancer, etc in the late 1940s and early 1950s. However, it took a number of years “to get the word out” because of vested interests using anti science. As a result, it wasn’t until 1970 for the US to require that the public be formally warned of the dangers of smoking. Even in 1994, the seven chief executives of the major tobacco corporations still denied the dangers of smoking, but, thankfully, the US Congress banned smoking in public buildings.
Likewise, fossil-fuel corporations have been busy funding anti-science when it comes to global warming’s existential threat to the whole of humanity. In fact, it has been revealed that Exxon’s own scientists compiled one of the earliest studies in the 1970s that conclusively linked fossil-fuel use to climate change. The executives buried the report!
Dr Hotez also points out that longstanding medical science has demonstrated that vaccinations have been effective for decades in limiting the production of target viruses. Immunisation also curtails the production of mutant strains; hence global communities have been safe from former scourges such as smallpox and polio.
Let’s use this opportunity to encourage any family who fit the bill — disallowing an elder in a senior home from taking advantage of the vaccine — to reconsider their position with mindful and rational consideration.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda