Monday, July 26, 2021

Passport or blunt instrument?


I am double vaccinated, I vaccinated
my children, I am not anti-vaccination

Caroline Lucas has written back - she's been lobbied by plenty and promises to oppose compulsory vaccinations against Covid 19, if it comes to a vote. 

That's a big IF. It presumes, also, public consultation and a level of debate. One of the first questions is how we establish a difference between vaccine hesitancy and opposition to compulsory vaccination.

In the clamour of the pinging app and Olympics, can medical ethics make itself heard?

The ethics professionals, scientists, medics are already on this - they have been for a while because compulsory vaccination's not new. 

One of the voices in the BMJ's Journal of Medical Ethics, is Prof Julian Savulescu who compares compulsory vaccination, in relation to the public good, to conscription, paying taxes and compulsory seat belts. Having examined compulsion and possible payment for vaccination, he argues: "An alternative “payment” model is to pay those who vaccinate in kind. This could take the form of greater freedom to travel, opportunity to work or socialise. With some colleagues, I have given similar arguments in favour of immunity passports." 

Ahh, the passport, so reminiscent of BREXIT...

Gratefully, the UK government's rushing its recycled metaphor to the printers, earbuds in to block out the distracting ideas (and warnings) being shared among professionals.   

Again, the BMJ reports: "With France and Greece going for compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers, The NHS Confederation has said that the current approach of encouraging uptake through informed consent is the preferred option. The BMA is also calling for targeted engagement and possible alternative mitigations against transmission for people who are not vaccinated. Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, called compulsion “a blunt instrument to tackle a complex issue.”

"Peter English, former editor of Vaccines in Practice and immediate past chair of the BMA’s public health committee, told The BMJ, “The problem with making things mandatory is that it often creates a backlash, and you can get more people refusing to have the vaccine because they are being forced to. The general view is that mandatory vaccination should be a last resort.”"

Will people whose area of expertise is medical ethics be heard among Johnson's populist clamour that has more in common with Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia?   

A briefing paper on UK vaccination policy from the House of Commons library is scanty to say the least, murmuring:  "The effectiveness of mandatory vaccination policies is not clear...."

The UK's only compulsory vaccination, against smallpox, was in force between 1852 and 1948.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Resist division and distraction

This was a message to Trump in 2020
The ways people resist, those who resist, union meetings, demonstrations, days of strike or picketing, the clear thinking of writers like Toni Morrison and Jackie Kay, the activism of young women and men...

I am casting around and every conversation I end up in on the allotment path, at the open market, on the phone, at Mum's, in Jane's garden, at the beach, veers into, what the hell is happening? We are worried but are we feeling just a bit too paralysed to act?

This regime of Johnson, Patel, Gove and company has taken Thatcher's model of destroying the unions and is determined to eradicate any resistance that is hanging on in this culture silenced by reality TV and shopping. Its strategy - divide and distract. Sound Orwellian?

This was a message to Europe in 1968

On the day the second multi-billionaire takes his rocket to the edges of the atmosphere, with barely a critic to be heard, I am at my limit, wondering who will raise their voice to question what these plunderers are doing?

Brendan Cleary rang yesterday to read me two new poems over the phone. They're very dark, he said. He seemed worried. I thought of Brecht: 

“In the dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing. /About the dark times. ”

Civil liberties are snatched away as we're distracted. These are the first things a pick-pocket learns. 

I know I'm barely scratching at this problem, but here is today's letter to Caroline Lucas, my MP.

Dear Caroline

I am writing because of the announcement that the Tory government intends to make anyone attending a large gathering show proof of Covid vaccination in order to enter. 

I am double vaccinated, so I am not an anti-vaxxer. Both my children were fully vaccinated against all childhood diseases. I defend vaccination and its role in eradicating terrible diseases wherever people claim to be against it. I personally remember the impact of polio and I celebrate vaccination's role in medical advances. 

However, vaccination must be a personal choice made by a parent or an individual and while I will debate with those who decide to remain unvaccinated, all of us need the freedom to make that decision. I understand, also, why people in their 20s are sceptical, given the mounting list of this government's lies. 

So I am urging you as my MP to resist this increasingly authoritarian government's move to undermine the most basic freedom, i.e. an individual's freedom to choose  medical treatment. I urge you to question the legality of any such legislation and work with other MPs in order to ensure it is never realised. 

None of us know the long-term effects of this vaccine and while at the age of 66 I felt I could take that risk, I understand anyone in their 20s being more sceptical. There is every reason to distrust this government when it comes to the rights and lives of most ordinary people. 

So we cannot allow a policy of this kind to be implemented in a democracy. It will create more divisions in our society, but perhaps this is what the Tories are hoping for? 

For the obvious reason that every individual should be allowed to control what goes into their own bodies, to the less obvious reason that this government is determined to restrict our civil liberties, by force if necessary, please ensure that the arguments are put forward and that any justification this is for the public good is challenged every time - both in the House of Commons and in the media.