In reality, I have it on good authority that one drop of seawater contains up to ten million viruses and on the strength of that it would appear somewhat unscientific for someone to purport to be able to “stamp out” a virus of any nature. But modern science can work wonders. We always seem to be on the cusp of a breakthrough though, waiting with bated breath for the latest verdicts and instructions, lurching on in our new-found vaccine-dependency, a bit like addicts waiting for their next shots, in hope of small mercies like free hamburgers or a bit of restored normalcy. We hear constantly that “we are living in unprecedented times”, but that can be taken in more ways than one.
Of course, there are real viruses out there, always have been, always will be. We carry them –the good and the bad. Dogs and cats are full of them, including corona viruses. They’ve been part of life for much longer than we think. But while around half of kiwis are vaccinated against this one, others vacillate or resist. Let’s look at some stats. I’m relying on my simple calculator, the internet, and a bit of rounding to get an idea. The population of NZ in June 30, 2021 was 5,122,600. Between last year and 2021, and up till the start of this week, twenty-seven died of Covid 19 - that’s around 0.00053%. One person (0.000019%) got the Delta, prompting the recent lockdown. At time of writing, there were 308 new cases plus 4073 recovered (0.0855229%). Re the vaccine (I’m not debating its efficacy), data states a total of 60 (0.00117%) have died - for whatever reason, always noted - after taking the vaccine. That’s over twice the Covid deaths. Last month, six died, twice more than the previous month, while “no new safety concerns with the Comernaty vaccine were raised by these reports.” We are reminded that the deaths simply occurred after the shots, not because of them, apparently.
Serious reactions did begin, however, from the first vaccines and were reported from 6 March 2021. These included headache with collapse, brain clots, amnesia, tinnitus, hearing loss, seizure, blood clots, myocarditis, spontaneous bleeding from the groin, reduced vision, kidney injury, blood in urine, strokes, thrombosis, haemorrhage, facial palsy, breastfed infants becoming unwell, plus deaths starting from Safety Report #10 – 8 May 2021 - the first two (elderly) being reported “through an abundance of caution”. Again, Monitoring Communication is reserved about any connections. The reports of such reactions began with three cases and steadily increased report-by-report so that after ten weeks the total had come to over a hundred, with 313 by the twentieth report. By the twenty-fifth it was 458 and the latest (the twenty-eighth) was 666 – all since the March start. Deaths are in categories such as the “unlikely”, the “insufficient information”, the “still under investigation”, and, rarely, “likely due to vaccine”. They’ve gone from three to sixty deaths in seven months. A Summary of Reported Deaths began in week 12 (four deaths, which at the time was stated as “less than the expected number” – an interesting statement, i.e., more had been expected after taking the vaccine?). But still “no new safety concerns”.
The figures are relative to the fact that the number of vaccinated has also steadily increased, but if, for instance, we were half-way there with the total population, the figures, given the trends so far, could (I’m guessing) theoretically end up at around 120 deaths with at least 1200 serious reports, with non-serious likewise increasing proportionately as they’ve been doing already . . . all compared to 27 deaths from the original virus. A legitimate or proportionate price to pay? You decide.
Some consider a comparison with influenza and pneumonia rates inappropriate, but compared with normal influenza and pneumonia deaths, and quoting from several peaks in the graph (it naturally varies, for example the year 2000 had only 347 deaths): in 1985, out of a population of 3.247 million there were 1551 deaths (0.04777%) from influenza, in 1995, 1197 out of 3.673 million (0.0326%), and in 2017, out of 4.814 million, 871 (0.0181%) deaths. Of course, lockdowns, masks, or social distancing as we’ve had (for 0.00053%) were unheard of. We’ve had far fewer deaths from the flu over the last year, but that’s rather immaterial to the point. As I’ve commented before, the strategies being employed for what we are facing appear to have no forward considerations for future scenarios beyond current tactics.
Apart from nursing homes, the majority of people who get Covid survive pretty well (remember the PM’s assurances at the start – “most people will just get a sniffle or cough” or words to that effect). Overall survival rates worldwide are hugely difficult to calculate because no one really knows how many have been infected, like the flu, not to mention the thorny issue of the “asymptomatic”.
Admittedly, looking at a selection of figures can be misleading, being only part of the picture – it’s a science after all and we dabble at our peril – but information is everywhere for all to peruse and make up their minds, so why ignore it? Disregarding for the moment the what ifs, what if we hadn’t locked the borders? what could happen from here on? “expected numbers”, etc. but focusing only on what actually happened, I’m just wondering if somewhere we’ve lost perspective. Ought we to be just following that money trail?
So, with even the small numbers affected, huge amounts of production, commerce, social and economic activity amongst the nation’s other 99.9% of the population is halted, education limited, families separated, medical appointments cancelled or restricted, sports events and concerts cancelled or postponed, churches, clubs, gyms closed, recent graduates brimming with fresh dreams and ambitions for their future now placed in limbo (some becoming resentful, cynical, and depressed), businesses against the wall, supply lines diminished, nonconformists reprimanded, potentially life-enhancing social interactions halted in their tracks, and so on. Pinned down, the majority of NZers either use the time productively working from home or doing something creative and educative, or else spend extra time on the internet, play computer games, get bored, worry about their businesses or future, and emerge occasionally for fresh air. The rules dominate.
Regardless of those constantly changing rules, the message to vaxxers, scepti-vaxxers, anti-vaxxers, and anti-anti-vaxxers should be consistently the same, that the inviolability of freedom of choice must be upheld, as enshrined in documents like the NZ Bill of Rights (1990): “everyone has the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment” (Part 2. 11), and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights:
Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice. (Article 6.1)And the Nuremberg Code (Yes, I know it’s only for “Permissible Medical Experiments”, but the principles were there, invoking the Anglo- Saxon jurisprudence system):
The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. These and other laws cannot be dismissed. (From the Trials, 1946-49)There are more like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but my questions are, Could the instruments we are trusting in be disproportionate in tackling what are and always will be perpetual realities of life? And are we in danger of becoming lockdown-reliant and vaccine-dependent? At the moment the campaign is in overdrive. But things can change, especially if new information is carefully considered.
Meanwhile, spring is here – let’s enjoy those picnics!
Guy Steward is a teacher, musician, and writer.