“Just didn’t get around to it”. The ethics of the unvaccinated…

Amid all the debate around lockdowns, vaccine passports, rising Covid figures etc it is important to remember that every death is a tragedy.

In Friday’s Irish News there was the story about a 48-year-old father of 9 from Downpatrick who has died of Covid:

THE family of a father-of-nine who died following a nine-week battle with Covid have told how his passing has left them “numb”.

Ivor Wilcox (48), who lived in Downpatrick, died at the Ulster Hospital on Tuesday.

The grandfather-of-eight, who died months before he was due to welcome two new grandchildren, tested positive nine weeks ago.

For the first three weeks, the barman, who worked at St Patrick’s Golf Club in Downpatrick, remained at home.

Six weeks ago, he was admitted to hospital.

He was twice admitted to the intensive care unit as he battled severe damage caused to his lungs.

On Monday, his family was told that it was unlikely he would survive and his wife, Elise, to whom he had been married for five years, and his older children were given the opportunity to say their goodbyes.

Speaking to The Irish News, Mr Wilcox’s daughter-in-law, Micaela Johnston, said the family were told that the virus had done “that much damage to his lungs” and as a result, he “kept needing oxygen”.

She said his death had left a massive hole in the family.

“He welcomed everyone with open arms. He was like everyone’s dad, everyone’s uncle. He was everyone’s shoulder,” she said.

“He thrived on being a dad, thrived on being a grandad. He adored his kids. He adored his grand kids. He thought there was nothing better than having his wee grandson for the day”.

Ms Johnston said her father-in-law had intended on getting vaccinated but “just didn’t get around to it”.

The “just didn’t get around to it” quote really hit me. This death and so many could easily have been avoided if they had been vaccinated.

I can understand people being reluctant to get the vaccine; I put mine off until May. But what I can’t understand is at-risk groups not getting the vaccine. If you are overweight, have an underlying health condition, or are over 40 Covid will kick the absolute sh*te out of you.

I personally know one person who was extremely anti-vax; you can guess what happened next. Not only did he get Covid but also pneumonia. He has not been able to eat for two weeks, and has lost over 2 stone in weight. There is a very high chance he will get long Covid and may not be able to work for years, if ever.

To me, it comes down to simple odds. The chances of dying from a vaccine are a hell of a lot less than dying from Covid.

The problem with the anti-vaxxers’ core argument is that all the rights are one-sided. Yes, it is their body their choice, but they still expect the NHS to treat them if they get Covid.

Some people suggest withdrawing healthcare from anti-vaxxers, but this is not practical. Most of what the NHS deals with is self-inflicted – drinking, smoking, drugs, obesity, bad diets, lack of exercise. If we started to apply a moral threshold to treating people very few of us would ever measure up.

But what I can see happening is with limited ICU capacity you are going to get situations where they need the beds for other patients. You have the freedom to not get the vaccine but don’t complain when they are switching off your life support to make room for someone else.

After nearly 2 years of dealing with this sh*t show you can understand why medical staff are rapidly losing empathy with the unvaccinated as this doctor writing in the Guardian testifies:

In hospital, Covid-19 has largely become a disease of the unvaccinated. The man in his 20s who had always watched what he ate, worked out in the gym, was too healthy to ever catch Covid badly. The 48-year-old who never got round to making the appointment.

The person in their 50s whose friend had side-effects. The woman who wanted to wait for more evidence. The young pregnant lady worried about the effect on her baby.

The 60-year-old, brought to hospital with oxygen saturations of 70% by the ambulance that he initially called for his partner, who had died by the time it arrived; both believed that the drug companies bribed the government to get the vaccine approved.

All severely ill with Covid. All unvaccinated and previously healthy. All completely avoidable.

Of course, there are people who have their vaccinations but still get sick. These people may be elderly or frail, or have underlying health problems. Those with illnesses affecting the immune system, particularly patients who have had chemotherapy for blood cancers, are especially vulnerable. Some unlucky healthy people will also end up on our general wards with Covid after being vaccinated, usually needing a modest amount of oxygen for a few days.

But the story is different on our intensive care unit. Here, the patient population consists of a few vulnerable people with severe underlying health problems and a majority of fit, healthy, younger people unvaccinated by choice. Watching the mix of patients coming in with Covid, it feels to me like hardly anybody has been vaccinated nowadays; of course, this is because the people that have been vaccinated are getting on with their lives at home. If everyone got vaccinated, hospitals would be under much less pressure; this is beyond debate. Your wait for your clinic appointment/operation/diagnostic test/A&E department would be shorter. Your ambulance would arrive sooner. Reports of the pressure on the NHS are not exaggerated, I promise you.

Furthermore, we have recently rolled out a new medication for patients without antibodies against Covid. It costs about £2,000 a treatment and is subject to a rigorous and time-consuming approval process for every case we treat. Guess which patients don’t have these antibodies (spoiler: it’s not the ones who have been vaccinated).

Most of the resources that we are devoting to Covid in hospital are now being spent on the unvaccinated.

Yes, vaccinations are unpleasant. They cause side-effects. They hurt. You may even still catch Covid afterwards. I have many colleagues who have felt awful after vaccination and a few who had to take a day or two off work. However, I have not heard of any who have been hospitalised with Covid afterwards or who have had severe side-effects. The approvals process was incredibly stringent and we now have an unbelievable amount of real-world data that these vaccines work. The science that has been applied here is nothing short of awe-inspiring to me. However, I realise that none of these rational arguments would change the mind of someone who is resolved against having it, although I suppose it may push someone who remains undecided.

I will leave the last word to the straight taking German Health Minister Jens Spahn who said yesterday:

Germans will be “vaccinated, cured or dead” from Covid-19 in a few months.

I know which one I prefer.