To vaccinate or not to vaccinate – is there really an option?
It has been almost a year since Covid-19 started wreaking havoc across the world. Only now is there dim light at the end of the tunnel with the initiation of vaccine distribution. As of past week, more than 2,900 people had been vaccinated in Bermuda. A modest number, but a start.
Unfortunately the positive news that we are receiving vaccines from Britain and initiating distribution has been overshadowed by the extremely unenthusiastic response to registration — 10,000 as of January 27, less than 16 per cent of the population.
It is staggeringly nonsensical to think that we are being provided with a free vaccine during a global pandemic that has been raging for ten months, and 84 per cent of our population apparently have no interest in it.
In many ways, Bermuda has been insulated from the real damage caused by Covid. We’ve had one short lockdown, minimal stress on our healthcare system, only 12 deaths. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate to live on a small, isolated island, which has facilitated minimising the impact.
We are certainly feeling the effects from an economic perspective, which in the long run will cause far more damage than the health impact. But the economic impact has had an uneven distribution. The majority of the workforce has retained employment and not faced any real hardship from Covid. To a large extent, it has been nothing more than an extended inconvenience. And that is being borne out by the vaccine complacency.
Many other countries have faced multiple long-term lockdowns, higher death-per-capita rates and stressed hospitals. They appreciate the value of a vaccine because they are experiencing the pandemic in a way we are not. Perhaps if we had 80 deaths — in line with the US per-capita rate — and 40 hospital cases, we would have slightly more enthusiasm for a vaccine.
There is also the hypocrisy of those who have complained about the stress caused by the pandemic, and the stress of having to work in certain positions with a higher exposure risk. Now they are being offered the best available option for protection against the virus, and many are not interested.
An estimated 1.5 million people — mostly children — die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases such as tuberculosis and measles. Deaths primarily in the Third World, where people cannot get vaccines that countries such as Bermuda have ready access to. Now we’re being provided with a free vaccine that Third World countries will have to wait in line for — and 84 per cent aren’t interested.
What’s driving the lack of interest? Social media, in all its warped glory, has facilitated concerns over the safety of a vaccine that has an extremely high efficacy rate, and has the backing of the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation.
And, it seems, Bermudians are showing an admirable propensity for a Me First perspective. It’s an unfortunate fact that our government was elected on a divisive Bermudians First platform, and it seems we are seeing an extension of that with the lack of interest in a vaccine.
People have asked the following:
• If I get the vaccine, will I be able to travel without quarantining? Will I still have to wear a mask, social distance, sanitise?
The questions imply that if I still have to quarantine and follow other health protocols, what’s the point? Unless the vaccine gives me a travel passport so I can take a flight to New York for a weekend of shopping without having to quarantine, why bother?
It’s all about Me, don’t you understand?
The majority of our population is missing a very basic point. Although Covid can be a personal issue, it is more so a community issue, locally and globally. That’s what a highly contagious virus is about. The only potential for slowing the spread is to vaccinate the global population as quickly as possible.
Consider a simple scenario as an example: if we could flip a switch and vaccinate the entire population of Bermuda tomorrow, would that be the best course of action? Or would we — or Me — be better off not having anyone vaccinated?
Although there are no guarantees, vaccinating the entire population will provide the greatest likelihood of eventually eradicating the virus through herd immunity.
Most other countries can’t obtain quickly enough the quantity of vaccines they require to implement an aggressive distribution strategy. Then we have Bermuda, with 16 per cent of the population boldly stepping forward. It’s a perspective steeped in a selfish Me First attitude.
The message is clear: I don’t much care about my community or the global community. Our hospital isn’t stressed, we have a low per-capita death rate, so what’s the big deal with wearing a mask and social distancing. And as a bonus, maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who gets paid to stay at home, walk the dog, eat chips, surf the net, and perhaps work a few hours, while the rest of the world struggles with a deadly virus. Not my problem.
Well, guess what? It’s everyone’s problem. Selfish, self-centred, Me First attitudes won’t cut it. There are few countries that have access to more vaccines than people willing to be vaccinated. Are we going to take advantage of that gift, for the wellbeing of our community and the global community?
Or will we continue to distinguish ourselves by saying: “No, thanks. Me First.”