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This is my wish for Christmas...

When I was in high school, I didn’t have a lot of interest in science. I was a slightly rebellious, somewhat bored, occasionally disruptive student. My biology teacher, Mr. Niwa, finally reached his wits end and suspended me, permanently, from class.

“Mr. Walmsley!” he boomed, “You don’t need me, and I certainly don’t need you. I want you to leave this class, now. Come back at the end of the semester and take the final.”

Great, I thought. I don’t know what any of this crap has to do with me, anyway.

“See ya!” I exclaimed, as I stood up and left the room, feeling quite triumphant that I had just created a “free” period. I read the textbook, returned at the end of the semester, took the final and got a “B”, which I was quite happy with, considering the minimal amount of effort I’d put in. Now, fifty years later, I find myself consumed with science on a daily basis, and I quite see that it has very much do with me, and for that matter, with all of us.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to share this post. I realise that it will, for some, fall on deaf ears. For others, I’m simply “preaching to the choir.” The following is not in any way meant to encourage a political discussion. It’s merely intended to convey thoughts on science and medicine versus disease. My hope is that what I’m going to say will save lives. If it does help even one person, then it’s been worthwhile.

Here in the U.K., we have already begun to experience the full force of the Omicron variant of Covid. Our daily “new infections” rate has skyrocketed. We now have the highest number of daily infections ever. This comes in spite of a fairly high vaccination rate (about 85%) and safety measures (wearing masks inside buildings, etc.). The scientists are telling us that Omicron is far more transmissible-perhaps ten times more transmissible-than the Delta variant that preceded it. The case numbers we are seeing in Britain support this. There are re-infections in those who have already had Covid, and cases in patients who are triple-vaccinated. Some good news is that, according to initial data, the symptoms of Omicron may be less severe than those of Delta. However, due to the enormously high volume of infections, hospitalisations and deaths are likely to occur in large numbers.

You may reasonably ask, “If people who are fully vaccinated are getting Omicron, why should I bother getting vaccinated?” The answer: Because vaccinations are the best way to prevent hospitalisation and death. Last week, Dr. Brian May (lead guitarist of the band Queen, and an astrophysicist) became infected with Omicron after attending a party the previous Saturday in London. All the guests had been triple-vaccinated and pre-tested for Covid. Everyone who attended felt reasonably safe in their “bubble.” In the days following the party, eight guests tested positive. Dr. May’s positive result didn’t appear in a home test until Tuesday - three days after the party (meaning he could potentially have been spreading Covid for three days without knowing it). He described his symptoms as the worst flu imaginable, and added that he was sure the vaccine had saved his life.

It’s up to all of us to make the best and most logical decisions for ourselves and our families. I chose to be triple-vaccinated. My wife Marion has had two doses so far, with her booster scheduled for the 30th of December. Our post-vaccine reactions were mild. Even if they had been more severe, we would still be happy we had gotten “the jab.”

Finally, a bit of history (a subject always more to my liking): In 1905, in Jacobson vs Massachusetts-a case concerning the government’s smallpox vaccine mandate-the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, “with smallpox prevalent and increasing in Cambridge” protection of public health and safety outweighed the rights of individuals who did not wish to comply. Back then, if one wanted to avoid getting the vaccine, he must show proof of being “not a fit subject for vaccination.” Half a century after my high school Biology class, I still have a rebellious nature. Like most of us, I am not generally a fan of government mandates. That said, my opinion is the vaccine is the best way to protect ourselves and others from Covid. All legitimate data shows that the benefits far outweigh the risks, which are minimal. I hope that my research, personal experience and recommendation will encourage you to take this step, not because someone is forcing you to do it, but because it just makes sense.

I wish you good health, and all the best for the holidays and the coming year.



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