From time to time, an event happens that profoundly changes our lives forever. The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubted one such event. After more than a year of curfews, restrictions on public gatherings, mask wearing, hand sanitizing and other measures; the debate is now raging about whether or not to get vaccinated.
Recently I hopped into a taxi, whereupon the driver matter-of-factly asked if I was vaccinated. I had barely closed the door and now had to quickly decide if I wanted to submit to the impromptu interrogation or completely ignore him. I loathe being drawn into such public spats.
After a few seconds of thought, I acquiesced, replying in the affirmative and braced myself for what was to come. He immediately followed up with a challenge for me to convince him why he should go and roll up his sleeve for the jab.
I took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves and asked how much time he had. Just kidding!
I started off by saying that you have the weigh the benefits of taking the vaccine against the risks of not taking it. This is a personal choice and these factors would differ from person to person.
As someone who spent more that three decades in aviation, it was common to have an understanding of risks, participate in risk assessments and implement some form of mitigation to reduce them.
Armed with that experience, I illustrated what happens in the cockpit of an aircraft when operating a commercial flight. There are at least two pilots on duty when one can adequately do the job.
The second pilot is like an insurance policy if there is a catastrophic failure thereby providing critical support to the task at hand. While one pilot flies the plane, the second can try to solve the problem, or just manage it until the aircraft safely lands.
The tasks required to fly a plane, navigate, and communicate with air traffic control would severely overwhelm one pilot in an emergency where more tasks would be required.
Similarly, while a vaccinated person may contract the COVID-19 virus (the emergency), he would be in a better position to ward off the severe symptoms and survive unscathed because he took the jab (second pilot).
I assured the driver who I will refer to as Bob, that nothing is guaranteed, but your chances of survival after being inoculated is greater.
As a taxi driver, Bob would encounter at least a dozen strangers who hop into his car every day. To compound matters, since Guyana is a cash society, he would have to be touching money that literally went around the country.
Bob did not only have to consider the risk to himself, but to his family when he returns home at the end of the day.
I told Bob that I was self-employed, worked from home and did not interact with as much people as he did, but I took the jab because I need to get out of the house and back in the air. 2020 is the first year in my adult life that I did not get on an aircraft, and just the thought of it was enough to roll up my sleeve. A mere two weeks after receiving my first dose of the vaccine, I flew 2500 miles to my favourite city and instantly felt the euphoria when I touched down.
My motivation is likely different from everyone else, but one must consider what you stand to gain versus what you have to give up. Except if you have some underlying medical condition, the decision to get vaccinated should be arrived at pretty easily if you gather the facts.
After arriving at my destination, Bob thanked me for enlightening him and told me that he was heading straight to one of the COVID-19 vaccination sites.
Apparently, my challenge to convince him was successful, or he planned to take the vaccine all along but was hoping that I talk him out of it. If the latter was the plan, it certainly backfired.
Subsequently while I was in the barbershop, another debate was raging about the amount of money that "Big Pharma" was making on the COVID-19 vaccine. I stayed far away from this argument, silently hoping that someone would add balance to the conversation by talking about the billions of dollars and time spent on research to get them to this point.
This was a stark reminder that people never see the long struggle that must be endured before a breakthrough is made.
It is true that the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in a matter of months, but it is also true that its development builds upon several bodies of work that were previously done over decades behind closed doors.
Irrespective of which side of the debate you stand, it will serve you well to gather all the facts. If you are opposed to the vaccine, hermetically seal off yourself or seek other forms of mitigation that will protect you, and most importantly, your community.
In the meantime, wear your masks, wash your hands, and avoid crowds. For added measure, roll up your sleeves and read the rest of my blog posts. :)