At the time of writing we are about to embark on a tentative launch of the world’s first Corona virus vaccine programme here in the U.K.
Is it the herald for hope we yearn for, and will it prove to be a pathway back to our old ‘normal’ lives as called for by many? The arrow of time alas, always moves forward and events ahead are forever unknown. Until we compete with the virus at source, vaccines at best will baffle the progress of this particular strain, until it is superseded by a mutation of it. This is not an exercise to find despondency within a flicker of hope, but to truly discover the right path through to the other side of these troubled times. Fingers being pointed towards China in accusatory rhetoric by some is little more than deflection of public scrutiny towards the issue of that source. If China had hatched a plot to throw a grenade into the world economy, by means of a deadly infectious disease, me thinks they wouldn’t have pulled the pin in a ‘wet market’ in the city of Wuhan, the very geographical centre of their country.
There are now global reports about premises of modern meat production being seemingly a perfect environment for facilitating Covid 19’s incubation and spread. This week, an order from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has stated that all hens, turkeys and other captive birds in Britain are to be kept indoors from the 14th of December in an attempt to impede the spread of the new outbreak of H5N8 avian flu. The risk to human health is very low, according to Public Health England. H5N1, its first known variant was first detected in 1997, Nipah virus in pigs in 1999, Sars in 2002, Swine flu H1N1 was another in 2009 and MERS in 2012. Government advice is that they are all unrelated; optimism has to be admired as a trait but should we not at least explore the correlation between these influenza pandemics and ask why they their roots so often trace back to modern farming methods and more specifically current disciplines of animal husbandry. Cattle are herbivores, and when brain and spinal cord of their own kind were fed back to them by way of bone meal, there was surprise voiced by politicians back in the early 90’s at how ‘unforeseen’ the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) outbreaks were. It lead to millions of animals culled, the human form, Variant CreutzfeldtJakob disease caught via the consumption of infected animal produce, killed an as yet unknown number but links to dementure, the prion protein in particular, are being studied by many including Alzheimers Research UK. Understanding the Covid 19’s beginnings is the key to its end. We all want these testing times behind us but following the light of false dawns may make us tarry longer in the quagmire longer than is necessary. Even reflections and conversations on pollution and innutritious diet would go some way to helping us understand why general immunity levels are compromised in the face of this virus. We fight against nature so much, when will we learn to work with her. Nature will go on whether we are on board or not. The whip we use to act as master over the natural world; if we are not careful, we may just end up hanging ourselves with.
For now anyway, until we know how this hand is going to play out, I have been learning a little more, and thinking about vaccines. What they are and what exactly they do?
Upon reading about this vaccine in several news sources, including New Scientist magazine, and forgive me if I am repeating facts you already know, I understand that there are apparently 200 or more Corona virus vaccines in development worldwide. 12 of these are in stage III trials (stage IV usually runs for a year or two alone), 3 of which have published early results. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been granted emergency authorisation by the UK independent regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The demand for a ‘solution’ as the world labours under its current epidemiological travails, has accelerated the pharmaceutical world’s normal ten year long pursuit of a new vaccine, to ten months. However, political expediency may not yet prove to be the best driver for the most effectual vaccine. The MHRA have stated, a rolling review “can be used to complete the assessment of a promising medicine or vaccine during a public health emergency in the shortest time possible.” The trials have been relatively small (albeit successful to current conceived medical standards), and consequently haven’t been able to reveal whether or not a vaccine prevents people from catching and transmitting the virus. This may sound like a crucial feature of a vaccine but it isn’t: a vaccine is designed to prevent people getting ill. The potential therefore is, it may suppress the cases of sickness, leaving people asymptomatic but still able to catch the virus and pass it on among the populous. We hope this is not the case of course, and those that are most directly in harm’s way of Covid 19’s march, one thinks first of the front line health workers dealing with the sick daily, will be afforded some protection from these initial strains of the disease through this vaccine. One can only hope the speed with which the vaccine has been declared ready hasn’t compromised its efficacy in any conceivable, or indeed, inconceivable way.
There is a growing movement, stimulated by Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study of just 12 children and the supposed link of the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) to autism, of general distrust of vaccines in some quarters. He has since been struck of the UK medical register by the GMC but that has consequently made him a hero to ‘Anti-vaxxers’ promoting conspiracies of microchips embedded within the vaccine that beam out their biometric data and commoditised with bar codes linked to cryptocurrencies; 5G masts being vandalised to stop the spread of Corona virus, and vaccines in general being part of a global plot of controlling the population in other specified, and unspecified ways. Not being medically trained myself, like most of us, I can only reflect more broadly on the historic general public health progress vaccines have made in our world. Polio, tetanus, small pox, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, mumps, chicken pox and many other diseases have been eradicated to our knowledge or at least vastly subdued.
According to website Dermvetrnz.org, vaccines emergence can be dated back to at least the 1770’s when, “an English farmer discovered that dairymaids that had contracted and recovered from cowpox (a viral skin infection on animals including cows udders) not only became immune to further cases of cowpox, but also to the more serious viral disease, smallpox. In1796 English physician, Dr Edward Jenner used the cowpox to inoculate a patient to prevent them from contracting smallpox. Hence this was the first (known) successful vaccination performed.”
So, like very often, across all fields of human understanding, nature is showing us something vital for our well being. Exposure to a limited amount of systemic stress, natural entities will, in their proper state, fight back, overcome that that endeavours to destabilise or harm it; and in that process be stronger and more adapted to repel further and even greater attacks. An immune system, assaulted by antigens (weakened parts of a particular organism contained within the vaccine), triggers the body’s natural response to overcome that which is attempting to harm it. It also produces antibody-producing memory cells which remain alive after the pathogen is defeated by the antibodies.
It is often remarked how a young sapling, thin and tender, grows a sturdier trunk and deeper roots after having endured years of buffeting from strong winds and storms.
We ourselves endure testing periods in our lives. A child (this child was anyway), for the most part, may be considered less emotionally resilient than a person of mature years having ‘been through the wars’.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, really hits home later in your life when you can look back along your road from a different perspective.
In the moment, do you want the pain, the suffering… the assault on your system in whatever guise it may take? No, if you were given the choice, in all honesty mayhap we might say… ‘Take it from me’. Only later, when the suffering has passed and we are left only with the memory, like the antibody memory cells in our immune system, do we then appreciate the value of the experience. The residue of that experience is a little wisdom and inner strength; qualities that cannot be bought or sold, they are earned. We find we are a little more capable to withstand what life may throw at us. Having been through the fire once, as all-consuming as it may have felt like at the time, this time you are now armed with the knowledge that eventually it will ebb as once it came, and you have proved to yourself you have the strength inside to endure through the challenge.