Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.Adam Lindsay Gordon
I’ve had many messages and emails since my post about Sophie, a colleague who recently passed away from COVID. Missed it? You can catch up here.
I’ve also had my share of unfollows, blocks and unfriends, and that’s fine too. In fact, I asked for that.
Many people have shared their own experiences, their fears and concerns, and have asked my position on the COVID-19 vaccines in the light of my recent post. Many of you have told me how you feel that you can no longer mention COVID, or bring it up in discussions, because of how divisive this topic has become.
I agree that it is sad that we have lost the capacity for discussion and debate, and I lament the number of people who are speaking out without any actual scientific or clinical validation for what they are saying, and the spread of misinformation which could have been easily researched as to the integrity and quality of the source of that information. I lament that the subject of COVID has become political and divisive.
I speak regularly with colleagues from my corporate past, and with current clients and my own friends who are on the front lines in medical and research areas, and in public policy. They all acknowledge that mistakes will be made, that this is a time of learning as they go, and they are all stressed and burdened with these huge responsibilities to do their best to do no harm and minimise harm while managing a great threat, and a threat that is constantly evolving and changing. None of them is operating without the knowledge of the risks involved, and of the potential for future unforeseen outcomes, although they are working hard to try and predict and avoid these. There is a huge sharing of information within the medical, scientific and emergency services communities – so much more than the general public may be aware of. I take heart in that.
I know that many of you are working hard to manage the health of yourself and your family – children and elders. It’s a big job to keep yourself or others safe when there are existing health issues. I belong to the community of those with chronic complex illness and I’m immuno-compromised, so I understand the position that some of you are in. I know that you are worried about COVID and what that might mean for yourself or a loved one if you were to become infected, I know that some of you are worried about the current COVID vaccines, and the implications for your health, or the health of a loved one.
I am not pro or anti-vax, but I believe in the science of vaccines. My doctors have often advised me against vaccinations when my health has been very poor. I have also happily rolled up my sleeve and had vaccinations when I have been stronger and have needed to travel, or to protect my health in some way. Just last month I got my first ever flu jab at my doctor’s recommendation. I have previously nearly died from the flu, and also from whooping cough. Although I was immunised against whooping cough I lived in an area of Northern New South Wales where vaccination rates were very low, and a strain of the Bordetella pertussis bacterium evolved there which was less able to be controlled by the vaccine. As a result of my infection I was in hospital for weeks, and needed nearly a year to recover. I intend to get the Pfizer COVID vaccine when it becomes available for me. I’ve discussed this at length with my medical specialists, and they believe this is an important step in my ongoing wellbeing. They have advised me (and I know in my heart) that if I contracted COVID I would not have a good outcome.
I don’t believe that vaccinations alone will miraculously turn back the clock and allow us to resume our pre-COVID lives. The world has changed. We must adapt. Wishing and hoping for it to be different is pointless. This virus is here, it is real, it has severe implications for many, and it is changing and evolving, leaving us struggling to keep up.
I do not see that vaccination is the only way out of our current situation. Scientists and medical experts don’t either. But these vaccines were made possible because of the global cooperation of the scientific and academic communities, and were built off the research of so many projects that had gone before. They are built on science. They are our best attempt to adapting to the current circumstances. Already vaccines been proven to limit the severity of the virus, and to some extent, the spread of the virus. If enough people are safely vaccinated, this also helps protect the people within the community who are unable to be vaccinated.
Everything has risks. To be unvaccinated in the time of a pandemic is a risk. To take any vaccination is a risk. While we have not yet seen the full effects and long term effects of these vaccinations, and the numbers show that with ANY vaccine there will be vaccine injuries, it is also shown that most who are unvaccinated suffer worse effects of the virus and have a greater morbidity than those who have been vaccinated. Statistically, the number of people who suffer vaccine injury is historically far lower than the number of people helped through vaccination. Of course, that will be no comfort to those people who lose their lives, suffer injury or have loved ones damaged or lost through vaccine injury. I myself have suffered protracted health issues after certain vaccinations in my twenties. I have friends who have lost loved ones or had children forever changed by vaccines. I understand both the risks and the consequences.
I’ve had many people tell me that this virus only affects the elderly, and those with co-morbidities. Research shows that more recent strains of the virus are affecting younger and healthy people too, although older people remain a high risk group. Where is the value of and care for our older citizens? Don’t they have as much right to life as younger people? And let me come back to co-morbidities. That people are at greater risk if they have co-morbidities is often said to me with such judgement, as if people with co-morbidities have these conditions because of lifestyle choices, and so this situation is entirely their fault. Asthma, paralysis, cancer, diabetes, loss of an organ, organ transplant, blood conditions, anemia, pregnancy, peptic ulcers, skin conditions, fibromyalgia, depression, hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, colitis, substance abuse and addiction, obesity, kidney issues, existing infections, liver impairment, neurological issues, eating disorders, mental illness, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, heart disease, COPD, post-cancer conditions, and hypertension are just some possible co-morbitities. All of us know someone affected by at least one of these conditions.
We must make our best decisions based on our own knowledge of our health situation and on the advice of our medical team. That is our personal responsibility. As you may have read in my previous post, I wrote vaccinate if it is safe to do so. It’s not safe for a percentage of the population, and you may be one of those people. I have always been grateful to those who have been vaccinated and helped create herd immunity, which has helped to keep me and some of my dearest friends and family safe. In my previous post I also suggested all of the measures that have been proven to be effective in safeguarding yourself against COVID – mask wearing, washing hands and practicing good hygiene, following public health directives, and socially distancing. That’s not just important for you. It’s important for the community, for your friends, family and loved ones. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they are at greater risk – many people live with compromised immunity and ongoing health conditions that are not obvious or visible. We can all play our part to keep each other safe and well, and to limit the spread of the virus (as well as other pathogens, such as the flu).
The onus is on each of us to keep ourselves safe, to be informed, and do our part to help safeguard others.
Stay safe, be kind, and look after yourself and the people around you.
Much love, Nicole xx