Covid confusion – view from a wooden chair

Announcer: This is Ian from 4 PR – voice of the people and we’re presenting a speech given by a registered nurse over the weekend during the anti-vaccination demonstrations in Australia. It is interesting to listen to this speech, whilst it makes a number of very good points about the importance of a community response to the pandemic.
At the same time on a political level, there are issues that should be raised.

Firstly, you will never hear the anti-vaxxers that demonstrated over the weekend in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane acknowledge that the reason why they were able to demonstrate, particularly in Brisbane, was because a generation ago thousands of people opposed the ban on street marches. They put their bodies on the line to challenge the right wing government of Bjelke-Petersen restricting the rights of assembly and of marching. Thousands of people were arrested (over 2000) and, during that time (1977-1979), a number of people were thrown in jail and some lost their jobs because of the interference of Special Branch. You won’t hear the right wingers who are crying out for freedom from vaccination and lockdowns; you won’t hear them talking about the reasons why they were permitted to march over the weekend.

Secondly, Australia has achieved a high level of vaccination of people over 16 – children haven’t been vaccinated yet – when politicians talk about how 90% of people have received their first jab … That’s only 90% of the adult population; the entire population (who have received the jab) is really not much above 50 or 60%. 

Thirdly, there’s a general ignorance about how the human body responds to a diseases like COVID-19. People don’t understand how the immune system works. Right-wing groups are playing upon fear and ignorance in order to achieve theirr political objectives.

So we should be wary of the opportunism that is inherent in a number of the speeches were made over the weekend. However, we’d like to present the speech by a registered nurse in King George Square. This counter demonstration to the far right was organised by the Socialist Alternative and Anarchist Communists Meanjin.

Antibiotics, vaccines and Covid-19

I’m going to explain the difference between an antibody and a vaccine. There is widespread confusion and ignorance about how the immune system works and how the human body reacts to COVID-19.

Firstly, an antibody is an agent that attacks bacteria. So if you get a bacterial infection, then antibodies are created against that infection. And an antibiotic is an artificial way of introducing antibodies into your system that will attack a bacteria. Now, antibiotics do not attack viruses. COVID-19 is a virus. There are some anti virology drugs, which do attempt to do that, but the antibiotics that we get for, say, a pneumonia, they are attacking bacteria not viruses.

Now, when a COVID-19 virus gets into your body, it tries to enter the cells of your body. And that’s the reason why an antibiotic doesn’t work against a virus because bacteria are cells themselves, and they can be attacked by an antibiotic. But a virus cannot (be attacked by antibodies) because it’s already got inside your cells. However, your immune system develops proteins, which can stop that virus from reproducing itself and making the proteins necessary for it to take over your body. And it does so by attaching itself to the virus in various ways.

Now, that’s not the totality of your immune system. There are other things: cells for example, called macrophages, mast cells, and other cells i.e. leukocytes that also go and attack the bad cells that have been infected, and they filter this through your lymph system. This is a complex response, a complicated system which is not fully understood.

When you get a vaccine, it introduces a protein that’s a bit like COVID-19, but it’s not COVID-19. And all it does is to alert your body to the fact that when COVID-19 comes along, and tries to spread through your body, via the nose, throat and through your respiratory system; your body will be ready with its own antibodies, its own response. So it can expel the virus quicker than someone who hasn’t been vaccinated. None of this is rocket science. Vaccines have been around for a long time. They have helped eradicate polio and smallpox from the planet. It appears that some people don’t show any response when they get infected by COVID-19 … They don’t have any symptoms. And they have an immune system which just seems to be able to tackle the virus. If they get re-infected the same thing will probably happen again.

But most of us, our bodies need to be made alert to the fact that when the virus comes, so they can challenge those viruses. This all relates to the fact that COVID-19 is a unique virus that hasn’t occurred in human populations before. So our bodies have no experience of it. We need vaccines to help us fight it.

Ian Curr
4PR – voice of the people
22 Nov 2021

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With large numbers of people rallying against covid vaccines, lockdowns and mask wearing, a small group in Brisbane organised by Socialist Alternative and Anarchist Communists Meanjin rallied in support of vaccination and lockdowns. Axel, a registered nurse and UQ Union Medical Officer, spoke to a small crowd in King George Square on Saturday, 20 Nov 2021.

I would just like to also begin by acknowledging the Yuggera and Torrubul people, the elders past and present, whose land we’re rallying on today. Land of course was never ceded, it was stolen and this movement, our movement for public health and social justice should be framed in light of that historical reality.

So why are we rallying here today? In my mind, there’s a few reasons.

We’re here to show our support for the vaccination effort and for sensible public health measures to curb the spread of the virus.

We’re here to advocate for lockdowns when the necessary with proper government payments and job guarantees so people can say.

We need to push for sensible quarantine requirements and suitable quarantine facilities with proper ventilation to allow people to come home or traveling to state safely.

We need proper ventilation in our workplaces in our schools to reduce transmission. We know the virus is spread by airborne particles, so air filters and proper ventilation facilities are an absolute requirement.

And importantly, for today, we’re here to counter the dangerous conspiracy, tinfoil hat brigade that are rallying on the other side of the city today and in other cities across the country.

These people would like to put out the message that they are the voice of a silent majority of people who are opposed to government overreach and government lockdowns and vaccination requirements.

We’re here today to show them that’s not the case. These people are in fact a tiny, petulant minority.

We shouldn’t underestimate the movement were rallying against. They’re a dangerous political force, albeit chaotic, and we must make a stand against them .

The issue of vaccinations and lockdowns has been cynically exploited by nefarious political actors who seek to push their far right agenda. It has been used to undermine Social Democratic politicians, such as in Australia, Labor premiers Dan Andrews, Anastasia Palasczuk and Mark McGowan.

And more frightening than that has been used to undermine our collective solidarity as people and as workers and to undermine the union movement (Crowd: Shame!).. And no more clearly has been seen than the attack on the CFMEU headquarters in Melbourne a couple of months ago (Crowd: Shame!). This is a frightening example of how the far right are becoming emboldened by this movement. The anti vaxxers compare COVID restrictions and vaccines to Nazi Germany while they quite literally marched alongside Neo Nazis at their rallies. (Crowd: Shame!). In rallies this week, protesters held Trump flags alongside Eureka flags, disgracing the legacy of the union movement and had effigies of labour premiers and gallows. Shame on them (Crowd: Shame!)..

(People come around speaker to support him) This rise of Trump style libertarian ism is a massive regression in politics in Australia, this bankrupt ideology. It’s an ideology of a child refusing to do their chores to contribute to the household (laughing to something off camera) demanding all the benefits of a civilized society without any of the responsibilities (Crowd: clapping)..

But I stress again, these people are a minority. This week, Australia has reached a milestone of 90% first dose vaccinations for people over 16; which is a great step towards having good vaccine coverage. But complacency is the enemy and we still have a long way to go.

Unfortunately, in Queensland vaccination rates are lagging far behind the rest of the country. (???) With states opening up in coming weeks and restrictions on international arrivals likely to be loosened in the coming months. We need to keep up this effort to implore people to get the job for the safety of our communities.

So why has become such a point of contention? Vaccination is a very minor imposition or inconvenience on the individual for the most part, but one with a tremendous benefit for society. It’s become a political tool and my theory is because the benefit of vaccines is not clearly apparent when you have them and it’s the same with lockdowns. You can’t experience the disease that you don’t catch. And you don’t see the outbreak that was prevented.

When preventative measures work, you don’t see the effect. It requires a trust in the science and I get that for some people that’s a big ask (something happening oof camera) for both the government and the medical scientific establishment that means Trust is not enough founded. Preventive Medicine is a hard sell to ask someone to take a medicine for an illness and they don’t have a hard sell. But there are far too many people in the anti-Vax movement were willfully ignorant or disingenuous, and who are by their own choosing jeopardize our collective efforts to survive this pandemic. (Crowd: Shame!).

Vaccinations work on an individual level, they drastically reduce your chances of getting severe COVID and ending up in hospital. on a population level, they reduce transmission by juicing the amount of time people are infectious, and reducing respiratory symptoms which spread the disease.

When Sydney opened up out of lockdown recently, what seemed like a reckless decision at the time, a lot of people were concerned … myself included that we were on the brink of a massive COVID outbreak in Australia. Instead, daily case number stabilized while COVID is still well and truly out in the community with around two to 300 cases a day in New South Wales. And I don’t want to minimize that fact. The fact that there was no huge spike in cases should be evidence enough that the vaccine works. (Crowd clapping).

But as our international borders open, people’s immunity from their second dose will begin to wane. If we can’t encourage the last 10% of people to get vaccinated, and if people don’t keep on top of their booster jabs, their third job and beyond will begin to see a tsunami of cases. Next winter will be a harrowing test for our public health system. As COVID becomes endemic and a potentially large influenza season takes hold.

Having worked as a nurse in the public health system, I can tell you it is bursting at the seams and I will not cope with a surge in infections. So for the sake of protecting ourselves, protecting our communities, protecting our health system, we need to keep getting vaccinated. Keep wearing masks and social distancing. Keep staying at home when we’re sick and keep coming out to counter these reality denying lunatics because next year and beyond, we’re going to face the real test.

Axel
Registered nurse and UQ Union Medical Officer,
Saturday, 20 Nov 2021.

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