Vaccine certification: when intolerance meets hypochondria
It’s high time that we stop allowing fear to rule our lives and re-establish a healthy relationship with the risks that have surrounded us since time immemorial
When Edwina Currie was interviewed on Good Morning Britain on Easter Monday about vaccine certification, she demonstrated levels of discrimination that should have no place in modern Britain. Commenting on those who would remain unvaccinated (either intentionally or through no choice of their own), Currie said: “I don’t want them near me — they can exercise their freedom by staying at home.”
Such poisonous rhetoric is being excused because those pushing it are concerned about their own risk of death from the novel coronavirus. Currie puts her own safety above the freedom of others and proceeds to imply those people are being selfish.
Currie believes that her risk is so high that it supersedes other people’s bodily autonomy
Clearly, some perspective is needed. Currie believes that her risk is so high that it supersedes other people’s bodily autonomy and medical rights. Is there any scenario in which this view could be seen as rational or proportional? Conflicting philosophies and moral arguments aside, exactly how high is the risk that Edwina Currie is unwilling to take?
The University of Oxford Covid Risk Assessment is a very useful tool for calculating your chance of hospitalisation and death from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Without access to Edwina’s medical records, it’s difficult to know exactly what information to input, but assuming that she isn’t currently suffering from any serious medical conditions, we can get an approximate gauge of her risk factors from her age and ethnicity.
As a 74-year-old white woman in relatively good health, Edwina’s chance of hospitalisation from SARS-CoV-2 is roughly 0.1 per cent (or 1 in 1000). Note that the algorithm calculates risk before vaccination and is based on the prevalence of the disease in the spring peak.
Test positivity rates in England were 40.7 per cent at the spring 2020 peak — but as of 2 April this year they are down to 1.7 per cent, from which we can infer that the prevalence of the virus is 4 per cent of the figure used in the risk assessment.
Edwina received her first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine on 2 February. This vaccine has been reported to reduce risk of severe illness by 94 per cent.
This is hypochondria on a level which would, in any other time, lead to serious concerns about the individual’s mental health
To imagine Edwina’s risk at the current point in time, we have to adjust the odds based on these new variables. The vaccine reduces her odds of hospitalisation (0.1 per cent) to 6 per cent of her previous risk, while the current prevalence reduces her odds of contracting SARS CoV-2 to 4 per cent of her previous risk. This means that her current risk of hospitalisation is 4 per cent of 6 per cent of her baseline odds. As a vaccinated person, Edwina’s current risk of catching the virus and being severely ill in a 90 day window is 0.00024 per cent or 1 in 400,000.
To put that in context, Edwina Currie wants to rob people of their bodily autonomy and force a vaccine or invasive test on them in order to mitigate a risk that is significantly lower than her risk of being killed in a car crash. Based on 2019 road statistics, 1752 people died out of a population of ~68m. This gives a 0.0026 per cent risk of dying on the road in a single year, which amounts to a 0.0006 per cent chance of dying on the road in a 90 day window.
Perhaps a more relevant comparison would be a potential 1 in 250,000 chance of developing a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is almost twice as likely as Currie, a vaccinated person, being hospitalised by the virus.
It’s worth noting that if a person sitting “near” Edwina was vaccinated with the AZ vaccine, we are told that the likelihood of that person infecting her would be reduced by 70 per cent. Given that her chance of hospitalisation is, at the current time, as low as 1 in 400,000 — how much lower does Edwina require her risk to be in order to “feel safe” in the community? Given that vaccinated people can also transmit the virus, should she feel as worried about coming into contact with three vaccinated people as she would one unvaccinated person? The risk level would be the same in both cases.
This is not just selfishness. This is hypochondria on a level which would, in any other time, lead to serious concerns about the individual’s mental health. It’s high time that we stop allowing fear to rule our lives and re-establish a healthy relationship with the risks that have surrounded us since time immemorial.
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