Dec 13, 2020
This country is embarked on what has been called “the most ambitious vaccine effort to date”.
Just as it was getting started, a senator from Wisconsin invited two witnesses to a committee hearing he chaired. Those witnesses trotted out some of the unsubstantiated anti-vaccine theories that float on the internet, based not on rigorous scientific study, but on someone’s “intuition”. He said he wanted all views to be heard.
No, he wanted to make a name for himself, and if he could do it by dredging up all the anti-scientific prejudices in society, well so be it.
He won’t be the one to die from what these medical quacks push. When he got sick with Covid, he had access to the best medical treatment in the world—that’s what this government supplies for its politicians. But not for its population.
He is just like all those other politicians who made a big show of not wearing a mask, in order to build up their own political following. Politicians who said, don’t worry, if you get it, it’s not bad.
Unfortunately, some people believed them, people who got sick from the virus. Some may not have gotten all that sick, but they spread it to their older relatives, who got really sick and died. There were even people who came into hospitals with Covid—insisting they didn’t have it, they couldn’t have it. Right up to the day they died from it, they were convinced Covid doesn’t exist.
Yes, it’s true that not everything is known about this disease, about masks and now about the vaccine about to be distributed. There are many things science can’t yet know for sure: exactly how effective will the vaccine be? Will inoculation protect only those who get it, or will it prevent the virus’s spread? How long will protection last?
In one sense, we are all guinea pigs in a great big research project. But we have no choice. We don’t choose the time and the space we live in. We are all constrained by our time and space. What constrains us today is this virulent disease.
There are lots of half-baked theories floating on the internet and in the big media. But science, as imperfect as it is, still is our best hope.
The virus that causes Covid was unknown until about a year ago. It produces a disease with this difficult characteristic: people who never even have symptoms are nonetheless developing the disease and spreading it to others.
In the face of such a tricky enemy, vast resources should be rushed to the medical scientists who focus on such problems and to public health departments, which are the ones that have the expertise in collecting data about diseases, who also are the ones who know how to trace and inhibit the spread of a contagious disease.
The newly elected president turned his campaign around the spread of Covid, saying, “trust the science“.
Unfortunately his actions spoke louder than his words. During all his years in public life, he joined with other politicians to cut the money going to medical science and to public health—directing the money instead to subsidize profit.
The CDC touts this vaccine as a lifesaver. It’s very possible it will be. But if so, it will not do so in the quickest, most direct way possible, impacting the largest number of people. The government responsible for funding the venture has not organized it with these as its only priorities. It set up vaccine development and distribution so that big companies will make a profit—pharmaceutical companies that developed it with government money; delivery companies that will move it to storage centers; hospital systems that will be paid “facility fees” for administering the vaccine; the pharmacy chains that will inoculate people in nursing homes.
The virus may be deadly, but the profit system which distorts every aspect of society, including science, is a mortal threat to everyone. To free up science, to make the population’s health a priority, we need only one goal: to rip out, tear up and throw away this profit-making system.