To Be or Not to Be: The Sociological Fallout of COVID-19 Vaccination
'Can we all just get along?'
These are the famed words of the late Rodney King. Before there was George Floyd, King was perhaps the most famous victim of police brutality in recent American history. After a video circulated in March 1991 of King's beating by multiple Los Angeles police, who were charged and later acquitted, the local community responded with what came to be known as the LA Riots. As the protests and looting continued, King attended a press conference and implored for peace, acknowledging the futility of division in society and begging people to 'just get along'. King would have no idea how relevant his words would be years later in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 23 March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that 'the coronavirus is the biggest threat our country has faced for decades - and this country is not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer.' From that date, we were locked down and under the newly-invented Coronavirus Act 2020 we were required by law to live by a set of rules that we were told ensured our safety (we now know lockdown prevented only .2% of deaths, but that's another story.) We were also advised that scientists were working on a vaccine. Of course, by the word 'vaccine', most of us thought this meant what we had always known it to mean - inoculation, which by definition is the action of immunising (i.e., to make resistant to infection) someone against disease by introducing infective material, microorganisms, or vaccine into the body. From the very beginning, there were those who were sceptical of any potential vaccination initiative. They suspected that the government would use COVID-19 as an opportunity to mandate vaccination for mass control and human experimentation. Rumours spread on social media like wildfire and the government decried them as misinformation that placed people's lives at risk. The same thing happened in America. In response, WhatsApp changed the message sharing settings to only 5 people at a time in order to control the spread of misinformation. All social media platforms later took a strong stance against what it perceived as misinformation. Apparently, we're all feebled-minded so the government and Big Tech need to determine what's best for us. Thus, all dissenting voices against the government narrative were thereafter called 'anti-vaxxers' or 'crazy conspiracy theorists.' They became the opposition. The government told us to ignore the opposition, trust the scientists, and follow the data. Even before the vaccine was produced, the stage had already been set for a sociological division between those who were to be vaccinated and those who were not. In late 2020, and in an unusual move, the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines were given temporary authorisation by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for distribution in the UK, although MHRA agency has not published details of the approval process. For clarity, temporary authorisation means the temporary use of unlicensed products. Under normal circumstances, vaccine distribution would have to await approval from the European Medicines Agency. However, this requirement was circumvented in October 2020 when the government made changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 which allowed the UK to use its own regulator to approve vaccine distribution in the case of 'suspected or confirmed spread of pathogenic agents.' At the time of writing in 2022, both vaccines are still being distributed under temporary authorisation; neither have achieved fully licensed status in the UK. The General Medical Council ethical guidance on the use of unlicensed medication states that, 'You must give patients, or their parents or carers, sufficient information about the medicines you propose to prescribe, to allow them to make an informed decision.' As the vaccines are unlicensed, meaning that they have not gone through the standard rigorous processes of approval in the same manner - or over the same length of time - as licensed treatments, I would expect a democratic government to be very careful about its approach. I would expect the government to facilitate scientific debate from multifaceted perspectives around vaccine safety, vaccine efficacy, as well as alternative treatments so that individuals can determine the best course of action for themselves based on the available data. A careful analysis of what happened instead will make you question whether we live under a democratic government. The first UK COVID-19 vaccination programme was announced on 31 December 2020 by our Chief Medical Officers (CMO) following guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The CMO announcement stated that the first dose would be most effective from 2 - 3 weeks after injection and a second dose would be needed for 'duration of protection'. In any case, the JCVI assured us that 'the great majority of the initial protection from clinical disease is after the first dose of the vaccine.' There was no discussion of boosters at the time; from the sound of things boosters would never be needed. After being locked down for nearly a year, desperate not to die from what Boris called the 'invisible killer', people rushed for the first dose and understandably so. Most people believed that vaccination actually meant inoculation and thus a return to safety and freedoms. This is exactly what the government led us to believe. As such, 91% of adults and children over 12 received their first dose. However, despite assurances of significant 'initial protection... after the first dose', COVID-19 infection marched on with determination and vaccinated people continued to get ill. In response, public vaccine enthusiasm began to wane, with only 84% uptake of the second dose. By June 2021, the UK government began to modify its wording around vaccination: 'The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness, but we do not know yet if they stop COVID-19 from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread COVID-19 to others.' Talk soon began to emerge of a booster. Perhaps reasonably questioning the purpose of a vaccine that doesn't make you resistant to infection, only 65% of people took the booster once introduced. The unvaccinated watched with intrigue, feeling increasingly strengthened in their decision to refuse vaccination. The vaccination programme prioritised the vulnerable and health and social care workers. This seemed logical. The NHS appeared to be under great strain, with many professionals ill and even dying from the virus. And we were repeatedly told that elderly people and those with underlying health conditions were at greatest risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and death. However, the government's initial tone regarding vaccine uptake moved from encouragement to insistent as it, joined daily by the media's harping threats of looming death, began to warn that everyone was in fact at risk of serious illness and/or dying. Contrary to its initial advice, as the government offered vaccination to younger, healthier people its tone became increasingly urgent. The message was clear - responsible people get vaccinated; irresponsible people don't. By September, the government tone changed to force. Despite acknowledging that viral infection and transmission persisted even amongst the vaccinated, which was later officially confirmed by British Medical Journal research and America's Center for Disease Control, government talk of vaccine mandates and passports began to emerge. In June 2021, mandates were issued to all care home workers in England. They were given a deadline of 11 November 2021 to be double-jabbed or lose their jobs (thousands who refused the vaccines ended up unemployed). Talk of vaccine passports in England for the public also emerged around this time, but plans were scrapped after backlash from Tories and the business sector. The passports, by the way, would not just prove vaccination status but would also contain a wide range of other personal health data. This clearly wasn't about COVID-19 anymore; things were getting intrusive and creepy. There was no justification for mandates or passports. The government knew that COVID-19 does not pose serious risk of ill health or death to everyone. The survival rate had been around 95% even at the height of the pandemic (right now the death rate is only 1%.) The government's own Office of National Statistics had data which demonstrated that most COVID-19 deaths were in individuals aged 65 and over with multiple health problems. However, despite the data, on 09 September 2021 the government began consultation for mandatory vaccination of all frontline NHS healthcare staff in England. And, unwilling to let the idea of vaccine passports die, on 27 September 2021 the government began consultation for public vaccine passports as a Plan B in England for emergency conditions over winter. Mandatory vaccination for health and all social care workers was approved on 09 November 2021. On 08 December 2021, the government introduced Plan B measures after the onset of the Omicron variant even though evidence from South Africa, where it first appeared, proved that it was milder than the Delta variant of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the government became increasing amplified about vaccination, telling us that boosters provided the 'best protection' against Omicron. Despite the hype, Omicron proved to be a doddle and signalled the end of the pandemic rather than a justification for more restrictions and government controls. Forced to retreated due to the obvious and indisputable data (and also in part by a desperate means to win us over during Partygate), the government changed its tune. From 17 January 2022, it was decided that self-isolation times were to be reduced. It has been suggested that all self-isolation rules are due to end in March 2022. Plan B restrictions were revoked on 27 January 2022. And after fierce outcry, the government reversed mandates for all health and social care workers on 31 January 2022 (although based on the government's convoluted statement on this, it remains to be seen whether a reversal will actually occur.) By the time these mandate and restrictions had been reversed, research had already begun to emerge that even a fourth COVID-19 vaccination did nothing to stop Omicron transmission. But besides this, and although the government continues to assert that vaccination provides the 'best protection' against the virus, research had long proved that natural immunity following COVID-19 infection was in fact the best protection against future infection. This was confirmed by Israeli research back in August 2021 and most recently in January 2022 by the Center for Disease Control. This, rather than vaccination, is likely the real reason that COVID-19 hospitalisations have decreased over time. Meanwhile, data which strongly challenges the prevailing government COVID-19 narrative in every respect has been coming to the fore, despite desperate attempts from the government and the media to keep such information from the public. While telling us to trust the scientists and follow the data, the government has been dictatorial about what scientists we can trust, what data we can follow, and what to do with our own bodies. Without question, the government has placed irrationally inordinate pressure on the public to uptake COVID-19 vaccination. Rather than using well-balanced data as a tool to inform, like a maniacal cult leader the government has effectively wielded the tool of fear. This has been confirmed outright by Simon Ruda of the government's Behavioural Insights Team who admitted that they used 'propagandistic' tactics to scare the public into compliance during the pandemic. The Office of Statistics Regulation reprimanded both Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Dame Jenny Harries (head of the UK Health Security Agency) for 'scare-mongering' during the spread of Omicron. But bullying has also been a tool. At the time, Javid openly bullied the unvaccinated, blaming them for taking up hospital beds despite there being no data to support these claims. Meanwhile, on the larger political stage, since last year US President Biden has continued to inaccurately proclaim - without supporting scientific evidence - that 'this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated'. With this type of hostility faced by those who refuse the vaccines, and with people desperate to have access to day-to-day life without restriction, it can be safely said that most if not all who took the vaccines did so out of psychological and social pressure. And, of course, many did it for fear of losing their jobs. Discriminatory comments from the government have given many vaccinated people license to also harass the unvaccinated. Having been bullied into believing the government's perpetual warnings of imminent death, many vaccinated people remain terrified of COVID-19 and convinced that everyone should be vaccinated. To them, the unvaccinated are lepers who deserve to be marginalised in society - even though vaccinated people also contract and transmit the virus. You know what they say. The abused often become abusers themselves. Following the government's lead, many vaccinated people have disregarded the fact that under Section 45E of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 a person has the legal right to refuse vaccination. Perhaps it's a kind of post-vaccine resentment: 'I gave up my civil liberties; why should you get to keep yours??!!' Other vaccinated people bully the unvaccinated to deflect from their own feelings of embarrassment and/or horror at being 'tricked' into taking vaccines they may have not needed. For the vaccinated who have not already experienced obvious vaccine injury, it must be incredibly hard to accept they perhaps agreed to a treatment that may have serious consequences in the long term. It is important to note that temporary authorisation of unlicensed medication occurs when assurances - as opposed to conclusive data - about safety and effectiveness are given by medical and scientific officials. Following temporary authorisation of Pfizer, the British Medical Journal since published an article on 02 November 2021 that the Pfizer trials may not have been safe at all, making the data for temporary authorisation unreliable and casting doubt on all government assurances. Vaccines usually take up to 10 years to be approved, yet COVID-19 vaccines were released after only a few months of trials. It is also true that mRNA vaccinations have never before been used to fight widespread viral infection. As such, there is still so much we don't know about these vaccines. By 08 September 2021, after just 9 months of the vaccine programme, 1,645 UK deaths shortly after the first COVID-19 vaccination were recorded on the Yellow Card reporting scheme. That's 183 people each month. This number does not even include those who survived but with serious side effects. For those without obvious current vaccine injury, it will take a while to determine any possible long-term damage. Under these circumstances, there is simply not yet enough data available for the government to assert with absolute certainty that the vaccines are safe. At best, the government has been over-confident; at worst, the government has lied to us. We are now left with a society split adversarially between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, both attacking the other. Out of either fear-induced conviction or virtue signalling self-validation, many vaccinated claim to be the responsible citizens who have played their part to protect society, despite that their vaccinated status will have no long-term benefit to anyone - including themselves. Meanwhile, the unvaccinated glibly revel in saying, 'I told you so,' as the emerging data confirms their long-held suspicions. Yet, they have faced alienation and ostracisation that does not seem to be abating anytime soon. It's hardly a time to feel smug when you're facing life as a second class citizen. In my view, we have all been betrayed and it's a waste of time for either side to point fingers at the other. We should all be pointing our fingers at the government. In reality, the vaccinated and unvaccinated have far more in common than not. Both have either had COVID-19 or have watched others suffer or die from it. The virus has hospitalised and killed both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. All of us have been victimised by government-induced hysteria and over-zealous restrictions. After all is said and done, NONE of us enjoy the benefit of inoculation from the vaccination. Natural immunity has trumped everything, just as science has traditionally demonstrated that our bodies would do, but the government ignored and denied this fact to push through its agenda. To be or not to be vaccinated is not the most important question to be asked right now. It makes better sense to take our eyes off of each other and to fix our gaze on a government that has far more serious questions to answer. We can start by questioning the ease with which the government has been able to tamper with laws to instantaneously remove our freedoms. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 may well be next. So, in the words of the late Rodney King, I also ask us all to please 'just get along.' Division is a distraction from what is really happening. Because the idea of mass control and human experimentation no longer sounds that crazy at all.