The unvaccinated

14 March 2022
For my own day-to-day life I pretty much consider Covid-19 to be gone and friends overseas are envious of the things I can now do in this country, but then I read that 9% of the population is still unvaccinated and this cohort reportedly now account for almost everyone who ends up in intensive care. Unfortunately I do not believe this portion of the population is going to change significantly because for these holdouts it is all about principles rather than anything specific to the vaccines, with anything now said about the latter just being excuses rather than reasons. While I no longer adhere to the belief in compulsory vaccination since Omicron's rampant infectiousness will get the job done a lot quicker than trying to persuade any holdouts, this approach means accepting that more people will needlessly die.

Public buy-in

As with many things a major factor is the level of trust in both the government and the authorities in general, and in short the UK has serious issues in this area. There is no shadow of a doubt that all the stuff about lockdown-busting parties have seriously undermined what precious credibility the government has left with anything Covid-related, but even before these parties actively antagonistic things such as the hostile environment policy on immigration has made people choose to stay below the radar rather than get vaccinated. I know this because contacts of mine were involved in the anonymous vaccination of people in Chinatown because some of them were understandably paranoid even if they were not “undocumented” — remember the Windrush deportations were still fairly fresh memories at the time. There have already been studies that linked distrust in government with worse national Covid-19 outcomes and one concluded that if every government had the same level of trust as Denmark infections would have been 13% lower. In fact trust was often a bigger determining factor that actual quality of the health system in respective countries — within Hong Kong part of the distrust in vaccines is a knock-on effect of how the protests were handled, and as a result Omicron has now given the place the world's highest acknowledged fatality rate.

The eternal wait

The non-vaxxer mentioned in the FT plans to wait two more years but to me that is code for “never” since two versus four years is not much in the grand scale of things. Back in early-2021 vaccines were basically experimental but a year on and with billions of doses administered the data on safety is as good as it is ever going to get, so at this stage to ask for more information is to deliberately set a threshold that will never be met. My unvaccinated friends cited unknowns over long-term effects and wanting to instead wait for non-injection treatments but to me it sounded like they were hoping to just ride out the pandemic in isolation — and to be fair at least they were isolating unlike the anti-vaxxer I ran into last time I was out in Camden Town. Riding out the pandemic might have just about worked with Alpha but with Delta there was little room for such choices and at the time I supported mandatory vaccination because of the pareto-principle costs the unvaccinated were imposing on society as a whole.

Omicron game-changer

With Delta it might have just about been possible to vaccinate Covid-19 into extinction — or at least suppress it to the point where its spread is slowed to such an extent that most people do not need to care about it day-to-day — but Omicron will definitely never go away just like the 1918 influenza never went away. I am not sure how an Omicron infection compares to a Delta one for someone who is unvaccinated — comparing New Zealand and Hong Kong indicates it is still pretty bad, at least for the elderly — but thankfully it seems significantly less deadly since it infects the upper airways rather than deep in the lungs. However exposure to Omicron is now an inevitability as it is the most infectious virus the planet has ever known, with my own working assumption being that I have already been exposed multiple times and even though all my lateral-flow tests showed negative I would not at all be surprised if I have actually been infected. While I would not hesitate if offered a fifth vaccine dose I am doubtful of the benefit unless another more dangerous variant comes along.

Vaccine side-effects

While people talk about potential long-term side-effects, what puts of a lot of people is really the short-term side-effects of getting the vaccine, and to make things worse there is a lot of variation between different people. Some people found the first jab to be the worst whereas others found the booster to have longer-lasting effects — I had a total of four jabs and by the time I was due for my most recent my working assumption was that I would be unproductive for a day or two. For many people all this in itself is something they are not prepared to go through, perhaps because they cannot afford to take the time off. All this is even before the pathological fear of needles some have, and indeed my own frame of references were injections at the dentist where the needle has to be rammed through bone, and having blood samples taken from a vein. Personally any anxiety was minor compared to what Covid-19 had already done to my life but that is just me.


Since Omicron is known to evade vaccines yet is generally less bad when it infects someone, and that everyone is expected to catch it sooner it later, I suspect anyone who at this stage has yet to get jabbed is never going to bother. All everyone else can do is hope Omicron rips through them all as quickly as possible, either vaccinating or killing them in the process.