Vaccinations and the wrong way to calculate risk

In the 1990s, I was a big Tom Clancy fan. I saw The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games before I read any of the novels, but I quickly got onto the Jack Ryan novels.

They did quickly get a little bit over the top, although thankfully the Super Bowl was never nuked by Palestinian militants the way that it happened in The Sum Of All Fears.

But some of the other ideas in Clancy’s writings got a little too close to reality. Debt of Honor (I reluctantly spell it without a ‘u’ because it is an American book) ends with Jack Ryan as accidental president after the Capitol is destroyed by a kamikaze flying a 747 just after he is voted in as replacement vice president. That was published in 1994, seven years before 9/11 made such events more than works of fiction.

One idea which has gripped the minds of conspiracy theorist anti-vaxxers is that vaccines are actually part of a population control strategy by the mega-rich, and that plagues like Covid are intentionally unleashed so that the great majority of people can be stampeded into getting a vaccine which will actually kill or sterilise them.

That idea first makes its appearance in Tom Clancy’s novel Rainbow Six, which is the first John Clark novel rather than Jack Ryan. [It is also the first of Clancy’s novels where he stops advocating for an unadulterated rule of law and due process, and starts sanctioning some form of vigilantism, a theme not only absent from but explicitly opposed in his earlier novels.]

For a conspiracy involving the deliberate infection of (so far) 170 million people and the creation of some 5-6 (or more) competing intentionally lethal vaccines to be plausible or even viable, you would have to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of researchers, medical scientists, business leaders and politicians all over the world both working in concord and all keeping their mouths shut.

Not really possible. But nor is the conspiracy theory that the moon landings were faked. However, there are plenty of crazy people out there who believe in either or both of these streams of theories.

The conspiracy theorists are feeding a growing popular paranoia about covid vaccination in particular, amongst otherwise sane and rational people, which has contributed to the slow vaccination rate in Australia.

We Australians love gambling. Horses, lotteries, poker machines, casinos. However remote the odds, we love throwing our money away on the slight chance that we might win some life changing or even just immediately gratifying sum.

But we do look at risk all wrong when we are looking at vaccinations and the current covid plague.

From the Astra Zeneca post vaccination fact sheet I read just after I was given my first Covid shot three days ago, I learned that the odds of blood clots from that vaccine are about one in a quarter million, and that the odds of dying from such a blood clot are one in four, ie the odds of dying from a blood clot if you get an Astra Zeneca shot are about one in a million.

Therefore, if everyone in Australia were to get the Astra Zeneca vaccine, 104 people would get blood clots as side effects and 26 people would die.

Of course, 26 deaths are tragic, and we could add those to the total that we can blame Communist China for due to their research on turning coronaviruses into bioweapons in their Wuhan laboratories.

But let’s look at the alternative.

The alternative is what we might suffer if the 26 million members of the Australian community did not get vaccinated and everyone caught the covid plague. At a 2% fatality rate, that would something like 520,000 dead.

As a crude calculation for the anti-vaxxers out there, that means that not getting vaccinated puts you at a risk of dying from covid 20,000 times greater than that of getting vaccinated and then dying of a blood clot.

But we don’t think that way about risks. We are willing to buy a Tattslotto ticket where each game has a chance of less than one in eight million of winning the top prize. [Ozlotto and Powerball have even smaller probabilities of winning.]

But flipping that on its heads and increasing your chances of living by a factor of 20,000 times over dying due to one simple decision. People don’t really get that.

Sadly, the people who are thinking this way right now are not just conspiracy theory nutters or new age hippy types or Taliban thugs holed up in caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They are just normal, confused and worried people – troubled by all the background noise about vaccine risks and side effects to the point where they are not focusing on what the side effects will be of contracting and surviving Covid (apparently a lot of people who survive Covid are not doing so well now).

And no, vaccines are not going to shoot a microchip into your arm or make you develop autism. They are going to give you some protection from a very nasty disease which has already killed three and a half million people and caused lasting health damage to tends of millions more.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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