Have the vaccines helped or hindered the fight against Covid?
Before I start, I want to be clear that I’ve had two doses of AstraZeneca, so I’m not anti-vax. But when you look at everything that’s happened over the last couple of years, you have to wonder how much the vaccine has helped rather than hindered. Especially now we know the booster won’t get us back to full immunity, and we have yet another variant on the way. Do we want to be perpetually stuck in a cycle of booster jabs in a slowly collapsing capitalist hellscape? Or do we want to actually end covid once and for all?
When we had the first lockdown, we had over a thousand deaths a day for quite a while, but when the lockdown really started taking effect, the numbers of cases crashed, as did the deaths a couple of weeks later. Probably the best case for the vaccine was in the winter of last year and early 2021. In the Autumn, we had a rise in cases which eventually lead to the circuit breaker, which was too late, and didn’t get the cases down that far. The government ended it despite that, and cases quickly rebounded to go far higher still into winter, where the vaccine started to play a role in bringing down cases and deaths. But by that point, the government, and the public at large were treating the vaccines as the magic bullet that would solve everything; and that has continued ever since. Culminating in the disastrous and reckless “Freedom Day” in June where the Tories ended all restrictions. If you look at the data now, you see that the UK has had continually high cases since when compared to other similar countries; but the UK has gotten away with its gross mismanagement because the cases and deaths have been consistently in the 40,000s and 200s respectively. It is obviously crazy that we’ve come to accept this as ok and “the vaccine doing its job”, but that’s where we are.
So, if we didn’t have the vaccines, how would this have all played out? Presumably we would have still had the Autumn surge, followed by a circuit breaker. People were growing wearing of the rules and looking after each other by that point (the clap for carers charade had ended). You’d have to assume that there would have been a stronger lockdown long before Christmas if there wasn’t a vaccine rollout. And I think it’s virtually certain that the cases and deaths would have been lower this year had the vaccine not existed. BoJo would never have been able to call Freedom Day and we would have never left the basic restrictions of mask wearing, social distancing and so on.
You only really have to look to a country like Japan for an example of how to do it mostly right. They did have small surges from time to time, but they were always able to bring it under control relatively quickly and it never got to the ludicrous levels seen in other countries. The only time it got quite scary was when cases hit about 30,000 a day during the Olympic period. At that point, the vaccine rollout wasn’t where it should have been, but they avoided cases getting up into the 40, 50, 60k range. And remember, this is a far more populous country than the UK, with massive cities where everyone is crammed in together on public transport. There was no reason it needed to get as bad as it did here.
The idea that 40,000 (now 50k) people can get the virus every day and 150–200 can die, and that be considered a success is truly obscene; and yes, perhaps very few of those people dying are vaccinated. But it’s the fact that we’ve allowed the virus to keep spreading in the community, especially among young people in particular for so long that is most obscene. You have to adapt to the situation you’re in, but they didn’t act to offset the 15% of adults who haven’t been vaccinated. The virus kept circulating widely, presumably causing an increase in asymptomatic transmission among vaccinated people. And we’re seeing the result of the continued spread around the world yet again now with the Omicron variant.
It’s clear that the only time most neoliberal governments act quickly is when there’s a threat to capitalism. In this case blocking travel from South Africa, not that it’s going to make any real difference now that it’s inevitably already spread all over the world. They couldn’t care less about public health, but they’re incredibly concerned about the health of capitalism. Nothing is ever said about how returning to global travel meant this was inevitable. This is really the crux of what this whole thing has been about. I’ve written before about how covid will never end until capitalism ends, and we just get further confirmation of that fact every day. And that brings us to the other problem with covid vaccines, which is that they prevent most people from realising that capitalism must end. The longer the period of time where people can stop and think, the less likely they are to want to return to how things were before. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it how most people wanted to jump back into “normality” considering how great it was to slow down and enjoy nature, clean air, peace and quiet for a while. But I do think that the capitalist establishment were lucky. If capitalism, covid, consumerism and the climate crisis had been able to marinate in people’s minds for much longer, we could quite easily have seen the massive change we need to see. The massive change that Graeme Maxton and his wife Bernice Maxton-Lee wrote about in their book “A Chicken Can’t Lay a Duck Egg”. It’s such a huge travesty that we’ve missed the most golden of golden opportunities for change, but I think it’s still possible. Every new variant, every new record breaking extreme weather event, every day people think more about unrelenting consumption that goes by, the better the chances that we’ll finally snap out of this.
So far, the government have been able to maintain the false notion that the vaccine alone will end the covid crisis without really being challenged in the mainstream. But even if everyone in the world was vaccinated, would it end? I can’t see how it would. What about adding universal masks and distancing? If we did that, and presumably it was the original intention of the epidemiologists, then yes, that seems plausible. But I don’t personally see that happening in reality unless capitalism ends and we pay people to stay at home. Mandating citizens to take the vaccine I don’t really agree with, but paying them to stay home and follow other rules I think is fine in the circumstances. It’s not as if people won’t be able to enjoy outdoor activities.
But one thing is for sure; whatever it is that we’re doing now clearly isn’t working. Booster shots for some, a dizzying mix of 1, 2 or no vaccine doses for others; plus a different set of restrictions and guidelines in every country when we live in a global world. It’s no wonder we’re still stuck in a loop after almost 2 years of this nonsense.
We have to all realise that we have to do something different. If you’re going to do boosters, combine them with lockdowns or at least heavy restrictions, so we can make this the last dose. But then, is it worth wasting a third dose when it doesn’t boost protection by that much? Maybe focus on vaccinating people for the first time, end capitalism and pay people to stay at home. The data shows it will be far more effective than any vaccine.
Originally published at http://cjtill.com on November 27, 2021.