Omicron

Should I refuse my booster vaccination, as a protest against the failure to vaccinate most of the world?

Covid news moved quickly last week. There was a variant which might be of concern, which South Africa reported to WHO on Wednesday 24th, as B.1.1.529. Then there were news media referring to it as Mu or Nu. Then on Friday WHO classified it as Omicron. They said the earliest known case in South Africa was sequenced from a sample collected on 9 November. So flights from South Africa were suddenly banned, but too late. With minimal prescience I thought, it’s here already. On Saturday afternoon, the first British cases were reported.

Dr Ayoade Alakija expressed coruscating anger, eloquently expressing what I feel. Omicron, reportedly with reinfection rate 2, has many mutations affecting its spike protein. The spike is the basis of many vaccines. So Omicron is more likely to defeat the vaccines than Delta. Rich countries could have reduced the risk of variants reaching us by vaccinating poor countries. But we didn’t.

The UK has delivered only 11% of the vaccines it promised to the global vaccine distribution agency.

A certain level of covid appears to be found acceptable. In Britain testing has found around 30,000 cases a day since July. Not all positive tests may be reported. There have been over a hundred deaths a day since August, but the figures seem fairly stable. The UK total deaths is now over 143,000. Since August, around 800 a day have been admitted to hospital– some to be put on oxygen, some to be put on ventilators.

The world cumulative death toll, with all the data-gathering problems that has, was given as 5.2m as I typed.

I am convinced that the vaccine substantially reduces my chances of infection, of serious illness, and of passing on Delta. I think it probable that a booster would also reduce the risks of these things with Omicron. I fear there will be sufficient data available soon to test that hypothesis. If not, there may be work on other vaccines. Whatever doubt there is that the booster would affect Omicron, there are currently high rates of Delta infection in Britain, and taking the booster is the action I can take to reduce risk to myself and others.

A hunger strike is only a risk to the individual concerned. Refusing vaccination causes risk to others. I have an obligation to those I might infect. A protest has limited effect. I would inform my MP, but it would not by itself make our Nationalist government take vaccination of other countries seriously.

Separate from what effect any action might have, I might try to consider whether it was right to refuse vaccination.

Saturday, I went to an organ recital by a friend. Some were masked in the church, some were not. In “For the fallen”, Elgar arr. Harrison Oxley, he took us on a profound emotional journey. In carol preludes by Noel Rawsthorne he filled me with joy. After, a group of us went for coffee. There was a small sign on the table about masking when away from tables, and noting our presence with our phones, but I did not have my phone and don’t know if anyone did. As I type, there were further restrictions predicted, but I have no idea what “Let the corpses pile high” Johnson might countenance to reduce spread.

I would want to distinguish any depressive lack of motivation to arrange the booster, now I have had my invitation letter, from a principled desire to protest.

Then on the news on Saturday evening I heard that Omicron symptoms might be less severe than Delta. However, even if Omicron is not a serious threat, Delta is, and the same arguments about not getting a booster apply.

I don’t know. What do you think?

Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion V

I start my day protesting with something beautiful. Today, I find a piano on the road south of Nelson’s Column, and play Einaudi.

I am so relaxed after this I ask someone to take a picture of me at the piano, for the blog. But this is not a holiday or festival: she says there is a need for people to be sitting in the road, to avoid police getting traffic going. I go over to see if I can do anything. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion III

It was a bit of a shock to find Lambeth Bridge clear with traffic flowing freely. The police have been harsh. There are a few of them standing around on the corners. One says “Hello” as I come past, and there are some behind me now, with their night-sticks hanging. Someone said there were armed police about. Continue reading

Trump demonstration

I had thought a lot of what to write on my placard. This was it:

Truth
Reconciliation
Respect

What do we need in public life? I started with phrases, wanted something pro-choice, and to be readable honed it down to individual words, so pro-choice ended up as “Respect”. I thought of writing the things I object to, but want to be positive. “Oh, that’s very good,” said someone, appreciatively.

I liked the Women’s Equality Party slogan: “From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you Trump for giving feminism a little hand”. Meaning he radicalises opposition. I signed the huge card they were going to send him. There were many references to small hands, and a huge Trumphair-coloured fist, with its middle finger extended. One printed sign read “Trump racist liar cheat misogynist bigot baby-jailor chimp”, lots said “Dump Trump”, or “No to Trump, no to war”.

I did not pose for a picture with my placard. My photos were taken from within the demo, seeing what I saw:

There were several camera crews. Should I speak to one? I could say something pithy and articulate. But they are American stations I have not heard of, and might be hard-Right propaganda like Fox or Sinclair Media Group.

I did not get to Friends House in time for the Meeting for Worship, but had time for a cup of tea with Michael and to write out my placard. Simple mistake: I wrote it only on one side, so had to keep turning it round. I had a stout A2 sized card, no need for a handle. There were photos in the FH garden. Then we went to the start of the march, where we were up against the barrier outside a hotel. Hotel guests with cases and shopping somehow got through the crowds: we were packed in, but we were nice people, trying to make way for them. Then we started, with ELO then David Bowie playing: carnival music for a friendly atmosphere. My favourite sign was Peggy from EastEnders, hands on hips, with the caption “Get out of my Pub”. British. Having a lark, not taking things too seriously, speaking up for truth and justice.

I saw signs condemning the president’s transphobia, and went over to speak to a trans woman carrying one. I do not want to get arrested on protest, and this is not that kind of protest. Tens of thousands of people, with the onlookers mostly supportive. Above, a helicopter circled; I wondered how high-res its cameras were. I read the police had facial-recognition cameras to identify us. I have lots of photos on facebook. Soon, demonstrating will really mean standing up for a cause.

There are speakers in Trafalgar Square, but when we get there I am tired, and Michael invites me to Westminster meeting house, where he offers cake and tea. I bump into Lucy, down with Unite the Union. I stay for the silence. The only cheap train ticket I could get was 12.15am, so I went to Tate Modern. North of the Millennium Bridge I had a bread roll and some fruit, listening to a cello and violin play Pachelbel, Bach, Vivaldi. I stayed until the gallery closed at ten. Here is its deserted corridor.