On the delicate subject of vaccines….. I’ve resisted writing anything about COVID vaccines for a long time now. The main reasons are:
1. That any medical procedure is a personal decision weighed up on how the benefits to you and others weigh up to the harms to you and others. Only an individual can decide those benefits and harms based on their own risk profile and tolerance to risks. This might be different in a different society, but this is what we conventionally have gone with in our society and I think it’s served us well. That said, sometimes we decide that the risks are massive and people need protecting for themselves and that protection offers very little harmful downside. Examples are taxing tobacco and alcohol to moderate consumption, seat belt and car safety laws.
2. The science is dynamic, new and new viral variants are emerging all the time. It’s hard to stay fully on top of all of this, and therefore offer an opinion.
3. People seem to have taken quite polarised positions on vaccines. In the case of science, we can obtain confidence but never certainty. This is the humility of science – that we are never certain. But we need to eventually, each one of us, decide whether we are confident enough to proceed. It’s unhelpful to be certain, because it is almost universally not true, especially at either end of this debate. The well known modern (and not so modern) ideas of echo chambers, the vision of the anointed (see Thomas Sowell’s classic book), the failure to be skeptical of your own hypothesis and beliefs, straw man arguments and appealing to authority are widespread on both ends of the argument. Ultimately we tend to want to resist changing our mind when new information comes in. I’ve certainly seen my share of that in nutritional science.
So certainty is off the table, as it is in all of medicine, and much of society. Ultimately each of us will make our best decision. Others will think differently and we can all respect that at both ends right? Some opinions others will have we will regard as completely off the wall, but sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are just off the wall.
For me, I’m probably going to get vaccinated. For my risk profile, and the fact I’m a bit prone to bad flu, I think the risks are outweighed by the benefits for me. I think the same is true for my elderly parents, especially my Dad with cancer.
We all make decisions all the time about treatments and activities which have possible benefits and possible harms – pain killers, surgery, driving on the road, cycling and so on. We seem to be able to abide by these without calling people anti-surgery or whatever. Equally we don’t mandate surgery for everyone even if they are a bigger burden on society.
Going forward, robust scientific debate is the basis of science. Challenging beliefs and hypotheses on the basis of new information is the only process in which proper science exists. So that needs to continue. There is no single source of truth in science.
Equally we need to be careful. All of us must acknowledge we all have biases including me, you, our politicians, and our advising scientists. Acknowledging and overcoming these biases is not an insurmountable problem but it is very hard.
Here’s an interesting recent example of the debate I’m sure you can get your heads around in the BMJ regarding vaccine efficacy in the UK. On first glance it seems obvious that vaccinated people are suffering more death than the unvaccinated. Yet a more complex consideration of the risk profiles and so forth shows a different story.
For our PreKure professional health community, I think what we can offer is not so much an opinion we need to share with everyone else around vaccine effectiveness, harms and benefits, but a commentary and leadership on being metabolically healthy. And how to do this quickly, safely and easily with lifestyle medicine tools. That’s what we can do and how we can make a difference. This is especially important in regards to managing high glucose. We all know the tools for that right? This is the elephant in the room and we need to be brave enough to concentrate on calling this.