Wisdom is not the exclusive preserve of the veteran; neither is it the imagined prerogative of highly-developed G7nations. Dr CHARLES MARTEY, a young doctor who first diagnosed then treated my daughter-in-law’s COVID-19 infection at her home in Accra, Ghana, proposes this interesting theory concerning (the minority, but still disturbing) opposition to vaccination.
IGNORE THE CONCERN ACROSS THE WORLD surrounding opposition to coronavirus vaccination: we are focusing on the wrong issue, namely that people have a problem with the vaccines.
THEY DON’T. Let me explain. . .
First, remember that not EVERYONE who refuses or is reluctant to receive a COVID vaccine is a so-called anti-vaxxer. That’s why I find the whole ‘Why reject COVID vaccine when you’ve been happily receiving vaccines all your life?’ rhetoric ironically shallow. I mean, seriously, YOU THINK THEY DIDN’T KNOW THAT?
The proportion of people reluctant/refusing to receive the COVID vaccine who are real anti-vaxxers is actually relatively small. So they don’t understand what the vaccine is? Or that they’ve been misinformed? Nope, neither of the above. Of course, there are a few who are holding onto some clearly bullshit information about the vaccines but, again, a small proportion.
When it comes to true anti-vaxxers, though, it’s not that they don’t understand the science. They do. Believe me, true anti-vaxxers know lots about immunology, because they’ve studied it: a recent Twitter message invited “any anti vaxxers out there” to “come for a lesson on immunology”. Don’t laugh. Real anti vaxxers know more about the immune system and how vaccines work than the average ‘pro-vaxxer’ in the same way that atheists tend to know more about the bible than most Christians!
It’s the same for most of the rest of the refuseniks. They know what the vaccine can do for them, so what then is their problem?
The answer is very simple:THE COVID-19 VACCINES WERE DEVELOPED TOO QUICKLY.
Now I know how that sounds and many of you will protest along the lines of ‘there have been major advancements in science and technology over the years, processes have become faster…’ and so on.
So let me swap my medical mask for a history teacher’s chalky fingers. . .
The earliest case of Acute Flaccid Poliomyelitis (polio) was recorded sometime in the early 1900s but it wasn’t until the 1950s that Salk and Sabin were able to develop safe and effective vaccines.
Take-up wasn’t immediate but the record shows it didn’t take long for a million parents to pack up their children and be clamouring at vaccination centres to enrol them for trials.
Why? Well, for more than fifty years parents had watched children wither away to a deadly virus; they had seen for themselves the devastation the virus was causing. The situation was so dire that even after being told that the live, attenuated form of the very virus that terrified them was going to be introduced into their children desperate parents still gave the go-ahead.
Where production of historic vaccines and those developed to prevent COVID-19 differ is this: the COVID-19 vaccines were developed so rapidly that the public’s fear of imagined consequences of the vaccines is not sufficiently outweighed by knowledge of the effects of the virus itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that the vaccines were developed so fast – in my book it’s a Nobel Prize-winning achievement. I’m arguing that there are still too many naive, unexposed minds.
To many, COVID is still abstract. So far untouched, still-healthy people read the news and see on TV that people are dying, but the COVID they see is the ‘flu symptoms for 5 days, fine again in no time’ kind of COVID.
In Brazil, 66% of the population is FULLY vaccinated, and no one need explain to you the reason why: so vile was the pandemic there that at one point they had to make coffins out of cardboard boxes. Families were forced to leave their dead in the streets. They were digging graves in advance.
I’ve been managing COVID cases in Ghana for about a year-and-a-half now and NOT ONE of my moderately-to-severely affected patients has been in two minds about receiving the vaccine doses. Some are even nagging me about booster shots. When you know real COVID, you KNOW COVID.
So the issue is not that people are anti-vaxxers – there will always be the un-persuadables. Neither is it that people don’t understand how vaccines work – they do.
The inertia comes because they can’t be bothered, because as far as they are concerned the fear of COVID is overblown or affects only the elderly or the chronically sick and vulnerable.
So next time you find yourself arguing with a vaccine refusenik, don’t be upset. They’ve been lucky not have been ‘exposed’ to its horrors either personally or through family
Solution? Don’t tell them about the wonders of the vaccine, tell them about the horrors of COVID.
Maybe THEN they’ll understand