Anu: Herd Mentality, Bovine Behaviour, and the need for vaccines

Now cometh the day of the anti-vaxxer. And I say unto you, in this country, that is not a thing. Stop making it a thing. It is not our thing. 

Let there be limited confusion about where this has come from. It has come from far-off lands where people have not had the benefit of a sound Caribbean upbringing. It comes from the wasteland of flat-earthers and conspiracy theorists. Most never travel beyond their small towns. Provincials. Savages. And that’s only in the southern US states.

Image: Anti-vaxxers and disease.

We can’t just switch off Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Fox News. If only there was a way to do that. So we sit here and listen to the tales of terror. Absurd and otherwise. 

It’s not a simple thing. Nor is it truly a difficult thing. But our complicity is making it so. 

We have not yet arrived at consensus as to what will constitute adequate herd immunity for the curtailment of Covid-19. That has not stopped eminently qualified scientists from suggesting a working target. We need those working targets. 

At the low end, it is believed that 70% of the population, fully inoculated, may see us to safety. 

In a recent poll by Market Facts and Opinions (MFO), 35% of respondents expressed a willingness to be vaccinated. We seem to be falling a bit short.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that for a country to be measles-free, 95% of the country must be vaccinated. Fortunately for us, we’re pretty good at that phase of life.

Photo: CMO Dr Roshan Parasram takes his Covid-19 vaccine.
(via MoH)

We are born; our parents make sure we are vaccinated against a great array of childhood diseases; we are allowed into the education system. From there we flow through life with the odd booster shot; vaccines we need for travel or to get into a university in a different country; a tetanus or rabies shot for the inevitable rusty nail or dog attack. 

When I say ‘we’, what I mean is ‘we here’ or ‘us’ or ‘the people of Trinidad and Tobago’. We the people take our vaccines. For all the celebration of bush medicine in its many incarnations, from the humble garden-picked leaves for tea, to the imported alternative treatments (read ‘non-Western medicine’), most of us have been vaccinating the children since the government made it a priority. And a necessity for admission to school.

We are not against vaccinations. A few weeks ago, half the country was involved in hectic clinic-to-clinic vaccine crawls looking for their first jab, and just under half were waiting in the Queen’s Park Savannah. Everyone else was quarantining at home or in state facilities. 

The vaccines are trying to make their way to us. Offered or asked for, they are trying to get to us. And if that sounds like the vials themselves are acting of their own volition, well, be that as it may.

Image: The threat posed by anti-vaxxers.

Right now, we’re not in a good way. The truth is, foreign anti-vaxxers aside, we have our own fears. And like most fears it is based on misunderstanding and lack of information.

In the absence of clearly expressed facts, why wouldn’t people be afraid that the Covid vaccine will: Actually give them the virus? Alter their DNA? Cause erectile dysfunction? (Doesn’t it always come down to the threat of impotence?)

But there is a very good reason not to worry. It is this: that is not how any of the known vaccines work. None work in a way that allow your body to take them into your DNA. What is injected into you has either been modified so it either cannot replicate or your body immediately begins to attack it. I know this because the journal Yale Medicine explained it to me and I believe them.

I’m not using any technical terms here. Intentionally. You should look this up yourself. You need to settle this for yourself. Because so far, no one is settling for you. Also, I’m not a scientist and the only thing worse than no information is poorly articulated information. 

Image: The global fight against Covid-19.

A grouping of private sector organisations are working together to roll out a behaviour change campaign to encourage personal responsibility. This should be starting just as you read this. It will be a solid attempt to do what so many have been calling for: a coming together of the concerned to generate better information, advice, suggestions, maybe, solutions.

NGOs—ongoingly disheartened by the country’s commitment to keeping children out of schools (no matter what the science says about how we can keep them safe)—are rethinking how they can help our most at-risk little ones. 

More and more people, sometimes even sensible people, are asking that we get our serving of infographics and statistics with a shot of context. This can only be to the good and, with a wish and a prayer day, get us back to our right-thinking ways about the cannot-be-overstated importance of vaccines. 

Fun fact: We’re trying to vaccinate 1,500 people a day. At that rate, we will achieve our target about 1 year and 9 months from now.


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One comment

  1. FUN FACT: “At that rate, we will achieve our target about 1 year and 9 months from now.”

    Assuming, of course, that we still number 1.4 million by then. Given how active the anti-vaxxers are, there clearly is no reason so to do.

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