Offspring drummer Pete Parada has been ousted from the band after refusing to become vaccinated against COVID-19. Whether this removal is permanent or temporary isn’t certain, but Parada posted about it on Instagram in a long text post. He said that his reason for not getting the vaccine is because he has (or has had) Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) – a condition in which the immune system attacks nerves – and was advised by his doctor to not get the shot “at this time.”

Now, the CDC website says that people who have previously had GBS should be fine to receive the vaccine, as no cases of GBS have been reported following vaccination trial participants, barring one during the Johnson and Johnson trial.

Parada has also previously had COVID-19, a “mild” case, according to his post, so he likely has some antibodies to it, even though some people have absolutely become reinfected. He followed this up with the genius idea that he is “confident [he’d] be able to handle it again”, which is absolutely a nonsense thing to say. He goes on to lament the “coercion” involved in pushing people to get vaccines, and he frustratingly couches his anti-vaccine talk by co-opting the rhetoric of the left:

“I do not find it ethical or wise to allow those with the most power (government, corporations, organizations, employers) to dictate medical procedures to those with the least power.”

 As if it’s not been mandated that your average person needs to be vaccinated against a wide array of dying diseases in the past (*cough* polio *cough* measles, mumps *cough cough*).

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that his statement is genuine, that his doctor did recommend he not receive the vaccine because the doctor was concerned about Parada’s underlying health condition, one that could potentially be aggravated by the jab. Let’s say all that is true and valid, because there are many people (immunocompromised or otherwise unable to receive the vaccine) for whom this is a reality.

I think the crux of Parada’s statement – riddled as it was with weird language reminiscent of conspiracy theories – is a good one; some people are too sick to get the vaccine and it is unsafe to try and make them. That is, effectively, what herd immunity is for.

We heard a lot about herd immunity during the wild discussions about COVID, but this is the core of it: the majority get vaccinated to keep the minority (who cannot, for one reason or another, be vaccinated) safe. That’s how it works. It’s not “give everyone the disease so we develop antibodies” or whatever, that’s some weird eugenics nonsense that’s trying to kill off members of the population. If not the intent, it’s what you’ll end up doing. No, herd immunity is the majority being protected to keep the minority protected so that the disease cannot take hold within the population.

If no one is vaccinated, no one is protected, and the virus does what it is currently doing: it mutates. That’s why we have the Delta and Lambda variants. The disease mutated in a virgin population and continued to spread, now with a variety of variants, just like influenza. It is still in its early stages of mutation and, luckily, it appears to be mutating slowly. On top of that, each variant appears to be mutating in similar ways, which is very good for us in terms of vaccinating against it. Now, this obviously is not taking into account the fact that one of the developers of the AstraZeneca vaccine – Sir Andrew Pollard, a professor of pediatric infection and immunity at the University of Oxford – has said that the Delta variant – currently rampaging through my city, as well as probably yours – dismisses the very idea of herd immunity, as it can be transmitted by vaccinated people.

“We don’t have anything which will stop that transmission,” he said. “[This] does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus.”

He went on to say that the next variant could very well be better at “transmitting in vaccinated populations”, which is a nightmarish thought on its own.

Influenza, also, has too many strains to realistically be stopped by herd immunity. That’s why there is a yearly refresher of the flu vaccine, it just gives antibodies for more and more strains. Even if people got the flu shot every year, we’re not getting rid of the flu, but that doesn’t mean the vaccines are not worth it for huge swathes of the population. COVID, if the population is correctly vaccinated, isn’t too big to be stopped yet. It could fade into a more benign variant like what happened with the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu at the time. We simply don’t know how this will end or what directions COVID mutations will take.

What we do know is that getting the vaccine works. It can prevent infection and spread of COVID-19 to keep people like Pete Parada safe. Stigmatising people who can’t get the vaccine doesn’t help anyone. Stigmatising those who won’t get the vaccine is worth every penny.

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