With most EU countries starting vaccinations today, I had to write this. Don’t expect conspiracy theories or a rant against vaccines in general, though I will repeat one thing I keep saying when the topic comes up, which is that vaccines tend to make people ever more reliant on them, reducing natural resistance to disease and therefore increasing vulnerability to any disruptions, including intentional ones, in their availability. Interestingly, this problem might actually be solved if that stupid conspiracy theory making the rounds now, stating that these vaccines would somehow alter DNA, would be true, since that would mean that any resistances would not only be permanent for those receiving the vaccine, but probably also for their children. Not that anyone should be allowed to still have any children when the world’s so terribly overpopulated and the ecosystem so damaged, nor that I’d trust any human with genetic engineering in the foreseeable future, or ever in case of those working for private, for-profit corporations. But at least that’d theoretically be a solution, while the current model actually discourages coming up with one, carrying higher and constant costs and relying on everything working as it should, disruptions, not to mention someone deciding to use it as a weapon at some point, leading to untold suffering and disaster.
But this was supposed to be about the current vaccination effort, which will of course help significantly in the battle against the virus causing the current pandemic, the vaccines likely to indeed be quite safe and, for now, effective. However, the benefits won’t be as great, and definitely not as immediate, as the optimists would like to think. In fact, in the short term there may even be a net negative impact, if people will rely on the mere fact that a vaccine exists and pay less attention to the other safety measures. After all, only a relatively small number of people, from certain categories, will be vaccinated over the next few months. That will of course help those people and should also reduce the number of severe cases and deaths, at least if they won’t also forget about the other measures before enough time will pass for the vaccine to become fully effective, but with the possible exception of limiting those outbreaks in large factories, and meat-processing plants in particular, if those workers will be included among those receiving these early doses, it’s unlikely to make that much of a difference when it comes to the total number of infections and the average person’s risk of infection when most cases are the result of regular people meeting with other regular people, the general population will, at best, only start being vaccinated in spring, and the process will take at the very least several months, and that’s assuming the level of acceptance will be high enough and no problems will appear on the way.
And then there’s the other side to consider, the other end: We don’t know how long immunity will last, but it’s unlikely to last that long. We’re not even sure that those who are themselves immune can’t still be carriers and infect others! And, of course, the virus seems to mutate quite rapidly and may find ways around such immunity anyway. But even if we set all of these other potential problems aside, assuming that somehow, let’s say even relatively soon, everyone will be immunized, one way or another, and the virus won’t get around that, or at least not without becoming far less infectious, if the immunity will only last for a year or so, and maybe even for as little as a few months, the vaccine clearly can’t, in itself, be the solution. Even with so much effort and so many resources poured into this, which is something that won’t be indefinitely sustainable, it’ll take longer than that to vaccinate enough people to truly make a difference! This lack of a lasting immunity may not be a serious problem when it comes to those other coronaviruses that only cause the common cold, which tends to just be a temporary nuisance and easily responds to a wide array of simple and readily available treatments, and at least not that much of one even when it comes to the seasonal flu, which most people can also pull through and for which treatments are also known and available, but things are quite different when it comes to a virus that’s much more dangerous for a large part of the population, may even cause lasting damage to some younger and otherwise healthy people, who wouldn’t normally be seen as at risk, and for which we don’t have clear, effective, readily available and sufficiently cheap treatments.
In fact, from where I’m standing, finding those treatments is the more important part of the solution at this point. In the longer term, permanent changes in behavior may be required, perhaps somewhat comparable to those seen, at least in more developed societies, as a result of HIV, only far more widespread and noticeable, since they’ll have to do with breathing instead of sex and blood. And, of course, far more drastic changes in behavior, mindset and our attitude towards Nature will be required to reduce the risk of future similar or worse pandemics, coupled with a different approach towards health when facing those we will nevertheless have to face, but those changes are absolutely necessary for many other reasons, perhaps the most important being that it’s the right thing to do at a time when our level of development finally makes it possible, leaving no more room for excuses. So, to return to the current crisis, unless immunity will be permanent, or at least last many years, decades, which at this point seems highly unlikely, it’s the vaccine that’s the temporary solution, a method used to buy a little more time to find proper treatments, most preferably some that’d work against this entire class of viruses, since it seems probable that more will make the jump to humans. And, despite some more serious trials and a few promising results, that goal seems far more distant and difficult to achieve.
On the other hand, what’s very obvious is that, regardless of anything else, the large pharmaceutical corporations will gain the most as a result of this, both immediately and in the longer term. We’re talking of short-term profits in the billions, higher stock prices and other indirect benefits after the number of vaccines on the market will perhaps make it difficult to maintain high prices, and all of that despite also receiving public funds and donations to develop the vaccines and making use of government-funded science without rewarding or even really recognizing the researchers involved. Even AstraZeneca is likely to start selling at a profit probably just when it’ll matter more for the general public and they received partial immunity from claims of side-effects in exchange for not doing so from the beginning. And, thinking of the longer term, if the vaccines are at the moment free for the people, which of course means that they’re paid by the authorities out of tax money, it remains to be seen how long until this will change and how much it’ll cost to regain protection after this initial one will, most probably, wear off.
This is how things invariably work, and will continue to work, as long as capitalism is allowed to continue existing, along with private corporations and doing pretty much anything, and providing necessary products and services in particular, for profit. In addition, if anything, the sooner the immunity generated by the vaccines will wear off, the happier Big Pharma will be, their interest being to keep selling as much as possible, as often as possible, to as many as possible, responding to needs, be they real or perceived, that are as widespread as possible and reappear as quickly as possible, and preferably never go away at all, being permanent. Again, this doesn’t in any way imply any support for any conspiracy theory, I’m quite “allergic” to those; it’s merely a statement of fact, how things work in this rotten economic system we so desperately need to consign to the ash heap of history and replace with something new and suitable for a future worth living in, making proper use of humanity’s level of knowledge and development and offering a decent standard of living and a good life for all while also remaining within the limits of the ecosystem and allowing and even aiding the other species we share, or should be sharing, this planet with to thrive as well.