Although it remains a personal decision for every adult whether to vaccinate or not, it is not a decision without consequences, writes Adriaan Basson.
A week ago, I received my Covid-19 vaccination jab in my upper left arm. Despite very, very mild flu-like symptoms for 24 hours, which two Panados dealt with swiftly, my overwhelming reaction has been one of euphoria and gratitude.
Sitting in the queue at the brilliantly run Pinelands EMS vaccination site in Cape Town, I took a moment to reflect on the scientific miracle of receiving a vaccine for the virus that has turned our lives upside down a mere 17 months after the outbreak of Covid-19 in China.
Never before in the history of medicine has humanity managed to come together in such a united front to find a cure for a future-threatening epidemic. Although the vaccines are not yet foolproof to protect us from contracting Covid-19, the results are abundantly clear: those who have received the vaccine, and then contract Covid-19, have a massively reduced chance of dying or falling seriously ill.
The prick in my arm, which I barely felt, is a very small price to pay for a safer future. I felt an enormous sense of gratitude and sadness as I received the devastating news on Saturday that Dr Johan van Zyl, the chairman of Toyota SA, had died from Covid-19 complications.
Van Zyl was one of the smartest and kindest executives I ever met in my professional career. At the age of 63, he had so much more to give and contribute to our country. He was pivotal in re-establishing relationships between the business sector and the government after former president Jacob Zuma was relieved of his duties.
Disturbing trend of vaccine hesitancy
Which brings me to the very disturbing data emerging from opinion polls and anecdotal evidence about vaccine hesitancy in South Africa. I have heard of companies that are seeing up to 40% of staff unwilling to be vaccinated.
If this trend is real, it poses a grave danger to our possibility of reaching immunity and preventing the virus from spreading and mutating.
Although it remains a personal decision for every adult whether to vaccinate or not, it is not a decision without consequences. Unlike other medical decisions that affect your personal wellbeing or life expectancy, a decision not to be vaccinated has repercussions for those around you - in your house, working space, social spaces and place of worship.
Simply put, the more people there are who refuse to be vaccinated, the lower the chance of drastically reducing Covid-19 from spreading and mutating.
The available Covid-19 vaccines are not foolproof against contracting the virus, but chances are much lower that you will catch the virus and dramatically lower that you will die or require hospitalisation.
I read a gut-wrenching article in the New York Times over the weekend about Americans who regret their decision not to be vaccinated, based on misinformation, misplaced fears or just plain fake news.
"I read all kinds of things about the vaccine and it scared me. So I made the decision and prayed about it and got the impression that we would be OK," said a woman whose husband was fighting for his life in hospital after contracting Covid-19.
Spread of false information in SA
I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands of South Africans are currently making similar fateful decisions, based on false news, concocted WhatsApp messages and voice notes by conspiracy theorists who are not doctors or virologists.
Covid-19, like flu, cancer, pneumonia or arthritis, is an illness that needs to be treated by a doctor, not Google. I took the decision to receive the vaccine based on the opinion of my own doctor, who I trust to treat me when I fall ill with any other bug or virus.
I received the vaccine after reading the opinions of countless medical experts on News24 who agree that vaccination is the only way out of this masked life, where we are not allowed to hug, party or celebrate.
I do not want to live like this forever and the only medical solution that works is getting the Covid-19 jab. If enough of us agree to do the right thing, we may just be lucky enough to reclaim some of those freedoms we so dearly miss.
- Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.
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