Careful What We Wish For

18 February 2021  /  Updated 7 March 2021

by Dr Mark Shaw

I wouldn’t say I was anti-vax in stance but I do think that vaccination should be carried out only where absolutely clinically necessary. All forms of medication involve some risk – no matter how small. The decision to medicate our immune systems should be one that is taken with the utmost care and diligence.

The extraordinary pressure to be vaccinated has come from, among other reasons, a desire to exit lockdown speedily. The two issues (lockdown and vaccination) have become inextricably and painfully linked by the abandonment of the following principles that should form the backbone of healthcare:

  • First do no harm
  • Don’t panic
  • Properly evaluate risk
  • Ensure action is founded on solid evidence based medicine
  • Do not over-exaggerate or over-promise

So the problem with the Government’s strategy is that it is rolling out a vaccination programme in a blanket approach that does not allow the public to make a properly informed decision based on evaluating their own relative risk of suffering from the effects of catching Covid. A clinician should only advise a patient to undergo treatment when they have been informed of all the pros and cons – so that the clinician has the patient’s informed consent. Informed consent (in this case of the public) can only have been obtained when the relative risks have been presented in a non-biased way without frightening them.

It would be reasonable to question the speed at which the vaccinations were rolled out (can you really compress time?) and the way the vaccines were administered (strictly as manufacturers recommended or not?) and, in this case particularly, the trial numbers and age range, etc.

If we throw caution to the wind and just accept that we have to get everyone vaccinated willy nilly in order to put a speedy end to lockdown, then we have failed as clinicians to act professionally. We run the risk of taking a gamble (again no matter how small) of failing to provide the best care for the public and ( if that “no matter how small” gamble fails in any small way), losing the most precious value that patients place in us – TRUST.

We also run the risk of going down the path of multiple vaccinations for multiple diseases or variants of diseases for which the long term implications will not be known. Our immune systems have evolved over millions of years. They are phenomenal and it is usually only when a person is very old or ill that they might not work effectively enough. What could the effects of mass multiple vaccinations be on future generations immune systems? Might immune systems be less stimulated to develop without the naturally evolved drive that has made us what we are today? We should ask these questions.

So let’s use vaccinations only very cautiously and properly based on the principles I referred to earlier. Until we have done that there are other forms of rigorously tried and tested treatments and preventative measures that can strengthen our immune systems. We may have to accept, very sadly, that some very elderly and ill people will die somewhat prematurely.

In summary it is crucial to look at the bigger picture. This means considering what we might not know as well as what we do already understand or think we understand. It is possible to assume that because SAGE (or similar groups) say ‘this and that will work’ we should just go along with whatever they say (or order!) unquestioningly. I’m sure SAGE are a bunch of very well meaning people and they are certainly very clever – but are they WISE? At primary school I was taught the story of King Canute for a very good reason.

So I say to the public – I will support your decision to opt for the vaccine but please ensure you have the professionally necessary informed consent that you thoroughly deserve.

Socrates said, “A wise man understands that he knows nothing.” We should think about that before we rush into things.

Dr Mark Shaw is a retired dentist.