My problem with conspiracy theorists, including anti-vaxxers, is they seem to think that governments are super competent, able to develop microchips that are able to track people, when in reality they rarely reach bare competence.
That said, I do think we need to step back and appreciate the efforts made to get where we are in terms of the vaccine – including NHS leaders. Of course, there are still problems: the pay, how GPs are able to cope with the workload, and still a lack of clarity around many issues for GPs. But I also think that the majority of GPs understand that this is inevitable when rolling out such an urgent and speedy programme (not that that makes GPs’ lives easier).
But one thing that can’t be put at the door of NHS managers is the anti-vax movement, and I know that many GPs are worried about this.
In my opinion, however, the biggest problem is not the Andrew Wakefield anti-vaxxers. I think there are people who, for whatever reason, will actively seek out the cod science that ‘proves’ how dangerous vaccines are. There is nothing GPs can do for these people. But luckily, they are small in number.
Perhaps the more problematic cohort are those with – at times, understandable – misunderstandings around how we got so far so quick. They are a lot bigger in number. The Imperial study on patient attitudes – admittedly from mid-November, before the Pfizer vaccine was approved – that found only 65% of patients are willing to take the vaccine is worrying. Today’s news from the MHRA won’t help.
I think that the government probably is doing all it can to counter the anti-vax movement. Deputy medical director Jonathan van Tam has connected with the public on this in the briefings. Even NHS England’s ideas of information leaflets to GP practices will help.
So it may fall on GPs (who remain among the most trusted professions) to give this warning, with the extra work that entails. But there is only so much that GPs and other experts can do on this. Countering Facebook posts warning of infertility from the Pfizer vaccine is a societal problem that can’t be sorted in a few weeks. The media has a role – they need to understand the science, and not look for the sensationalist angle (and this especially applies to household-name political editors).
This is a long road and the tragic death of another much beloved GP shows we can’t forget the stakes at play.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.