Yesterday I promised that, if the campaign against the AstraZeneca vaccine persisted in the face of the same facts, I would tell the story of Mr. J. And it has, so I will.
In fact, it’s the story of “the law of Mr. J.” Mr. J. had a posthumous role in pointing out definitively a recurrent logical flaw in cause-and-effect statements. And this is the same logical flaw causing the pausing of the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out in a series of countries, triggered off originally by one or two in Europe.
Mr. J. was a patient of Ram’s in Bambous Health Project, a mini-National Health Service run by the people of Bambous for the 25 years from 1975 to 1999. Mr. J. was confined to sitting cross-legged on his bed, aged 100, when he developed an enlarged prostate, preventing him from urinating at all. I went with Ram on a home visit, as was my wont, and Mr. J, poor man, sat there looking full-term pregnant. I do not exaggerate. He was most uncomfortable. He was a bit old to contemplate surgery. He and his family discussed it with Ram and then Ram fixed him up with a catheter. Within minutes the man sighed in relief. That must have been in about 1977 or so, if I remember right. Ram visited him at home and changed his catheter once a month, regularly. It was always a pleasure to see Mr. J.. He would be sitting there with his transistor radio next to him on his bed, and reporting how he still enjoyed his food.
So, Mr. J. then spent his time happily with his family in their beautiful corrugated iron roofed house in the middle of an orchard of mango trees, sitting on his bed with his urine bag. He was sprightly. And had a new lease on life. I remember I asked him once, just small talk, if he’d been in the First World War – that was as far back as I could imagine – and he said he was too old for that. He had been born a couple of years after a big cyclone, he said. I guess the one of 1879. He must have been born in 1877, making him a full 37 years old by WW I. Ram kept him going, so to speak, for four years.
When he was 104, old man J. finally one day quietly passed away.
At his funeral the next day, a friend and Lalit de Klas member Amyot Perrine reported overhearing one little old lady whispering to another, “Byin tris, so lamor. Akoz sa laparey ki Dokter inn al met ar li la. Sa-mem li’nn mor.” Very sad, Mr. J.’s death. It’s all because of that tube the Doctor went and fitted him with.
It is as though Governments that are putting the AstraZeneca vaccine on PAUSE are acting on talk like that of the two old ladies at Mr. J.’s funeral.
The Governments are also a bit like all those Mauritians who have flu, an illness that notoriously leaves you feeling weak afterwards, and for which there is not much in the way of treatment. When some people then get a spot of bronchitis as a complication, however, the doctor prescribes anti-biotics, which do the trick. Anti-biotics, I mention, are not known to have the side-effect of “weakness”. But, how many Mauritians attribute post-flu “weakness” to the anti-biotics? The point is this: something that follows something else is not necessarily caused by it. In this case, it is even a bit more complicated – without the anti-biotics, you’d likely still be struggling with the bacterial infection as well as with the post-flu-virus weakness.
But, let’s get back to the vaccine. Let’s look at the figures. Gambling people do. (By the way, the gambling den near Ragoo lane did not close down in the heavy rain!)
In Mauritius, 747 positive tests for the Covid virus in the past year have produced 10 deaths. One death for every 75 cases, say, correcting upwards. It’s a lot of deaths. In the USA it’s one death for every 60 cases. That’s even slightly more. In France, it is one in 45 cases, more still.
AstraZeneca vaccine, which prevents you getting Covid badly, has gone into tens of millions of people’s arms. In Europe alone, there have been 5 million doses administered, with 30 reported cases of blood clots following a dose. We absolutely must ask the key question at this exact moment: “How many people in 5 million, in any ordinary week, in normal times, can be expected to have a blood clotting health problem?” The answer to this question is about 100 cases of blood clots in 5 million people per week. 100 is a bit more than 3 times 30. So, in fact, three times less people who had the vaccine had blood clotting problems than the rest of the people who did not have the vaccine.
All this to say, if you have the AstraZeneca jab, as I did, there was a 0.0006% chance of having some reaction, and also, astounding as it may sound, a three times greater chance of that same reaction if you did NOT have the jab. And there has been only one death out of the 5,000,000 people vaccinated. So, my chances of actually dying from it were 0.00002%.
In any case, it’s more likely a breadfruit falls on my head when I sweep under the tree for 10 minutes a day with the balye koko, leaving me kaykunn.
In any case, let’s compare: I’d rather take my chances with the ONE death in 5,000,000 than with the ONE death in 75 from Covid. You don’t have to be a champion gambler at the demi-fon or on the Tote Lepep to work out the ordinary odds of the illness itself compared to the vaccine. Remember, too, that the WHO initially predicted some 90,000 moderate to severe case and over 800 deaths for Mauritius – given our population density and relatively high life-expectancy when old people are more affected, and what with the high rate of diabetes here, a serious pre-existing problem. It is only by being so strict in our social distancing, and having such (so-far, touch wood) really top contact tracers, that we have had so few cases. And for the long term, we need all of us vaccinated.
And what amuses me in all this is this: I’ve noticed that people who hesitate about the vaccine are often the very same people who don’t wear masks. Are they anti-science or anti-social? Or perhaps they are both against science, including even elementary logic, and also anti-social? They seem anti-science in that they don’t think the statistics apply to their own chances of dying of Covid or of a vaccine. They do not think, either, to ask how many people die of blood clots amongst those who don’t take the vaccine. Or maybe they have a “subjectivity” problem. They think they won’t get Covid, but they think they will get effects from the vaccine? Or are they just scared of needles and making up the rest? Well, needles will sure be put into you if you get a bad case of Covid. They are anti-social in that they don’t seem to care if anybody else dies either. We all, after all, vaccinate ourselves for everyone’s good. It is not a personal choice, of the kind “which chocolate should I choose”. It is a decision that affects all of society. And why don’t these people, who hesitate over the vaccine, not worry about the consequences of their behavior on the health workers when there is an epidemic like this? It is very inconsiderate of them. It is also against their own interests. If they should fall ill, God forbid, of Covid or of anything else – from a heart attack to cancer, untreated diabetes to kidney failure – or simply break their leg in a fall, they might find the hospital services overwhelmed and not able to treat them.
So, the question remains. What are these European Government’s responding to when they suspend the vaccine? They can, given the facts known until now, only be responding to political pressures from the anti-vaccine people, or from competitor vaccine producers who have a vested interest. That’s how bad it is. They are not responding to the science. There is no indication that the blood clots are causally linked to the vaccine. And, in any case, the statistics available show the opposite of what these Governments purport them to show: there is less blood clotting in those who do take the vaccine than in the rest!
So, let us at least all learn the law of Mr. J.. What seems the cause (the catheter) is not the cause just because it happened beforethe event (his death). Someone else could as easily have said Mr. J. would still be alive had he not eaten rice and buyon bred morung! Four long years of other things also happened before his death. Other than his being 104 years old. This is record-breaking male longevity anyway.