Terry from Derry: A Better Chance at Survival
By Terry Boyle
It has been, without a doubt, a very strange year. We have all had to adjust to a reality that most of us have never had to face before. There is not a day that goes by without being reminded of how precarious life has become.
I think it is fair to say that we are all zoomed out, and binge watching is no longer one of our favourite past times. For a year now, we have been wishing and praying for a miracle. And, it would be fair to say, that since the arrival of vaccines, we have all been hoping that we finally have turned a corner. Our hope is not unfounded, since the rate of infections have been dramatically reduced in areas abiding by the restrictions and who have access to vaccines.
During this time, we need to consider those people who are not fairly represented in the vaccine roll out. People of colour, minority groups and those who are economically disadvantaged find themselves last in the race to get a vaccine. This inequity is a fact of life in most countries and should be addressed.
Over the past weeks, Larry and myself have worked at a local vaccine site, and it is interesting to note that the people we are serving are, for the most part, white, educated, and certainly not under privileged. Of course, this is reflective of where we live. However, there are other parts of the country where there is more diversity and where there is less favourable representation at vaccination sites.
Some of this disproportion is due to the antivaxxers myth pedaling. With no scientific reasoning or knowledge, these people embrace conspiracy instead of truth. The scare tactics of such propaganda has dangerous results for all of us.
Not only do they put themselves at risk, but they also put us at risk too. While the vaccines offer us up to 95% protection, we are not totally protected. It is important to confront their disinformation about the vaccines with scientific proof. We are presently at a very important juncture and the road back to any kind of normality requires trusting the right sources for information and not hearsay.
If I am in agony with pain, then it would not benefit me to take the advice of the local politician or witchdoctor. We see a doctor when we are sick. Why? Because we believe they are trained in the science of healing the body.
When we allow the scaremongers a platform to air their superstitious beliefs, we put the people who are most at risk in peril. We need to target those communities who are afraid to come forward to get the vaccine because of fear, and concentrate our efforts at educating those groups on the facts.
When we first started to help with the vaccination roll out, the reaction of most people was relief. At last, they had an opportunity to claw back some of what they had lost. People lined up, eager to receive the hope science offered. It was heartening to be able to help those already compromised in their health, some suffering from dementia, and others simply desperate to protect what time they had left to them. As the weeks have gone by, it is interesting to note some differences.
While there have been some cases of reactions to the drugs, the majority of people vaccinated have had little or no reaction. But, as we know, it is not the good news that the media love, but the sensational. An adverse reaction, a possible death among millions who been vaccinated becomes a headliner.
The media outlet quickly forgets that over half a million people and counting have died from Covid-19 in the U.S alone. Media sources were happy enough to keep our minds on the death clock during the worst of the pandemic, but they seem less happy to report the reduction in infections and deaths. However, on the positive side, such reports have also made it easier for people to ask questions-questions-not statements, such as ‘vaccines kill people.’
The consent form, which at the beginning was readily signed without a thought, has become an opportunity for people to share their concerns about the vaccine, which is a good thing. We provide them with a fact sheet that they can peruse before going for their shot. Hesitancy in making such a decision is a good thing.
What is not good is when people become choosy about which vaccine they should get. The efficacy of any drug has already been rigorously tested. There is no drug that guarantees 100% protection. Some offer more protection than others, but in reality, they all reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill.
When it comes to providing information on vaccines, it is this fact that makes all the difference. You have a better chance of survival with a vaccine than without it.
Viruses will continue to plague us. A virus is a life form, like ourselves, that fights to survive. Its ability to mutate means that our scientists must try to keep ahead of the increasing number of variants. We can be proud that, given the scope of this pandemic, our scientists have done an incredible job in providing us with a way to fight back against this viral predator.
This time last year, we watched as many countries were in process of lockdown, there were curfews, and mass chaos. Most of us were afraid of touching any hard surface. We washed everything we touched. We were afraid to come into contact with those closest to us, and generally cut ourselves off from one another.
A lot has changed in this past year, and much will continue to change, even as we get to the end of this crisis. Covid-19 has become part of who we are, and we will have to continue to be on our guard against further mutations.
Vaccination before we travel to other countries may become compulsory. We may need a booster shot to provide further protection. Masks may still be necessary in some situations. We face an uncertain future and how we proceed is still unknown, but we should count ourselves lucky to have come this far.
*Terry is a retired professor at Loyola University, Chicago. He writes and reviews plays, while also teaching modern Irish and English drama. Moving from Derry, N. Ireland to Chicago in 2004, he continues to enjoy is work with the Irish American community throughout America. He can be reached: tb*****@lu*.edu