Ignore the anti-vax brigade and focus on the vax hesitant

Ideas

Ignore the anti-vax brigade and focus on the vax hesitant

Not enough is being done to accelerate vaccinations, the spin-off from which will bring some of the unvaxxed on board

Columnist

“There is no virus,” read one of the placards at a recent anti-vax protest held, of all places, near Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital, as doctors and nurses inside this famous health facility battled to save lives ravaged by coronavirus infections. More than 79,421 dead, but there is no virus. “I am not a lab rat,” read another. Trust me, the fact that the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week fully approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine will do nothing to change made-up minds.

“We support Susan” troubled me. I know Dr Susan Vosloo well. She is one of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) most distinguished graduates (first woman heart surgeon), who served on the university council during my tenure as vice-chancellor. I spent time with her in Cape Town medical suites and saw photographs of her heart-transplant patients on the walls, including one of a childhood friend who recently died of, you guessed it, Covid-19. Smart, charming and unassuming, I was devastated to hear the famous doctor make the nonsense claim that “the risk of the vaccine is worse than [the] risk of the virus”. That virtually every medical scientist disagrees with this statement does not matter to the “anti-vax” crowd; here is a doctor to back them up.

What really gets my goat is the billboard in Maitland, visible from a major Cape Town expressway (the M5): “In God we trust. No vaccines for us.” Apparently the rest of us trust in Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist who has funded vaccine development and supported health research and development across the world. I can’t understand how fundamentalist Christians come to believe God and science work in opposite directions. Church leaders have a lot to account for in misleading their sheep. Right now, there are Covid-19-denying pastors on ventilators and some of them have succumbed to this terrible disease. Another anti-vax placard from a US protest reads: “The blood of Christ is my vaccine.” This prompted a Twitter hack representing God (old white man with beard, his profile pic) to respond with this gem: “Then you can look forward to meeting him very soon.” Blasphemous, some would say...

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