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We are all our brother’s keeper

The vaccination programme continues at a temporary location at the Open Door Christian Assembly in St David’s (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

It would be an indictment on Bermuda if it failed to use up the stock of Covid-19 vaccines that has been generously provided by the British Government and, more recently, the Covax organisation.

There are countries of millions of people, often poorer than Bermudians, who are only just beginning their own vaccination programmes. They would give anything to have Bermuda’s supply.

And yet in Bermuda, there are people who are reluctant to take the vaccine or who do not see the necessity. It would be an act of supreme selfishness, a travesty, if Bermuda ended up throwing away unused vaccines.

It would be worse than that.

It would mean that Bermuda — where 20 people have died of Covid-19 in the past nine weeks, where people are fighting for their lives in critical care, where more than 200 people are quarantining and enduring its symptoms, and where people are still contracting the virus every day — still has people within its shores who are willing to put others at risk of death.

Those same people are willing to allow others to suffer financial deprivation, to see other people’s businesses or livelihoods go to the wall — essentially because they do not want to get a simple shot.

Of course, there are some people who for medical reasons cannot be immunised. That is all the more reason why those who are healthy enough should get it. Only by healthy people getting immunised can the vulnerable be protected.

Certainly, people can give any number of reasons why they are reluctant to get the vaccine. It is a new disease that we are still learning about. No one can say with full certainty how effective the vaccines will be or for how long. Booster shots may well be required, as they are with other vaccines. Members of the Black community, in particular, have historical reasons to be wary of government-sponsored medical solutions.

That’s why it is indeed important for people who have reservations to see someone they do trust — their family physician, for example — to learn all they can about the vaccine and to get reassurance.

And they will get reassurance. They will not get a full guarantee, but in the medical world, that never happens in any event. There are risks in all of healthcare and doctors warn of them all of the time.

But a balance needs to be struck. The Covid-19 vaccines cannot fully prevent an immunised person from getting the virus. But they reduce the risk massively. The statistics show this around the world and, increasingly, in Bermuda.

Nor can the vaccine absolutely prevent an immunised person, if infected, from passing the virus on to someone else. But again, they reduce the risk enormously, and the chances of a vaccinated person getting Covid-19 from another vaccinated person are virtually nil.

Thirty-two people have died from Covid-19. Not one of those people was fully immunised. Only one had had both doses of the vaccine, but it is now thought they already had the virus when they received the vaccine — too late for it to do any good.

Of the people who were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 since March 1, not one was fully immunised. Just 1 per cent had had two shots but were admitted in the period before the two weeks after the second shot were up. Eleven per cent had had one shot and 88 per cent had not had the vaccination at all.

At March 1, 11 per cent of the population was fully immunised. By April 28, 37 per cent was. And yet, in that same period, not one fully immunised person was admitted to hospital or died of Covid-19. That proves that immunisation works. The statistics do not lie.

There is another way of keeping down the transmission of Covid-19. It can be achieved through lockdowns. But the damage caused by lockdowns is immense, not only to the economy and people’s livelihoods, although that would be reason enough to want to avoid any more.

They are also damaging to education, to mental health, to the administration of justice, and to any number of other means of living our lives.

Until Bermuda is fully immunised, it cannot open up the tourism industry in a real way. Thousands of jobs have already been lost as a result of Covid-19 in this sector. Many small businesses are on the brink of closure.

Bermuda can return to normal life only when sufficient people are immunised to contain the spread of the virus. There is no other way. And it is vital we get immunised to resist the spread of other, more virulent variants. Indeed, failure to immunise could lead to a Bermuda variant, as a physician warned this week.

It may be that Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. But it can be contained and reduced to manageable levels if enough people are immunised that when someone does contract the virus, they can be isolated and contract tracing can work.

This will not happen if we have a wave such as the one that is receding at present. Contact tracers and the like could not keep up when hundreds of new cases were being recorded each day. It is receding only because Bermuda returned to a near-lockdown. And it would have been worse if a significant proportion of the population was not immunised. We must break the cycle and only immunisation can make that happen.

If you are vaccine-hesitant, please consider that even if you are not convinced it will help you or that you need it, at least get it so that you do not give it to someone else who may be more vulnerable. That person could be an elderly relative or a person with a breathing condition or weak heart. Do not have that person’s death on your conscience. You are literally your brother’s keeper. Do the right thing.

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Published May 14, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated May 14, 2021 at 11:30 am)

We are all our brother’s keeper

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