Thursday, March 18, 2021

Health Professionals and Vaccines

There is sometimes a minor theme on conservative sites about being suspicious of vaccines in general or swearing by some form of alt-medicine.  I seem to recall that this is worse on conservative sites I don't go to very much - only when linked by a site I have more trust in, usually.  The idea of things that are "natural" being more what the Bible teaches and God wants has traction in Christian churches.*

This has exploded on conservative sites over the covid vaccine.  People are making their medical decisions on political grounds of "not trusting the government," or to be fair, of trusting the government not because it is trustworthy but because it is what their party currently requires of them.  Pfizer and Moderna are not the government.  If they are hiding something just to make a quick buck and it turns out to make you sterile later, the class-action suit would bankrupt them.  They might be many terrible things, but stupid is not generally one of them.

You can also put in some effort and look at the numbers of what the testing of vaccines has produced in terms of side effects.  Or you could, of course, just let highly partisan and politicised people tell you what's safe and what's not.  Because they must know more than "so-called experts" because they share your suspicion of "experts," right?  What other evidence do you need?  They are suspicious of experts, you are suspicious of experts, they like to show how independent and brave they are by "standing up" to the government, and they must be right! 

Between liberals and conservatives on this issue, it's really hard to decide who has been the smart kid in the dumb row.

The latest twist is a flurry of stories about how nurses and other health professionals (drive a truck through that) are declining to get the vaccine at an "alarming" rate. There is a study out of Europe making the rounds that is supposed to provide evidence that YOU should be suspicious because all these European Health Professionals must know something you don't.

I think I can be of some help here.  I spent forty years working with nurses and "other health professionals," including the occasional European. Nurses believe a lot of woo. Not all of them certainly, but a ridiculous percentage.  They often went into the field because they had strong priors about What Other People Need To Do.  For "other health professionals," the OT's, the massage therapists, the chiropractors, physical therapists, registered dieticians...double that. Also for Europeans, double that. That still leaves plenty of entirely reasonable people in those fields, but please, don't take the fact that you can find "alarming percentages" of these folks supporting or opposing anything as evidence.  They love Reiki. They love herbs and homeopathy - the modern definition, not the previous theory of "the water remembers" - mind-body medicine, integrated medicine, suspicion of GMO foods, megadoses of just about anything that comes in a bottle. 

Hell, even some doctors believe that stuff. No amount of data and training will beat it out of some people.  I applaud people who try to be open-minded, willing to consider whether St. John's Wort, or Rolfing, or bee venom really do work.  I admire their fortitude in the face of other professionals scoffing and telling them they are silly.  But I neither applaud nor admire people who still hold these ideas after the evidence is in, especially if the proposed treatment is not merely ineffectual, but actively damaging.

Pay zero attention to news stories about what European Health Professionals think about the vaccine. They know more random facts about medicine than you do, but you start from a much firmer foundation of "Look, all I want to know is if this is a good idea or not, and I am willing to do some reading."  They have agendas, you have a family.

*Essential oils


David Foster said...

I saw a study somewhere...and this was a couple of years ago, pre-Covid...suggesting the people opposed to vaccines aren't distinguished so much by party or by liberal/conservative beliefs, but by how 'extreme' those beliefs were, presumably based on some kind of scale that ranges from Extreme Left to Extreme Right.

What I observe currently is that there were a lot of Progs opposed to the Covid vaccines because Bad Orange Man was involved..maybe fewer today...and a lot of conservatives opposed because Bill Gates is (supposedly) involved, and also as a reaction against pressure.

The Mad Soprano said...

"*Essential Oils"

I never understood that craze.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ David foster - that sounds familiar. I knew both liberal and conservative anti-vaxxers before covid. Because there are more now - and I think your "initially liberal, now conservative" observation is correct, that would imply that these are somewhat less extreme.

I will say that while the political leaning was usually clear in the original anti-vaxxers, they were not usually the most conservative or most liberal people I knew. Politics were often secondary, dragged along with other ideas about how the world worked "behind the scenes." I am rolling all of them around in my head wondering what additional descriptions fit. As the conservatives were also evangelical/fundamentalist and the liberals worked in human services, I think my samples are additionally restricted enough to render my observations suspect.

I think they were all very pleasant people but odd, unlike the people who go online and make belligerent declarative statements.

Grim said...

If they are hiding something just to make a quick buck and it turns out to make you sterile later, the class-action suit would bankrupt them. They might be many terrible things, but stupid is not generally one of them.

In fairness, my understanding of the usual skeptical argument isn't that they're 'hiding' anything; it's that neither they nor anyone else knows what the long-term effects of mRNA editing are going to be. It's too new a technology to be sure what will come of it. I myself am considering whether to hold out for the J&J one, because it's a more traditional vaccine that uses a harmless virus to carry the spike proteins rather than 'reprogramming' your body using a novel technology.

I have also to give advice to a younger man whose fertility is of some concern to me. I myself do not intend to have more children, though I would not be unhappy if by miracle I did so; but he has his whole life ahead of him. What would be prudent, given that the long term risks are in fact unknown?

Texan99 said...

The long-term risks of even a mild case of COVID are unknown, too. We never know this kind of thing 100% for sure, but we still have to decide among the various risky options available to us. No one promised us a perfectly risk-free option.

Grim said...

That's true, but that's also why I ask about prudence. What is the prudential advice to give the young? They're at little risk, apparently; but on the other hand they have a duty to their elders. That duty is not unlimited, however; and the risks are unknown.

It's a serious question. What advice ought I to give, knowing that my advice is apt to be accepted?

james said...

Is the risk of long-term side effects greater with this drug than with others? I think that if there were effects on fertility it would manifest quickly and not be a deliberate delayed effect. I don't think we've got the skill to design something like that. Accident, maybe.
Doesn't Israel already have a large fraction of the population inoculated? Some of them would be in the fertile group--is there a decline in pregnancy rates?

Grim said...

I think we don't know, to be honest. The only sure way to know long term effects is to wait for the long term. We have to make choices sooner than that, one way or another.

This does, of course, court the danger of consulting with people who -- as AVI warns -- have strong opinions about "What Other People Need To Do." Still and all, most of you are wise, and I have to give good advice. So I'm open, as it were, to prudential reasoning about what advice I might ought to give.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is funny that it all turns different when we have to give advice to others, isn't it? Much simpler when we are only bringing ourselves on this trip.

I have two answers, in two separate comments. First, all five of my sons, and all five of the women who love them, are getting vaccinated, and some already are. Son #4, the Romanian who was in the USMC, who lives in Norway now might not. Scandinavians are very big on everyone going along with the group, whether the government says to or not, and he has picked up some of that over the ten years. However, he is also the most conspiracy-minded of the lot, having believed a few odd things that friends have passed along to him. He is still in FB contact with guys from his old unit, so they might influence him. His girlfriend is likely to be a an influence.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

For evaluating the risk, I think it's best to structure it just to have something to look at. Decision trees are usually used humorously now, but they have value.

The decision exists on two levels. The covid vs vaccine one is easy. Even young people, even children are occasionally dying from covid, but not from the vaccine. There are also long-term effects showing in all populations, though maybe not permanent. Also, if you get side effects from the vaccine, you aren't passing those along to anyone else, but if you get covid you could spread it to others. That the vaccine is likely to give at least some protection against further variants is another plus. However...

Just because you don't get the vaccine doesn't mean you are definitely going to get covid. Getting neither covid nor vaccine would of course be the least risky of all. You would just default to your usual risk of getting hit by a bus. The obvious problem is that if you don't get the vaccine you don't know which basket you are ending up in, getting covid, which is the worst basket, or not getting anything, which is the best.

I personally lean toward reducing risk rather than trying to outrun it. At least, that's my approach when I think about it. When I am encountering a risk fresh without time to think, I think my tendency is to try and outrun it, hoping it goes away.

If you are giving advice, you might also give it in decision tree form, so the person can weight the various alternatives on his own and see the flow of it. He might weight them at least a little differently than you, but still be in roughly the same territory.

Grim said...

That sounds plausible. And, in that way, I'm advising him to choose rather than advising him to make a particular choice; a good thing to teach a young man.