There is a vast amount of information and misinformation out there about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccines. Fact and fiction are both packaged in many ways, creating doubt and anxiety in an already tense world and making a reasonably straightforward decision unnecessarily complicated.
Assuming that governments are able to obtain and distribute the best possible vaccines to a large share of people in every country, vaccination then becomes a personal choice for each of us and our families. Let's look at it in those terms, then. What do we stand to gain or lose personally?
When we opt to be vaccinated, several doors start to reopen. But when we opt not to be vaccinated, those doors-to schooling, work, and community-may remain closed, or begin to close, if they are open. Whether or not to take the shots is therefore not just about health. It's about those we care about, including our family, community, and country. The more of us choose to take the vaccine when it is available, the harder it becomes for the virus to spread from person to person, and the greater the common benefit to everyone.
Going back to work, and supporting your family and economy
First and foremost, taking the vaccine means a safer return to work, or in some cases, a return to work at all. As people emerge from home, still maintaining distancing and wearing masks, but venturing out more boldly, businesses that serve them come to life again, and the economy restarts.
For those of us who must be physically present at work or for informal workers whose source of income has dwindled, vaccines are a lifeline. In many countries where people have weak access to health services and sophisticated treatment, falling sick with COVID-19 is particularly devastating. Families suffer greatly when breadwinners cannot work, and must go through prolonged recoveries, or even die.
In Mozambique, the pandemic has economically affected the poor living in urban and peri-urban areas the most due to unavoidable containment measures. Urban poverty increased sharply in 2020 with an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people slipping into poverty on account of employment and income losses, price increases, and a deterioration of public services.
Making up for lost time: improving your children's future
The intangible losses for children and young people in the past year have been tremendous. Learning has slowed or ground to a halt for many, and others have dropped out of school entirely. Uncertainties continue for education systems in virtually every country, and student learning-already weak across the board-is plummeting further in Africa and elsewhere, with profound implications for children and youth when they are ready to seek employment.
In Madagascar, more than 7 million learners have been affected by the pandemic, together with 244,000 teachers, as schools were closed between March and October of 2020. The setback is significant in a country where the primary school completion rate has fallen over the past decade.
COVID-19 has also meant a heightened sense of isolation and much less active support for older people who are cut off from their families and in many cases haven't seen children and/or grandchildren for many months. Vaccination of the older generation will keep them safe and it will reopen the door to safe family interactions. Nobody wants to go through another festival or birthday alone.
Getting health care when needed
We need to be concerned not only about contracting COVID-19, but also about accessing general health services should we need them. Presently, most are over capacity due to COVID-19 patients. This means also that children's immunizations, care for expectant mothers, newborns, and the distribution of vital drugs and care are likely on hold, with potentially devastating consequences.
In most countries, COVID-19 cases surged in January, and while the situation is easing, we now have a better picture of what will happen if the population is not adequately protected. Notwithstanding that there is also not much information on the demand for the vaccines and or whether people would take them when available. Adult vaccination is an unfamiliar concept in many countries.
The bottom line
When it comes down to getting the shot, I am personally looking forward to the opportunity. I am, however, cognizant that for many, the prospect maybe scary. We should not brush these fears away, rather we should help everyone understand that its normal to be fearful of something new. Ultimately however, the cost of not getting the jab-as I have tried to illustrate- is way too high.
The bottom line is, there is a massive need today for unity around a global public good - to pull together to restore safety and normalcy in our world. So, let's keep doing everything we can: wear effective masks, wash hands, stay at a safe distance from others, make the time to understand the vaccine, register for an appointment, and, when possible, get vaccinated.