As we write these lines, the breaking news this morning is that the UK Government has licenced the Pfizer-BionTec vaccine for national use; it was the first of the three great vaccine breakthroughs. Obviously readers of LSS will hope for the maximum uptake of vaccine in all countries-but. Yes, let’s tread very cautiously here, because if we want to maximum uptake, we will not get there by demonising and making fun of those who are worried or have their doubts.
In a marvellously humane and thoughtful piece for The Conversation, Caitjan Gainty and Agnes Arnold Foster explain why. There are good historical reasons why some people distrust vaccines. Some of it seems to be due to genuinely questionable behaviour by certain large pharmaceutical companies and the CIA. (we shall refrain from including “of course” in that last sentence). Moreover early attempts at vaccination seem to have been accompanied by attempts to reinforce class domination and to humiliate. Don’t demonise, don’t polarise and don’t condemn is the authors’ message.
We think at this point it is relevant to introduce one of the best stories we have ever heard in our lives, for it says so much about human psychology. It took a while to find it again, so we’ll let Karen Pollock of Huffpost tell it for you
Captain Cook famously exploited the power of the ban. He had observed that German sailors suffered from far lower rates of scurvy than English ones. The medical knowledge of the time had no explanation for this (now we know it was caused by vitamin C deficiency). He wondered if it was the German habit of eating sauerkraut, and ordered that his men have a daily ration. When his men refused to eat such strange, foreign food, Cook’s solution was simple. He banned his men from eating the sauerkraut and labelled the barrels “officers use only”. The sauerkraut quickly disappeared and rates of scurvy declined.
There is no better way to make a policy fail than to force it on people. There is no better way to get people interested than to ban something. If you don’t like that, try moving out into the Cosmos and ask to join another species.
Our thanks to Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for this story
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