I have stayed out of the vaccine fray, but the news of a new variant is not only catastrophic for our business, but for South Africa’s tourism community in general, where 1 in 22 South Africans are employed. Just as we were starting to turn a corner to see the glimmer of light at the end of a long, scary tunnel, it turned out to be the clichéd oncoming train. I write this from a place of anger, frustration and a fair dose of fear, as, like many small tourism businesses, we’re reaching the end of our resources after nearly 2 years of ‘hanging on’.
To my colleagues in the industry, don’t blame the scientists for sequencing and describing the variant. They have a responsibility to do that. Blame the forces of misinformation that are preventing us from achieving our vaccination targets. In a country where 19% of the adult population is immunocompromised, we should be beating down doors to vaccinate against COVID19.
Viruses mutate. It’s what they do to survive. So we should expect to see variants of the native virus emerge in populations where there is insufficient immunity to fight the bug. The fact that a new variant has been described in South Africa, and possibly from an unvaccinated, immunocompromised individual, is infuriating at best, unforgivable at worst. This in a country that has made both J&J and Pfizer vaccines available free of charge to everyone over the age of 12 years.
Vaccination drives have seen mobile clinics taking vaccines to remote rural areas. Health workers have gone to schools to vaccinate learners and teachers and now over 50s are being offered grocery vouchers with their first Pfizer shot. Private medical insurance companies have set up walk-in vaccination hubs for anyone to use AND STILL, only 41% of the population over 18 is vaccinated! It would be understandable if vaccine education was not getting out to the people who need to hear it, but what I find incomprehensible is that across the spectrum, from under-privileged teens to affluent, educated, privileged adults, people are refusing to be vaccinated.
Hesitancy and misinformation
I can understand that people are scared. I was hesitant when the vaccines were first developed and had decided not to get vaccinated immediately. However, as the rollout continued in Europe and the US and the evidence was clear that the vaccines offered protection, nothing was going to stop me from getting mine. I’ve avoided discussions with anti-vaxxers in the same way I avoid religious discussions, but I am now ready to enter the fray and lay the blame for continued mutation and spiking infections squarely at your feet.
Human bodies that do not have sufficient antibodies to the COVID19 virus are rolling out the red carpet for the virus to enter and multiply. When the virus enters the body, the immune system mobilises to fight it, drawing on both innate and inoculated antibodies. Without enough of the right type of antibody, the body is unable to mount a successful response to the virus. This is exactly what happens in an unvaccinated person, so the virus multiplies sufficiently to cause disease and, in that process, infects others.
To those who refuse to consider the science and arrogantly buy into the hoaxes and conspiracies that the vaccines will alter your DNA and that Bill Gates is inserting microchips into your bodies, I ask… if it’s so easy to believe such bizarre theories, why is it impossible to believe that the vaccines might just do what I have explained above?
A few months ago, I was helping to clear the clutter in my Mum’s home and came across some old family documents. Among them was my uncle’s smallpox vaccination certificate, issued in March 1921. Exactly 100 years ago. My final question to the doubters and conspiracists … when last did you hear of someone contracting smallpox?
Without a doubt, the global vaccination drive is what eliminated the disease. We can do the same with COVID19, in a much quicker time period. But to do that, we need doubters to seek out advice from experts not from social media echo chambers. Please realise that a substantial proportion of the people who are spreading conspiracies don’t actually believe those theories! They are using your fear, anger and prejudice to fool you into helping them further their agendas.
Please don’t be a pawn in someone else’s fight. Secure your own health, your family’s welfare and ultimately the global recovery.