Vaccine Hesitancy — Why I Changed My Mind

by Sep 11, 2021

When the Covid-19 pandemic first broke I admit to saying “It’s just a bad flu. Why the over reaction?” Then the numbers just kept growing and people started dying. Lots of people. Evidence of some of the worse effects started to build up. We heard about long Covid. We heard about hospitals being overwhelmed, of refrigerated goods trucks outside morgues to deal with the overflow. We heard about all the different ways different countries were dealing with the pandemic and we heard about the rush to develop a vaccine.

Now, Victoria and I are not anti-vaxx but we did make the choice not to vaccinate our children as tiny babies. When they were a bit older we had them vaccinated for tetanus, but that was all. We felt that with good nutrition, exercise and caring parents our children would be able to safely negotiate the common childhood diseases they might be exposed to in New Zealand and that natural immunity is better for them. As young adults we have given them the choice and both our children have since decided to get some of the common vaccinations without resistance from us. It is, after all, their right to choose.

When vaccines first became available for Covid-19 I was sceptical. It seemed to have happened far too quickly to be safe and I was very reluctant to be vaccinated. Here is where we are so lucky in Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are a little isolated from the rest of the world and so have had the time to observe what has happened before having to make a decision. This led to our Government deciding on a “Go hard, go early” strategy that worked. Again this brought us time. Time to observe the statistics from other countries. To see what works and what doesn’t. To see and to choose which vaccine was most effective and had the least side effects. Time to understand that NO vaccine is 100% effective and NO vaccine has no side effects, but to weigh up that fact and the statistics around the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus.

One day I received an email from my doctor saying that myself and all of my household was eligible to receive the vaccine. I needed to make a decision. These are the 3 things that had the biggest impact on that decision.

Firstly, by the time I was to get the vaccine literally millions of doses had already been given world wide. There had been widely reported examples of side effects and even a few deaths from the vaccine but weighed against the effects of the virus I felt that the vaccine, particularly the Pfizer vaccine we have here, is safer than the health risks from catching Covid-19.

Secondly it was the huge number of deaths from the virus that affected me. In Scotland with about the same population as us, 10,000 deaths. In Fiji, over 500 deaths. The numbers are so large and we are so insulated that it is easy to forget that every person has a family and friends. It is not just them. It is over 500 families in Fiji. Now you can say that they were all old, or had underlying health conditions and were going to die anyway, but Covid-19 took days, weeks, months, years of their lives. I asked myself if I was willing to be responsible, even indirectly, for stealing that time off those people and their families? Was I willing to sit down with just one of those families and explain why I would not take the vaccine that they would be desperate to have been given the opportunity to give to their loved ones?

My third consideration was a pragmatic one. Whether or not you agree with how our Government is handling things, the fact is that until we get a large enough percentage of the population vaccinated we are going to have closed borders and yo-yo in and out of lock downs every time there is an outbreak. The sooner we get enough people vaccinated the sooner the myriad of small businesses like my own can relax a little, plan for the future a little and in some cases just plain survive. We may even be able to plan to travel overseas at some stage.

I admit it makes me nervous when there is talk about “vaccine passports” and the restriction of freedoms for those who choose not to vaccinate. I will defend anyone’s right to freedom of choice. But I would also point out that with choice comes the obligation to choose wisely and carefully. If you are a practising Yogi then your choice will be in accordance with the principle of “Ahimsa”, that you will never in thought, word or deed, by your own actions or lack of action, directly or indirectly cause harm to another being. This is why I got vaccinated and I urge you to do the same. Your choice is not only about you, but is about your whanau and the wider community. Choose with compassion.

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  1. Betta

    Mike- this is written beautifully as usual. I love the description of practising ahimsa- no matter your choice. Powerful post.

  2. Jennifer Salisbury

    I am so pleased to read this

    Covid is very deadly to us all in one way or a other

  3. Jonathan Chambers

    Thanks Mike for this post, totally respect your process and ultimate decision around the vaccines.

    In the spirit of Informed Consent, I just wanted to make comment around a point that many in NZ may not be aware of. That is, a number of early treatment protocols for COVID have been developed internationally and shown to be highly effective for reducing mortality and severity of symptoms from COVID. Some commentators suggest the potential for reducing mortality by up to 85% if these are applied in a timely manner, therefore calling into question the need for widespread vaccination.

    Some examples of these protocols are available here for anyone interested:

    Unfortunately, perhaps due to their heavy investment in the vaccine strategy and philosophy of elimination, the NZ government is not taking active steps to investigate and make these treatment protocols available to NZ’ers. This has been confirmed by Official Information Act Requests, where the government has responded that they will only take steps to approve treatments like Ivermectin if they first receive an application from the drug companies who manufacture the product. As many of these drug companies are also manufacturing vaccines, and vaccines are far more lucrative, there seems to be very little motivation to approve alternative methods for managing COVID in NZ.

    It has also been suggested that the NZ government’s contract with Pfizer explicitly limits their ability to promote off-label treatments, though this contract is considered ‘commercially sensitive’ so there is a distinct lack of transparency here and no real opportunity for public scrutiny.

    Interesting also to observe that the NZ media has been very quick to downplay or even ridicule the potential for alternatives to vaccination. Even the NZ Medical Council has taken the position of ‘strongly discouraging’ NZ Dr’s from applying these kinds of protocols.

    At the same time there are court cases and senate hearings taking place overseas with Doctors pleading to have these protocols adopted more widely and urgently, in order to save lives, Many NZ Doctors have also gone on record in the last few months around this issue, often at great personal risk. Investigating this issue in depth makes one call into question what is really going on behind the scenes.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your call to ‘choose with compassion’ and as I say, I fully respect the choice you have made. From my personal point of view, this choice calls me to respond to your post as I have here. I do this because I feel the messaging we are being exposed to in NZ is at times disingenuous, lacks balance, and doesn’t give people an opportunity to make a fully informed choice around vaccination.

    I really appreciate you raising this controversial topic in a post, and would love to encourage a lot more open, respectful dialog around the issue so people can learn from each other and develop a deep respect for others’ choices.

  4. Mike Berghan

    Hi Jonathan.
    Thank you for the informed comment. I agree that there needs to be a lot more work done on TREATING people with the virus. However, at the moment we need to work with what we have and there is no doubt that the vaccine is saving lives internationally. I am sure this is being done along side research into how to effectively treat it so that we are not reliant on having to vaccinate, especially as the virus mutates so readily. We have yet to reach this point.

  5. Kim Tasker

    Kia ora Mike, Victoria and whānau,
    I love popping in on here and catching up with you “virtually.
    Thank you Mike, for your post and connection to the yoga sutras “Ahimsa”.
    I hope to meet you kanohi ki te kanohi – face to face sooner than later.
    Tino Aroha

  6. Fatimih

    Thank you so much for writing this, Mike. It is so important to hear from respected leaders in our communities, such as yours. And you communicated it so elequently. Most especially, the closing quotation I couldn’t agree more.

    Miss you and practicing at your shala

    Much Love and well wishes, Fatimih

  7. Mike Berghan

    Miss you too, Fatimih. Hope all is well with you and that the wind blows you back to Wellington some time.
    Ngā manaakitanga,

  8. Mike Berghan

    Kia ora Kimi.
    can’t wait for the kanohi ki te kanohi too.
    Ngā manaakitanga,

  9. Wendy Boyce

    Tena koe e Mike. Thanks for your post from Peter and I if the Kirikiriroa yoga community. We both vacinnated. I made the move after hearing stories from a kaumatua up this way about the devastating impact of the Spanish flu on their community. Thanks again for your post. Wendy and P eter