When lightning struck the tree Homer Simpson sheltered under, hefting a sheet of corrugated steel for extra protection, he was inspired. The glowing bough crashing down struck him as a very magical piece of wood, and he should make a bat out of it. Bristling with bent nails after hours of hammering, Homer’s bat testifies to our human gift of improvisation using whatever tools we have like a trusty hammer. Surely, repeatedly whacking a problem with a familiar tool will solve it even if slightly dented and bent in the end.
Our Covid-19 toolbox has grown since March 2020 when the first extraordinary silence of a Level 4 lockdown blanketed New Zealand. Knowledge of the virus and its hazards for the vulnerable expanded considerably in tandem with a stunningly swift rise of vaccines and promising treatments. Yet, after some 18 months with scientists and clinicians furiously testing and trying other tools, New Zealand resorts to the same hammer swung in those first dim days.
There are dents to be sure. Lockdowns exact a price ranging from collateral health issues be they mental or physical due to isolation and deferred procedures, to economic, with dwindling bank accounts and hollowed out retail spaces. Working together we can beat the virus, but are we merely beating ourselves into an unsustainable cycle of viral mutations and sequestering? No nation is an island in this globally networked community no matter how heavily plastered permeable borders may be.
Humanity has a new endemic disease caused by a virus that regularly mutates not unlike influenza — whose ‘Spanish’ variant (originally from Kansas) bludgeoned the 20th century human civilisation out of the grip of World War I. ‘Mask-slackers' were shot under lockdowns hammering cities reeling from the plague of the day. Nevertheless, civilisation moved on and adapted to a familiar and never-ending annual dance with novel influenza strains.
Now, it seems silly to suggest that we lockdown society for…the flu. And yet, in our 21st century civilisation glittering with advanced technology, science and medicine, that is essentially what we are doing. The vaccines at our disposal, however, are certainly no silver bullet. Consider Israel and their highly vaccinated population struggling with waning effectiveness — starkly contrasted with natural immunity as seen in Sweden. But for the vulnerable, vaccination indeed helps not unlike annual shots for the flu. Combined with rapid testing for Covid-19 and ‘off-label’ treatments such as monoclonal antibodies or the controversial and apparently effective ivermectin, those that are infected can recover quickly. This is most encouraging.
Eventually, we must emerge from our silent retreat and learn the steps of another evolutionary dance with another virus that is never going away. Homer improvised a bat with a blunt instrument — but we don’t have to follow his example. Our toolbox is arrayed with instruments far more delicate and precise. We have no need for over reliance on any one of them — particularly not just the hammer. Our civilisation has enough dents in it already.
Speaking of dents in our society, this article itself appears at NZCPR-Breaking Views after a brief flirtation with a here-unnamed New Zealand media publishing house (MPH). Intriguingly, this MPH expressed interest in publishing my article without ever actually seeing the content. Of course, such faith in my abilities as a writer was flattering indeed, but evidently this MPH appreciated not my presumed Nabokovian mastery of the English language, but rather the letters after my name: ‘PhD.’ My research publications that include mathematical epidemiology apparently propelled the procedure along to the editing phase. No mention of treatments or natural immunity as noted above survived the editor’s knife. Instead, the version this MPH proposed to publish — with my credentials under it — presented a false alternative: get vaccinated or be bludgeoned with never ending lockdowns.
Reinforcing a preferred narrative by exploiting a researcher’s credentials is a striking tool in a very different sort of toolbox emblazoned on the lid with the letter ‘P’. History is replete with the wreckage of societies bent, dented and beaten into oblivion by states and their complicit engines of propaganda determined to ignore the consequences of opening that toolbox — originally gifted to Man through the mythological Pandora.
Dr. Shawn A Means originates from the desert mountains of New Mexico and moved to New Zealand in pursuit of his career as a mathematical and computational biologist studying a wide range of systems from intracellular signaling to neuronal networks and infectious diseases.
Thank you for publishing this encouraging article about the perspectives we can have dealing with this virus
And thank you for sharing with us the story of your attempt to publish it in MPH. It is shameful.
Alexandra Corbett Dekanova
Thanks Shawn. Those of us who have researched the opinions of other epidemiologists and posted them in the interest of debate have been mercilessly attacked on the blogs. We need people like yourself speaking up as you have a wealth of experience in this field.
I am surprised how the medical profession don't demand a debate. They do take an oath to look after their patients.They are not merely political operatives.
Thank you Shawn. I cannot express my appreciation better than the first two responses but I will add this link to a video I watched yesterday. It shows the level of bullying Pfizer goes to with countries with it's supply contracts. (I could use much stronger language but I do not want to get our hosts in trouble)
I wonder what NZ was forced to give or surrender to get supplies?
Very interesting clip. No surprise though. US drug companies (and in fact most US companies) are notorious for this kind of behaviour and it shows that the adoption of corporate woke policies is no more than a facade to make the public think they've gone all kind and caring.
These guys are all about squeezing every last dollar out of their clients and making the client cover all the liability and risk.
It wouldn't surprise me if certain US government agencies are financing them to get hold of other countries strategic assets.
Even under the Democrats it seems unbridled capitalism is still alive and well in the "good ol US of A".
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