Friday, October 16, 2020

Is the Putin regime trying to sabotage the Oxford Coronavirus vaccine?

There has been some deeply damaging and ridiculous nonsense published online about the Coronavirus and about vaccines to it.

This has taken a number of forms. One was the preposterous claptrap suggesting a connection between 5G and COVID-19, which has led to more than thirty arson attacks and other forms of vandalism against telecommunications infrastructure and even worse, verbal and physical assaults up to and including stabbing against Openreach or BT engineers who were assumed (usually wrongly) to be installing 5G equipment.

Then there are are the conspiracy theories making absurd and libellous allegations against Bill Gates in connection with the search for a vaccine, which do not deserve to be given a platform even to the extent of describing them in order to refute them.

There has been fierce debate on social media and elsewhere about whether the government has over-reacted, or has not reacted strongly enough, to COVID-19 with one group of people, particularly on Facebook and in certain newspapers, arguing for even more extreme measures up to and including another full lockdown as suggested by Keir Starmer. 

Another group, also represented in Facebook and in some comments posted on my blog, in a different group of newspapers, and on conversations I have had with some friends and colleagues though I don't think it is a majority view, think that the action that the government has taken is too severe.

The one thing on which I would expect the overwhelming majority of both those groups and of those who think the government has got it about right to agree is that as soon as we can possibly get a vaccine which is clinically proven to be safe and to work we need to inoculate as many people as possible as fast as possible with it, so we can protect everyone's lives and health without having to close down businesses, kneecap the economy, deprive millions of people of their jobs and everyone of their liberties, and put an end both to the enormous harm that COVID-19 has done directly and the considerable harm done indirectly, including by the measures to protect against it.

It is perfectly legitimate and sensible to ask questions about whether any given vaccine has been properly tested, that in the desperate need to get a vaccine ready quickly too many corners have not been cut. and the necessarily due diligence has been carried out before we put a vaccine into millions of people's bodies that we really have proof beyond reasonable doubt that

  • it actually works, and
  • it is safe.
That's why the Oxford project is conducting exhaustive clinical trials with 50,000 volunteers around the world to establish precisely these things for the vaccine they are trying to produce, and it will then be subject to the scrutiny of global regulators.

But given the desperate need for the vaccine, both in Britain and around the world, it is all the more reprehensible that "fake news" is being spread by anti-vaxxers in a number of countries which consists not of asking legitimate questions like the ones I posed above but of propaganda myths about "monkey vaccines" which might supposedly turn the people who take it into chimpanzees or make people abandon Islam. 

There is an interesting piece by Daniel Johnson on "The Article" here which assesses the evidence that some of this dangerous anti-vaxxer nonsense is being spread by the Kremlin's bot farms and trolls. 

If it is true they are doing the world, including the citizens of Russia, a great disservice.

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