12th August 2022


Having spent most of my long life engaging with history I am well aware than there is more than enough of what actually happened to worry about the ‘what might have beens’. But it has been argued that some developments can only be properly evaluated by projecting a counter-factual hypothesis. This was most famously undertaken by Robert Fogel who argued that if there had been no railroads in the USA, often credited with opening up the prairies, roads and canals would have developed very considerably to service the needs of the US economy so that the role of railways has been greatly exaggerated.

My ‘what if’ question is ‘What would have happened to western society if effective vaccines had not been available soon after covid broke out?’ Part of the answer to that question can be provided by the spread of covid in under-developed societies which neither had the vaccine nor the infrastructure to deliver it. The other answer would be to look back on epidemic history and realise that we could have suffered something like the plague or the Black Death, traumatic loss of life right across the world. But mercifully we were saved all that.

That surely is worth a prayer of thanksgiving for the dedicated work of scientific researchers, and I write this having had four injections of three different vaccines and with the expectation that I will soon have a fifth dose. But with our thanksgivings should also go a prayer that ways and means be found to share such life-saving gifts with all peoples everywhere.

But also a prayer that in our own society that those who try and pervert the truth through their dogmatic myth-making attacks on vaccinations may not put others’ lives in jeopardy. These are also things that spread like wild-fire throughout our world, and unfortunately there is no vaccine available to outlaw the spreading of fake news!

John Briggs