Former anti-vaxxer gets her jab: 'The list of people I know dying of Covid-19 is growing longer'

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  • A Uitenhage mom did a "complete 180", going from an anti-vaxxer to being fully inoculated within a few months.
  • This after she lost a number of loved ones to Covid-19.
  • After numerous close calls with contracting the virus, she chose to get the jab despite having a history of severe reactions to medication.

Priscilla Potgieter was willing to take her chances, refusing to register for the Covid-19 vaccination and labelling the pandemic over-exaggerated as it is "just a cold".

Satisfied the survival rate was high enough for her to live through a possible infection she refused to "put that stuff in my body".

"But that was before the deaths hit close to home," the former wedding planner turned stay-at-home mom said.

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After numerous close calls with contracting the virus - her husband during the first wave was asymptomatic and the only person in her household to test positive - she chose to get the jab after seeing friends, loved ones and family members succumb to the pandemic in short succession.

Among the fatalities is her cousin, Dougie Heymans, a former Cheetahs prop who represented the Free State in 154 matches.

Potgieter said he had not been sick for long before being put on a ventilator and "that was it".

Her mother, who had a pre-existing lung condition, battled the virus for 31 days and "barely pulled through", she recalled, adding:

The list of people I know who have died of Covid is growing longer and longer. The scary thing is that most of them are young, healthy people that would have stood a chance of surviving if they had been vaccinated. Yes, the vaccine is not a cure. But if you have a chance to survive it, why wouldn't you take that option? Not taking it is just as big of a gamble as taking it.

According to national government, vaccines undergo "rigorous testing for safety and efficacy, based on trial data from thousands of participants across the globe" and national and international regulatory agencies have "closely examined" it for safety and effectiveness.

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) looks at all the scientific data to ensure the vaccine is safe, effective, and a quality product, government said on its website, while all regulators globally have put mechanisms in place to monitor them as the vaccines were "developed speedily".

SAHPRA last week said it has been unable to link any deaths reported to it to the vaccine, after investigating 29 cases of death that occurred shortly after people were inoculated.

Conspiracy theories and fear of the unknown played a role in her initial stance, Potgieter admitted, believing it was the main reason people were hesitant to get the jab.

"To me, there wasn't enough validation of what the side-effects could be. If something is known, it feels more familiar and safe. I eventually based my decision on faith because if my ability to survive was based on my choices alone I would have died a long time ago."

Potgieter, 38, a mom of two from Uitenhage, did a "complete 180", going from an anti-vaxxer to being fully inoculated within a few months.

READ | Covid-19: Complaints to be laid against heart surgeon's 'problematic' video on vaccines

She said after seeing one of her friends lose both his parents within four days made her reassess her decision to not be vaccinated.

"I was confronted with the whole concept of fear - the fear of dying of Covid and the fear of what the vaccine could do to me. As a Christian, I realised that I was called to live fearlessly.

Priscilla Potgieter gets her jab.

"So, if God could protect me before the vaccine, he will protect me with the vaccine. If we can do something to minimise the severity of the symptoms, why wouldn't we?"

Potgieter added she wanted her children to live in a world of normalcy, which could only be realised if the majority of the population was vaccinated. 

She said:

We complain about people losing jobs, industries closing and not being able to socialise. Here we can do something to make a difference, but because of fear, we don't. I heard a phrase that was a turning point for me: 'May your choices reflect your hopes; and not your fears'.

She continued: "I chose to get the vaccine because it hit home when I started losing those close to me; I realised that they would've had a better chance [had they been vaccinated]. I almost lost my mom - this strong woman who got to the point where she said she would rather just die. And I couldn't do anything for her."

She also has a history of severe reactions to medication, even antibiotics, but fought her fear of side-effects when she went for her two Pfizer jabs.

While she had a sore arm, chills and a mild headache, she was perfectly fine thereafter, Potgieter added.

Priscilla Potgieter and her husband, Dr Albertyn Potgieter, were vaccinated on the same day.

"Vaccination was the first step in doing something for my loved ones, without being selfish about getting it because of fear. If your actions are dictated by that, it's not a good enough reason not to get it. If you can make a sound choice based on conviction of what you've seen, or not seen, that's fine. But I am basing my choice on hope because fear can be debilitating.

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"The irony to me is that people who are anti-vaxxers, which a lot of our friends are, end up fighting you about it. I ask myself why - it's as if they're trying to convince themselves, not you."

She urged people to "assess what their hopes are".

"And if you have hope for the future, for yourself, for your family, for the country and for the economy, then you have to do what's best for the greater good and not just think of yourself," Potgieter said.

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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