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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

‘Stop comparing covid-19 to the flu. It’s much worse than that.’ So goes the retort from those who view the coronavirus pandemic as a significant threat to much of humanity, responding to those who say it has been over-hyped and disingenuously documented as the chief cause of death in many cases.

People wait for their covid-19 vaccine at a temporary centre in the north of Bogotá, Colombia.

To have a covid-19 shot or not, this is the question.

The truth is out there
Depending on which side one lies — that’s one’s position in this context, not, um, “untruths” — “evidence” and “experts” can be sourced to “prove” one’s argument.

Basically, if one believes that covid is very serious indeed, then opposing views are dismissed as mere conspiracy theories. It doesn’t matter if the experts quoted by those ‘crazy conspiracists’ had previously been respected professionals. That they are now against the mainstream — or at least those dictating policy — means they’re pursuing a particular agenda or they’re simply wrong.

Conversely, should one think that this pandemic has been blown out of all proportion, then those on the other side are seen as naïve, completely consumed by the irrational fear and panic being promulgated.

The natural position for a journalist or analyst should be scepticism. Just because something comes with the official seal of a government or international body (read the World Health Organisation here), it doesn’t automatically mean that it is unquestionable. Prepare yourselves for this, but such authorities don’t always get things right or tell the truth, whether that’s done innocently, ignorantly, insidiously or otherwise.

Alas, as much as one might like to follow the X-Files mantra of ‘trust no one’, in today’s highly interconnected, interdependent world, we can’t independently check and verify everything every time.

On a very minor level, I trust the staff at the panaderías I frequent to prepare my perico (coffee with milk) and bake los panes de chicharróna hygienically. When travelling on an aeroplane — remember those days? — we place confidence in the engineers et al. who built the craft and the pilots flying it to get us to our destination safely.

‘It’s understandable and should be acceptable that some people don’t want a covid vaccine. Yet what we’re seeing is a global plan to ensure such folk are discriminated against. .’

With that in mind, during this pandemic where we have a number of competing narratives doing the rounds and a lack of consensus in the scientific community, about the best one can do is observe one’s immediate environment and act accordingly.

Personally, I was in close contact with two people who a day or two later got quite sick from covid-19, one older than me, one younger. They weren’t hospitalised but it did hit them badly enough. That’s two people I know — there’s a good chance I’ve been in contact with others who also came down with the infection of which I’m not aware.

Considering the supposedly highly infectious nature of covid, I’ve either been quite lucky and just haven’t taken in enough of a viral load or I have some sort of immunity already.

A vexed vaccine
This then makes me question why I should be forced to take a vaccine against something that, it seems, doesn’t affect me that much.

OK, you might say there’s no compulsion to take the vaccine. In theory, yes. But one looks set to be at a distinct disadvantage in many walks of life without having proof of covid inoculation, international travel being the obvious one. Effectively, without being vaccinated I am currently banned from visiting my family in Ireland.

To this end, it irked me enormously to hear the UK Conservative MP, former Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, whilst calling for restrictions to be eased, argue that those who don’t get the vaccine shouldn’t expect the same access to travel and other public events as those with the jab.

Speaking on Spectator TV, he said, ‘People who don’t get their immunisation can’t expect, for example, to have the same international travel as people who do get it. That’s always been the case. If, for example, you decide you didn’t want to get a yellow fever jab you couldn’t go to certain countries in Africa. So the principle is no different than before.’

However, Dr Fox, it actually is rather different. Or at least should be viewed differently if people were thinking straight.

Unlike yellow fever, we know that covid-19 is quite a discriminatory infection. Many of us have little to fear from it and some of us, as mentioned above, may already have naturally acquired immunity. Also, yellow fever’s death rate is substantially higher than that of covid-19.

Thus, it’s understandable and should be acceptable that some people don’t want a covid vaccine. Yet what we’re seeing is a global plan to ensure such folk are discriminated against.

Throughout the pandemic we have seen how rather than unite to tackle a common problem, humanity has been deeply divided, be it in relation to lockdowns, mask-wearing or, now, the vaccine.

With such entrenched positions, the covid wars are set to last for some time to come.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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