Vaccine hesitancy: Why it’s time to create no-vaxx, no-go areas

The 18-34 cohort turned out in their droves this week, putting their elders to shame. The government was forced to fast-track their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine programme due to the growing vaccine hesitancy in the country.

It must be galling, after being accused of all manner of misconduct; from incompetence to outright criminality, to actually end up securing enough vaccines – from numerous sources, not just ‘big pharma’ – only for many of those same critics to now shy at the prospect of a little prick. The most galling perhaps is that they’re convinced know better.

One of the enduring paradoxes of our age is that we have never had more access to information than we have now, yet we have never been more misinformed. It’s probably because we can choose what we want to believe, lock ourselves into virtual echo chambers on social media, hearing only the views of fellow travellers and muting anyone who dares dissent.

It’s the only logical way of explaining the spectacle of anti-vaxx protesters outside a Cape Town hospital harassing a doctor exhausted from dealing with dying COVID-19 patients, demanding he show them proof the virus exists.

Social media has offered us much, it’s brought down despotic regimes, but it’s also enabled the rise of others. The greatest crisis that it has fomented, over and above unlocking the appalling narcissism of the banal and under-achievers, has been the ease of access it allows.

It is the curse of the millennial writ large: the practice of giving everyone participation medals rather than the top three who finish the race, means in the world of social media that everyone’s opinion is broadcast – and therefore legitimated. The musings or ‘truth’ of a sheep dip swilling flat-earther is suddenly equal to the qualifications of a scientist who has spent decades in a laboratory.

The fact that a vaccine, or several, can be devised within a year, then verified and put into production, affronts them – yet those same people will queue overnight for the latest iPhone, also designed and developed within a year. It is a cognitive step too far for them to believe that the scientists working on cures for cancer, HIV/ Aids and others might be able to pivot their research toward a global solution for a coronavirus with exponential speed and success.

It’s difficult to travel into the continent without being vaccinated against Typhoid, Yellow Fever and Cholera. You certainly can’t climb Kilimanjaro without them. The anti-vaxxers don’t quibble about that. They won’t deny that public vaccinations eradicated small pox and polio, but they will deny this jab.

That’s their right. We should respect that while ensuring they respect our right to life. It’s time to create no vaxx no-go areas. No jab no job; no pub, no shopping mall, no stadium, no restaurant – and that’s at home, forget about travelling between provinces.

And for the tinfoil hat wearers terrified that the government is implanting a chip in them, let’s get real; if Home Affairs is running the programme, the system will be down on Monday. 

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 28 August 2021.