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Opinion

A shot of joy and a reason to be hopeful

Christmas is coming. We should look forward

In March 1885, more than 80,000 people paraded through Leicester carrying a child’s coffin and an effigy of the scientist and vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner.

Though he’d been dead over 50 years, Jenner was still the focus of their ire. Jenner had created the smallpox vaccine, kickstarting an arm of medicine that would save hundreds of millions of lives. And they were part of the Anti-Vaccination League. Leicester, it seems, was a stronghold.

The reasons for opposition were mixed; some were on religious grounds, some people didn’t trust the medicine and some felt it curtailed their personal liberties.

And here, 135 years later we stand in a very similar place. The anti-vaxxer movement grows and the fertile fields of Facebook and other parts of social media allow groundless conspiracies to take root and go global in seconds.

If your concern about the Covid vaccine comes because you have an underlying health issue, or a member of your family has auto-immune issues, then you are justified in asking what is right.

I’d much rather listen to one of Jonathan Van-Tam’s strangled metaphors about trains than the inheritors of Andrew Wakefield’s shameful and dangerous legacy

If your concern comes because the cousin of a bloke you know said on Facebook that he’d heard the factory where they’re making the vaccines normally deals in sheep dip and besides it’s clear this is all about government and Bill Gates mind-control, then you have no position. If you’re against it because you ‘just know’ the vaccine has come too fast, then you have no position. Get out of the way. Keep that nonsense for closed WhatsApp groups.

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There is no equivalency in point of view here. It’s not either/or. I’m taking the word of Dr June Raine alongside other clear explanations of how internationally renowned scientists worked day and night to better existing medicine, to fast-track in several hours responses than can normally take 60 days. I’d much rather listen to one of Jonathan Van-Tam’s strangled metaphors about trains than the inheritors of Andrew Wakefield’s shameful and dangerous legacy.

The vaccine news is reason for hope. Lives will be saved. Let’s start with that simple fact. We will get to see our relatives again. We will soon be able to go out into the world. Jobs that have been teetering on the brink can, hopefully, be saved. New jobs can be created. Plans can be made, futures can be mapped out. We will live more thankfully in the moment having seen how fragile time can be. Joy will follow the hope.

And while we wait, there is a massive, non-cynical shot of joy in this week’s magazine. We have the entries, and the winner, for our annual Kids Christmas Cover Competition. Take a moment and dive in. There is happiness, there are messages of hope, there are dragons delivering Christmas presents by dropping them from their mouth down chimneys! And there is a great sense of how children have felt during this Covid period. Distance and masks feature. There is a poignancy. But above all there is happiness.

Christmas is coming. We should look forward.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue 

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