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.