Doctor Euanan Bruni writes from Sardinia:
A vaccine for Covid19 seems to be around the corner, with some suggestions that one may be rolled out before the end of the year. A laboratory in Oxford is leading the way, with four other research units running promising tests. There are many people who are questioning the safety of vaccines and refusing to be vaccinated under any circumstances. Over my dead body. Are the anti-vaxxers deluded or do they know something the rest of us don’t?
The WHO considers vaccine hesitancy -the anti-vaxxers – as one of the ten biggest threats to global health. It is often a case of science versus ideology against conspiracy theorists believe without proof that a vaccine is inherently unsafe.
They are two main approaches to vaccine development, Think of a virus as a car and the body as a network of motorways. The first approach to vaccine development is to destroy the pathogen, knocking it out of action in one quick decisive hit, like a rocket attack. The second less intrusive method is to interfere with the car’s operating system – puncture the tyres, disconnect the spark plugs, fill the fuel tank with sugar – so the virus stops replicating. Then send in the T-cells, the recovery trucks and let the normal traffic resume.
We will know soon if the vaccines in development work. We will also know if they are safe or not – in the short term, as long as the testing period lasts – months at best. We can only guess whether there will be long term consequences – years or decades. The anti-vax movement argues that the long term consequences will be severe.
How do they know? Nobody knows. The anti-vaxxers don’t and are also guessing. The ideology of anti-vacs is based on a notion of purity, that the body does not need to be tampered with by human agents. They argue that vaccines are weakening our immune system and that our body’s inability to fight off Covid19 is proof that our collective resistance to disease has weakened. Vaccines = bad.
They may have a point, but we can be sure that Covid19 will not be the last virus to spread globally wreaking havoc. The next one could be even more inimical. Vaccine science and technology is the only known means to combat epidemics, in the absence of efficient medicines.
The next issue is the conspiracy theory that has Bill Gates injecting nano-bots in a global vaccination programme on behalf of the Illuminati. Surely impossible?
Actually no. In the current state of the art, the smallest components (transistors and diodes) made on a silicon chip are about seven nanometres (billionths of a metre) across. That is a thousandth of the diameter of a red blood cell. And by adding Boron-Nitride, the nano-chip can function with BIOS (a basic input/out system).
There are significant restraints on nano technology though. The signal emitted by a nano-bot is far too weak to be processed on any type of network, let alone 5G. In ten years, twenty, thirty, possibly. By the end of 2020, this is not happening, not on a nano level.
And there are the logistical problems of adding a nanobot to hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. Governments are having problems with fairly basic testing technologies and reagents as it is. This is way too advanced for current logistical capacities.
In short, vaccines will not be loaded with robot technology.
The anti-vaxxers have a history of resistance going back to the days of smallpox vaccination, just as vaccine evangelists. Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, was a fervid advocate of mandatory vaccination and opponent of the anti-vaxxers. For him, it was a case of elementary Watson: vaccines reduce disease and death. If suffering can be avoided, why create such as fuss?
But if the long term consequences are unknown, can a captain insist all crew be vaccinated? If a crew member becomes sick from a vaccine, the owner is potentially liable to huge claims. On the other hand, a crew member has to provide certificates to work on a yacht, so why not a certificate of a vaccine?
Can a captain or owner insist that existing crew be vaccinated, For new crew members, a vaccine clause can be inserted into the Seafarers Agreement, required by the MLC. An existing crew may be required to sign an updated SEA – in which case it is a matter of choice. The country of legal jurisdiction will have a bearing. The UK does not have legislation to enforce vaccination. The US has a law that dates back to the smallpox epidemic that does allow mandatory vaccination. In the US, religious discrimination is not considered a cause of grievance if there is a financial consequence for the employer.
Many people see COVID 19 as an old person’s problem – which in many respects is true. The vaccine issue is a conversation that will need to be had when the first vaccinations start. It is happening sooner than many of us would have imagined back in March. Many would argue that it is a nice conversation to be had because for now, it is purely a hypothesis.