Vaccines are dividing us – and not a moment too soon

One of the more positive spinoffs of the uncivil war between the vaccinated and the anti-vaxxers is that we as a species are being divided. If ever wedges needed to be driven, it’s between friends and families. For too long we have felt beholden to get along. We have been indoctrinated into believing that even toxic blood ties are sacred and that having moronic friends is better than no friends at all.

These fallacies are now coming apart. We are witnessing a battle between modern science and benighted beliefs, spurred on by increasingly fractious levels of intolerance and arrogance reflected in equal measure by those with feet in either camp. And it’s only just getting started.

Even though we might be united in our aversion to, say, racists or vegans, we have begun hurling the identical epithets and arguments deployed by both sides. “You’re a sheep! Don’t be so blind! Do the research!” The sheep slur is, admittedly, tossed out mostly by the anti-vaxxers, even though many of them swear by Ivermectin, a drug literally used on farmyard animals.

People who have been friends forever are ignoring calls and looking at one another through narrowed eyes. “I never thought you’d be one of Them,” they say. Heads are shaken and invitations declined on the grounds that masks will/won’t be worn. And if you are mad enough to go out with your mates, you tell yourself before you leave home that you’re not going to get riled up. You’re not going to mention Covid. You’re going to talk about other things. You’re going to remain calm. The booze and chatter flow easily for the first hour. Then someone, and there is always one, says, “So who’s been vaccinated?” You quickly try to turn the conversation to Afghanistan, but it’s too late. Not even the prospect of some good old Islamophobia or America-bashing can avert disaster. The fall of Kabul is a picnic compared to the rest of your evening.

Loyalties are roughly shouldered aside in the stampede for the moral and intellectual high ground and the risk of violence escalates quickly. If you’re having people over, best to collect the knives and hide the heavy objects.

My own sister was among the hesitants. Even though she’d already got Covid and passed it on to our octogenarian father, she still wasn’t sold on the idea of getting vaccinated. People have died from it, she said. I countered this by comparing her paltry figure with the massive number of unvaccinated who have died. However, information like this is easily dismissed with the erudite response, “Kak, man.”

I eventually talked her into getting jabbed and convinced her to drag the old man along, which was pretty damn noble of me considering that I was doing myself out of a possible early inheritance.

The disconnect between believers and sceptics is nothing new, as evidenced by these early conversations:

Copernicus: Hey guys, did you know the earth is spinning?

Dobry: That’s the wine, you fool.

Copernicus: And we revolve around the sun.

Janek: Liar! We can see the sun moving across the sky.

Lukasz: Put his eyes out!

***

Alexander Fleming: Fellas, I’ve discovered something that can cure your syphilis.

Angus: Let me guess. You found it in one of them mouldy old dishes in your flat?

Alexander: Actually, yes. I call it penicillin.

Hamish: No, thanks. I’m not a guinea pig.

Finley: I’ll stick with leeches. It’s my choice.

***

Benjamin Franklin: Dudes, I discovered last night that lightning is an electrical discharge.

Roger: Electricity is the devil’s work.

Peter: Nothing wrong with candles.

Donald: My father says lightning is God’s way of showing he’s angry with us.

***

Alexander Graham Bell: Chaps, I’ve come up with a way of talking to folk in other towns.

Charles: That’s impossible. Are you high?

Alexander: No, seriously. It’s called a teleph…

Humbert: Pfft. Nothing wrong with sending letters.

Andrew: Who do you really work for? Stone him!

***

Roberta from Salem: It’s true, your honour, I’ve not been feeling myself lately.

Prosecutor: You are possessed by Satan!

Roberta: Er, no. I think I might be epileptic.

Prosecutor: Talking in tongues!

Judge: Burn her!

***

Herophilus of Chalcedon: I must dissect a human cadaver to learn more about…

Antivaximus: Not allowed, mate. You can cut up a rat, though.

Herophilus: But there are things in the human body that we…

Scepticemia: Heretic! There’s nothing to see in there.

Appolonius: Cut his tongue out!

Convincing anti-vaxxers to get shot

A small herd of well-heeled anti-vaxxers and middle-aged men who took too much acid when they were young flounced down the Sea Point promenade on Saturday, mewling and whining and waving their silly little placards as if a terrible injustice had been done to them.

They should have been herded into vans, taken to the Waterfront, pushed onto a boat and deposited on Robben Island. Apart from it once having been a leper colony – and what are anti-vaxxers and pandemic deniers if not social lepers – the island was also reserved for those deemed insane. Angrily refusing a potentially life-saving vaccine in the midst of a deadly pandemic has to be a sign of insanity. Even Donald Trump, who is madder than a bag of hammers, is recommending that people get vaccinated.

It’s time to stop treating the anti-vaxxers with empathy. They’re not victims. Our task is not to talk them off the ledge. They wouldn’t listen anyway. In this war of humans versus pathogens, they have chosen to side with the pathogens. C’mon, Cyril. Get mandatory on their selfish asses. You can’t give South Africans a choice. They’ll either do nothing or the wrong thing.

I’m not the only world leader who is running out of patience. 

If you’re in France and want to go to a restaurant or bar or take a domestic flight, you have to show your health pass. The new law was passed on Monday. To get the pass, you must prove you’re fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. Health workers must be vaccinated by September 15 or face suspension.

President Macron says the measures are needed to protect vulnerable people and avoid new lockdowns. Our lemmings are virulently opposed to both lockdowns and vaccines, seemingly unable to make the connection between the two. That’s some high-octane cognitive dissonance right there. As for protecting the vulnerable, these people don’t care about the immunocompromised. Probably because it has the word compromise in it.

France also has its anti-vaxxers. Thousands of them took to the streets on Saturday shouting “Liberty!” and saying the government shouldn’t tell them what to do. Oddly enough, I have a daughter called Liberty and she also says I shouldn’t tell her what to do.

France doesn’t pussyfoot around. This is, after all, a country that punished insurrectionists and nobility alike by chopping off their heads in public. In fact, this was their official method of execution until the death penalty was abolished in 1981. The guillotine is too good for our anti-vaxxers. They should be rounded up, locked inside shipping containers and forced to listen to Steve Hofmeyr singing Pampoen interspersed with a Bheki Cele press conference on a loop until they go mad or agree to get jabbed.

And while there were protests in Paris, this also happened – 1.7 million people rushed to sign up for a shot within 24 hours of the new law being passed. Sometimes the hesitant just need a little nudge.

Greece and Italy have also had it with the anti-vaxxers. So has Germany. While concentration camps aren’t yet on the cards, Helge Braun (no relation to Eva), chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, said: “Vaccinated people will definitely have more freedom than unvaccinated people.”

Right now we’re in a situation where the vaccinated have to wear masks to protect the anti-vaxxers. It’s a violation of the laws of nature. It’s like expecting lions to look after springboks who are too stupid to flee in the face of danger. I’d be happy for natural selection to perform its magic on those who have been duped by misinformation and conspiracy theories, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that in this case. The more people refuse to get vaccinated, the more we’re going to keep getting locked down and deprived of our right to buy alcohol, surely one of the most important human rights enshrined in the Constitution.

The more reasonable among them say they’re worried about possible side effects. I don’t know, man. Life itself has some horrendous side effects. Paracetamol, which you take for a hangover, lists hypoxia, anaphylaxis and liver failure as potential side effects. Those birth control pills you encourage your girlfriend to take? Care for a side order of cancer, blood clots and heart attacks with that, darling?

Sure, it’s not a perfect vaccine, like those for polio, hepatitis, measles, chickenpox, rubella, smallpox and so on. The Covid muti is what’s known as a leaky vaccine. This means there’s still a small chance of you contracting the virus (probably from an anti-vaxxer), but it will be a much weaker version. It’s the equivalent of getting thrown out of the ANC. You (and the virus) have no real power to do any serious damage.

And yes, I’ve been vaccinated. I have never turned down free drugs and I’m not about to start now.

I saw this banner on CNN: “Getting shot still best protection against coronavirus.” They might want to be more specific for their viewers who are hard of thinking. The last thing we need are hordes of anti-vaxxers being admitted to hospital with bullet wounds.

Speaking as someone who only passed matric because teachers couldn’t bear the thought of having me for another year, I tend to trust people who have devoted their lives to studying things like virology, epidemiology and infectious diseases. When they say these vaccines can save your life, I am inclined to believe them.

Of course, I may be wrong. If the vaccines do end up killing us all, please accept my apologies.

Let the vax speak for themselves

The global scramble for Covid vaccines is becoming a little undignified. Show some class, people. Let’s try to keep this fight clean.

Right now, vaccines are all anyone seems to care about. Well, that and whether the festering human groundhog in the White House will try to blow something up before being dragged kicking and screaming from the Oval Office.

There are at least 40 governments that have started vaccinating their citizens. South Africa is not among them, for reasons which make perfect sense and no sense at all. This is how it should be. One of the good things about being South African is that we are so accustomed to being lied to and screwed over that we can no longer tell what is in our best interests. I don’t know why this is a good thing. It’s just a feeling I have. I’m sure it will pass.

Costa Rica, to which I might have inadvertently emigrated, gave the first shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks ago to a 91-year-old nursing home resident. Afterwards she said she was very grateful to God, which is a bit of a kick in the teeth for those who worked around the clock to develop the vaccine in the first place.

If I developed a vaccine, I’d want full credit and wouldn’t share it with a supernatural being who almost certainly doesn’t exist, but if he/she does, I have questions for him/her and I shan’t settle for any of this “works in mysterious ways” malarkey.

Come to think of it, I have developed a vaccine. It’s taken orally around 5pm every day and I need around two litres to start feeling better. Unfortunately, this particular vaccine is currently banned in South Africa. I am fortunate to be able to continue medicating in Costa Rica, a second world country blessed with no aspirations to join the increasingly unpleasant first world.

Even a developing country like Belgium has given someone their first dose. It went to a 96-year-old man at a nursing home in a town where Pfizer’s production facility is located. “I feel 30 years younger,” he said afterwards. What? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I imagine they gave him a shot of something made of Viagra, vodka and Ecstasy. Now there’s a vaccine we could all get our teeth into.

A week ago I had the misfortune of booking myself into a casita in Playa Hermosa that had a TV with 45 channels of mad people shouting hysterically in Spanish. The only English language channel was CNN, a drug which I had been trying to wean myself off. Suffering from the side effects of a particularly extravagant dose of my special vaccine, I turned to it. The big story at the time was Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state threatening him with dire consequences if he didn’t come up with a way to reverse Joe Biden’s victory, which seems a bit out of keeping in a state that has “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation” as its motto – three things utterly lacking in Trump’s toxic universe.

Even though the beast has less than two weeks left in office, CNN’s anchors smelled blood in the water and they were thrashing about in a full-blown feeding frenzy, all teeth and vengeance. Hell, why not. This is a man who deserves to be stabbed with many metaphorical daggers before it’s all over. On his last day, he must be stripped naked and whipped all the way into St John’s Church in Lafayette Square and be forced to beg for absolution. He won’t get it, but it would be lovely to see him beg.

You see? This is what CNN does to a person. One minute you’re having a rational conversation about vaccines, and the next you’ve got a flaming torch in one hand and a pitchfork in the other and you’re demanding violent retribution against a 74-year-old man who has clearly lost his mind. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

If you watch enough news, you come to realise just how little everyone knows about viruses and vaccines. Watch their eyes, these fakers and fabulists, blusterers and buskers. When I was a kid, I naturally assumed grown-ups had a firm grip on things. Now that I am one, I can see how mistaken I was.

From what I can gather, as I sit here in this rustic bar on a palm-fringed beach, the government has dropped the ball early in the second half of the game. Countries like Belarus and Romania, where people wear animal skins and speak languages that nobody, not even themselves, can understand, are in possession of vaccines.

The European Commission was quick off the mark when it came to negotiating for vaccines for EU citizens. The African Union, on the other hand, is still negotiating with Thabo Mbeki to return a djembe drum he “borrowed” while on a state visit to Ghana.

Thing is, we can’t have nice things. Give us the vaccine and we’ll dilute it with Oros and sell it to our neighbours for double the price. Our skills in the banditry business mutate faster than Covid ever could and the only reason there’s a delay is because the government is haggling for a bonsella. Or asleep at the wheel.

British scientists say they are concerned the vaccine might not work on the new strain in South Africa. Oh, so now you care about us? You’re 200 years late, mate. Besides, we’re used to things not working. We expect stuff to break or to be taken away from us. Over-promising and under-delivering is part of the fabric of who we are. We don’t want to live in a world where everything makes sense and the trains run on time. If we did, we’d move to Switzerland. Not that they’d have us.

And just because some vaccines need to be stored at -70°C doesn’t mean we can’t have them. We can strap them to Helen Zille, the coldest object in the country. Although we’d probably have to join the DA to get a shot. Might not be worth it.

Meanwhile, I think we need to start encouraging rather than criticising the anti-vaxxers. Let them have their stand. By all means, bro, don’t take a vaccine. It means more for the rest of us and, at the same time, all the mucky bits in the gene pool will eventually get flushed out.