Ramblings: Overthinking the Vaccine Part I

I will try not to be redundant but I like to look at the philosophical presuppositions that prop up any position. I am accused of “overthinking” some things. But history is a great well from which we draw understanding of our present state.

Coronavirus: How soon can we expect a working vaccine? - BBC News

First I will state the problem. We now have a vaccine for COVID. This is a godsend. A scientific miracle. The only way out of this pandemic is; a) we all live in a real bubble with no contact with other people (not reasonable), b) allow a natural “herd immunity.” This would mean up to fifty million people dead and many more with life time of consequences, not to mention the complete breakdown of our healthcare system, or c) vaccinations to reach herd immunity without the great suffering.

However, as many as 30% of the population says they will not get vaccinated. In the black community, where there is more distrust of the “white man’s medical system” it is more than 50%. I cannot speak for everyone choosing not to get a vaccination, but I can speak to the big trends in history and the underlying foundations for this distrust. I realize that for the black community it is larger than this ( see:Tuskegee Experiment).

As I’ve mentioned before, western civilization had a strong dualistic influence from Greek philosophers such as Plato. The Christian church adopted this view. In this view, there are two realities, the seen and the unseen. In that system, they adopted the idea that only the unseen has value. The seen, including all of nature, had no intrinsic value. Nature was there only for mankind to exploit. Men have souls (unseen) thus have value and nature did not. Some have told me that Celtic Christianity was the exception to this low view of nature. I hope so.

For seventeen hundred years this was the dominant view of western civilization. Then, Jean Jacque Rousseau and some of his contemporaries rebelled against this idea. They believed that nature in its raw form was good, but men contaminated it with their interference. It was the opposite of the Midas touch, that everything humans touch turn to crap.

This philosophical pendulum swung in the opposite direction from putting nature down, to making all things “natural” better than the artificial (meaning here where humans manipulate nature). It is now a profoundly common belief in our western thinking. As an exercise I simply ask you, which is better natural or artificial? Most will say natural. Second exercise, go into any grocery store and count how many times you see the word “nature” or “natural.” The label “Natural” sells, because people believe its better. The only things that exist are nature or humans manipulating nature. People don’t create a new substance that was not there before, in nature.

Those who are against vaccines usually have this mindset, that if it is an artificial herd immunity, it is inferior to natural herd immunity, maybe even dangerous.

But here is the truth. It does not matter if you are an atheist or a Christian (I won’t mention other religious views for the sake of being concise), nature has wonderful things and harmful things. It gives us a fresh oranges (although the big beautiful oranges that we have now are the results of artificial breeding by humans for hundreds of years), but nature also gives us poisons, toxins, cancer, and many other things, like viruses. The human immune system is excellent, but imperfect. I don’t understand where Christians get this idea of “I depend on the immune system that God gave me.” It is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity that this world is imperfect (The Fall, is the term that they use.) But in the case of our bodies and immune system, somehow we are not fallen creatures?

Before the invention of modern, evidence-based medicine, the life expectancy for humans was around 28 years, and those years full of suffering. Most of those deaths were from infectious diseases. It is the “artificial” or humans manipulating the good attributes of nature making them better, that has increased the life expectancy to almost 80 and with far less suffering.

Now don’t get me wrong. In the grand scheme of things, humans have done irreparable damage to nature. Deforestation, fracking, spoiling of water, climate change, and the list goes on and on. These are complete moral failures. Humans, when left to their own devices, often do more harm than good.

To get into specifics, the COVID vaccines is using new technology, RNA-based, that made it quicker to develop, but not less safe. These are probably safer than previous vaccines, by a long shot. I am unaware of any vaccine in history being pulled from the market after long term side effects were discovered. These new vaccines should be even safer. The risk of death and long term harm of having COVID is tens of thousands times more likely than with a vaccine.

If you have a vaccine phobia, I will mention that I’ve personally had 21 vaccines in the past 90 days and am scheduled to have 5 more next week. I’ve been getting 7 at a time because my childhood vaccines were erased by my bone marrow transplant. I got these vaccines and I’m in poor health due to my cancer. But my side effects have been limited (typical). It appears that those who know the most above vaccines, trust them the most.

I have read volumes of information sent to me by anti-vaxxers. None of it has credibility from the research. Much of it supported by baseless conspiracy theories. I have though held a child as he died from tetanus on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a horrible death. I’ve seen the consequence of polio and measles. The position of being an anti-vaxxer is the luxury belief of affluent societies.

Baby with tetanus - Stock Image - M270/0238 - Science Photo Library
A child dying from tetanus, a preventable disease with a vaccination.

I want to pivot here and talk about evidence-based and “natural” medicine as a tangential topic. I will try to be fair, looking at the positives and negatives of each. I will make that a part II that you can read if you’re interested.



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