I couldn’t agree more with the sound common sense expressed by Jim Watson in the Gazette of October 1st. Like him and Dr Richard House, I would be very concerned if the drastic step was taken to make Covid vaccination compulsory.

I also agree with Dr House that as individuals we should be able to exercise freedom of choice. However, the fundamental fact should be recognized that with freedom of choice comes a collective responsibility to society at large, and it would only be a very selfish person who would deny this.

And by society at large, I don’t just mean on a local or even national scale, but as recent events regarding in particular the spread of Covid has shown, on a worldwide scale.

I have no idea of the age of Dr House but I suspect that he may well have very good reason, after a moment’s thought, to feel fortunate to still be alive. Back in 1900 life expectancy was around 48 for males and it is only because of those who, thankfully, agreed to have ‘foreign substances injected into their bloodstream’, as Dr House puts it, that such horrific killer diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, tetanus and polio, are no longer rife in the population today. We take this for granted at our peril, and too many do – it’s been dubbed ‘immunological amnesia’

My hope, and I suspect that of most of us, is that by far the majority of the population, when confronted with the realities of the situation, will accept a Covid vaccination when one becomes available. Let’s be very clear about this, it is not just a selfish choice about whether we are personally protected or not, but whether there is sufficient uptake to establish herd immunity in the population. Put bluntly it is a question of whether others may die because of our lack of action.

As Mr Watson says, it is partly due to the scurrilous and downright dangerous assertions of Andrew Wakefield in 1998 that the uptake of the MMR vaccine in the UK has decreased below the 95% level required to achieve herd immunity. As a result, the UK no longer has ‘measles elimination status’ – in 2018 there were around 1000 cases of measles in the UK and it is massively on the rise Worldwide (in 2018 there were around 150,00 deaths from this disease).

If ever we needed proof of how serious a disease measles is, then we need to look no further than the front page story of the Gazette of 8th October. The rational view is that the very unlikely risk from any immunisation is far outweighed by the risk from these diseases.

We cannot afford to be complacent or selfish about the current situation. Covid is having a disastrous effect Worldwide, not just economically but mortality and health-wise (long and short term implications) and socially. We have a collective responsibility to protect ourselves and each other. An effective vaccine, when it comes, will surely be the most effective way of returning to some form of normality. An ‘I’m Alright Jack’ attitude will not do!

Brian Wetton