By Pauline Kerr
We are tired of COVID-19 – not just the illness and fear that has accompanied it, and not just the measures aimed at preventing its spread. We are also tired of the way this ongoing health emergency has become politicized, and weaponized.
Many of us take issue with government handling of the pandemic, at federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the way our elected leaders ignored the situation despite what was happening in other countries, until people in this country started dying. It also includes the way long-term care residents went unprotected, and lockdowns seemed to target local shops while certain multinationals raked in huge profits.
There are those who take issue at measures intended to protect us – distancing, masks, and even vaccination.
After 18 months of having our lives disrupted by the pandemic, we are more than ready to set aside our masks, dispense with distancing and vaccine passports, and resume a normal life. However, as has been stated repeatedly, we may be done with the virus but it is not done with us.
The emergence of the delta variant has led to a fourth wave of the pandemic.
We have to remember that the enemy is a virus, not our government, not the local restaurant owner who denies entry to anyone not complying with current public health regulations, not the health officials who seek to protect us, and certainly not our neighbour who expresses different views from us on masks and vaccines.
The enemy is most certainly not the medical people who risk their own lives to work long hours in nightmarish conditions to help victims of COVID-19 – including the victims of the fourth wave, dubbed the pandemic of the unvaccinated.
Swarming in a mob around hospital entrances and screaming insults at anyone wearing scrubs will not stop the pandemic. It may end up earning great headlines for whatever political group is targeting our health-care heroes, while preventing someone from getting life-saving treatment, either because the entrance to the hospital is blocked, or because staff are afraid or unable to go to work.
Throwing stones at political candidates for implementing vaccine passports will generate more headlines but it, too, will not stop the virus. In fact, it may do exactly the opposite, by persuading those still sitting on the fence that this is a rights issue, not a health issue.
The virus is doing what viruses do – mutating, to make it more efficient at spreading. The delta variant is very effective at seeking out and infecting unvaccinated people. Numbers are climbing, and in some parts of Canada, hospital intensive care units are close to becoming overwhelmed.
We have the tools to stop that from happening – science-based tools, not off-the-wall cures promoted by some Facebook guru whose last brush with science was when he failed the subject in elementary school.
Drinking aquarium cleaner or taking horse dewormer is not effective. Vaccination is.
History has proved that desperation can make people try the off-the-wall cures if the science-based ones fail. In the case of COVID-19, the science is spot-on and the vaccine works – or at least it would, if we keep our eyes on the target.
The enemy is the virus. The vaccine helps the body fight it off. If 90 per cent of the population is vaccinated and if people continue to take precautions like distancing, hand-washing and masking, the virus will be unable to spread.
With every day that passes, we know more about this enemy – how it works, and how to combat it.
COVID-19 masks and vaccines are no more a rights issue than insulin for diabetics is a rights issue, or medication for high blood pressure is a rights issue. The only way rights enter the equation with diabetes, high blood pressure or any other medical condition or illness is when people do not have access to the treatment they need.
We might want to ask ourselves who stands to gain by making vaccination a political and rights issue. We already know who stands to lose.