Any time a significant national or international event occurs, for example elections, disaster, or riots, some people are glued to the news. As they wake up, it is immediately the radio news, picking up the newspaper outside the door, turning on the computer or television, and neglecting to shower, dress, or do any of the usual morning activities. This behaviour fulfills the need to be informed and prepared for any eventuality. I happen to be familiar with such a person, and there is nothing, or almost nothing I can do in order to distract him from this behaviour. If you look at it from the point of view of attachment theory, it fits the behaviour of a person who is vigilant and needs to be prepared for danger. However, this can be a very positive trait in a person who is a born scientist, and is constantly seeking information. The need to know leads to many activities, like watching with fascination the ants in the garden carrying seeds to their nests in order to find patterns of behaviour. At the dinner table he gets up to find a book that will have information about a particular event that was brought up in conversation, or the exact meaning of a word that I asked about. Since I am not a native English speaker, I do use some words out of context.
The other morning, I was looking for correct information about the COVID-19 vaccine. When it comes to understanding the latest scientific data, he is the person to go to. So, I approached him and wanted to use the expression “the naked truth” but instead I said: “please tell me what the Naked News is”. He had a puzzled smile on his face, and said: “OK. Come to the computer and I will show you.” I was literally floored. On came a television announcer wearing a skirt but nothing else, interviewing passersby on the street as if this was the most normal way to be. And when it shifted to the studio everyone was stark naked. Someone clever realized that men are likely those who are avid news consumer, and decided to give them some other form of news they may crave. The joke was on me.
Now for the serious stuff. This vaccine is a scientific breakthrough. It does not behave like the vaccines we are familiar with which consist of weakened live or dead virus. It is based on a protein of the Coronavirus spikes, and it activates the immune system which prevents the virus from getting into the cells. Therefore, it is perfectly safe to be vaccinated with, even for people who are not allowed to be vaccinated with a vaccine that has a weakened virus. I trust in his knowledge, yet I saw lately so many contradictory reports about the danger, and even the conspiracy behind this new vaccination. As far as the vaccine is concerned, it is true that there was not enough time to conduct long term tests to find out about possible side effects. This is an emergency situation and people are dying. I still remember the time of the Polio epidemic when mostly young people where afflicted. The iron lungs and the horror of parents not knowing how to protect their children created a panic all over the world. One of my classmates with whom I went to school from grade one died of polio when we were in grade 9. I also have friends and colleagues who survived, but are partially paralyzed. They had to go through years of physiotherapy and work hard on their ability to function and thrive in their life. Their scars are visible, and they are an inspiration to others of how to overcome and live with adversity.
The breakthrough for the Polio pandemic happened on a spring morning in 1955. It is told that a pair of press officers greeted a mob of reporters in a stately hall on the University of Michigan campus. The officers had hot news: A clinical trial of the long-awaited polio vaccine had proved it to be safe and effective. The reporters nearly rioted in their scramble to spread the word. Once they did, church bells rang, and people ran into the streets to cheer. It was Dr. Salk who succeeded in creating the vaccine that was then administered to the entire population. It was not all smooth sailing, and there were actually some people who were infected with polio by the vaccine, since it was a live vaccine. It is probably the memory of that experience which brought forth all the misinformation about the dangers of the new COVID-19 vaccine.
True, we do not fully know what the long-term results will be, and people have to decide individually about the risk they are willing to take. When I look at the global situation and my personal one, it is clear to me that I must be responsible and be vaccinated. I am doing it not only for my own safety, but for the safety of my life partner, my community and ultimately the world. Both my husband and I were vaccinated more than 2 weeks ago, and are due to receive our second dose next week. Even those who are immunized and will not be sick themselves, may still spread the disease. So, we will still wear a mask when we leave our home, and keep social distance in order to protect others. My hope is that enough people will decide to get vaccinated, so that we will be able to resume physical contact with our families and friends without fear of harming them or ourselves. If the reporter from the Naked News happens to meet me on the street wearing a mask and ask for my opinion, I will tell her that Naked News is exploiting both women and men, and is not even truly entertaining. The naked truth is that it makes no difference now if the conspiracy theories about the spread of the pandemic are actually valid, since we have a situation we need to deal with. The question is whether we deal with it ethically or not. We have the vaccine now, and no matter if you decide to use it or not, every one of us lives in a society that decides to use it according to their own ethical beliefs. I watched with horror the results of what happens in a culture that tramples democracy and is built on lies. A culture that “fights” the pandemic by vaccinating the hospital administration rather than the doctors in the Corona unit and the surgeons who are dedicated to saving others rather than themselves. I prefer to live in a society that acts first to protect the vulnerable and provides vaccination to front-line workers and the people over 60. You can claim that I am selfish in this claim, since I am waaaay over 60, but even if this decision was taken cynically in order to bolster the position of the leader, it is actually based on a solid ethical outlook of the culture I live in – a culture that still choses to follow ethical rules carved on stones. I, for one, am going to do all I can to actively raise my voice in order to live in a society that cherishes democracy and looks after the poor and weak in its midst before I go and smell the roses.