Pfizer or AstraZeneca? Vaccine snobbery is becoming a serious problem

James Moore
·4-min read
<p>This almost feels like a latter day version of the soda wars, with the Pfizer jab as Coke and the Astra one cast in the role of Pepsi  </p> (AFP via Getty Images)

This almost feels like a latter day version of the soda wars, with the Pfizer jab as Coke and the Astra one cast in the role of Pepsi

(AFP via Getty Images)

If the virus had a collective intelligence, it would be laughing so hard right now its sides would be splitting.

“You guys,” it might say, “your scientists have bust a gut, they’ve managed to produce multiple vaccines, all of which are capable of mucking things up for me and my minions, in an astonishingly short time. Hey, these things used to take 10 years to get right. But instead of celebrating you’re sulking about not getting the right brand? I thought it was only the muppets in the anti-vax ‘movement’ on my side but it seems I have more allies than I expected. Damn, they’re sure going to help with the latest mutation I’ve cooked up.”

I’m not sure whether we should refer to this phenomenon as “vaccine snobbery” or out and out stupidity on a par with touching a live electrical wire or going swimming with box jellyfish. Either way, it’s there and it’s making for the mother of all headaches.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford jab seems to be suffering the most from it. French president Emmanuel Macron got the ball rolling, taking shots at its suitability for the over 65s – “almost ineffective” – without anything resembling science to back his assertions up.

There has since been something of a volte face in France, but the damage was done. Those words had real world consequences and not just among the wing nuts on the internet who spend their days keeping the toxic soup of conspiracy simmering.

The slow pace of Europe’s vaccination programme is a mahor problem for its leaders and yet there are now Astra shots going begging – unwanted, amazingly – just a few weeks after a cross-Channel spat over who should get their hands on supplies produced in Britain.

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German health minister Jens Spahn put himself at the head of the continent’s still sizeable sensible brigade by saying he would have no qualms about having the Astra shot in an attempt to persuade his countrymen and women to do the same. But given that he’s only 40, he’s going to have to wait a while to back that up by posting the obligatory picture of him getting it done on Twitter.

Before “Brexity” types start engaging in their usual juvenile antics, blowing raspberries at Brussels and such like, this sort of snobbery/stupidity is here, too. My wife and I spoke to one of the health workers when I was getting the Astra shot. They told us about people walking away from their appointments if they weren’t offered their preferred brand.

Dozy vaccine nationalism seems to have made the Astra jab more popular here because it’s made by the home team. All those hapless “Buy British” campaigns that governments used to indulge in are, it seems, finally having an effect. That really isn’t something to be celebrated.

This almost feels like a latter day version of the soda wars, with the Pfizer jab as Coke and the Astra one cast in the role of Pepsi. If the US courts would just “Free Britney”, they could maybe sling her a couple of million dollars to sing a song extolling the virtues of the latter. It’s the Astra Generation. Jab me baby one more time!

I jest, but I’m not sure they’d appreciate the joke in less wealthy parts of the world where the debate over Pfizer/Astra/Moderna/Sputnik V (which a study published in The Lancet found to be highly effective) is completely academic.

Moldova, for example, only received its first shipment from neighbouring Romania under the auspices of the European Commission a few days ago. Others are in a similarly difficult position. Low and middle income countries could be forgiven for flipping us all off for behaving like spoiled brats.

I’ve read various articles comparing the merits of the various vaccines. Mercifully they mostly conclude that the best vaccine you can get is the one you’re offered on the day. The virus is still busy killing people and vaccine snobbery is only serving to assist its deadly cause.

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