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Vaccination is about “us all” not just about “me”

15.11.2021

How to think of “us all” and not just of “me” - that is the question.


On stepping up to take the Covid vaccine, for a start. 


Being vaccinated does help me, as an individual. We can, each vaccinated individual say, I am, for some five months after the last dose, better protected. But that is not the question. The real question about vaccination is that, when we all get vaccinated, we are all protected.


The corollary is that when I am NOT vaccinated, I am in more danger myself, 5 times more danger, of being very ill from Covid. But this is not just a private issue. When I fall ill, or very ill, I am putting hospital staff in danger, and contributing towards the risk of overwhelming the entire health care service, which affects “us all” – the entire health care system that deals with accidents, emergencies, child-births, ongoing care for non-transmissible diseases, children who fall ill with ordinary gut or chest infections that are life-threatening if not taken care of, as well as appendix, tonsils, D&C operations and lancing of abscesses, and so on. All this will be threatened by me because I am some 5 times more at risk of blocking up the health care facilities than someone else my age and sex who is vaccinated. If all eligible people were vaccinated, the health care system would probably be able to cope with Covid. So, if I get sick because I am not vaccinated, my negligence (or ignorance, or fu-pa-mal-ism) threatens you and the whole of society. 


But it is worse than that.


When I am not vaccinated, I spread the Covid illness some 9 or 10 times more than a vaccinated person who becomes positive. This means I spread it at 9 to 10 times more to all hospital and ambulance staff – in the community and in any health care facilities I use. So, I propel the epidemic. Not on purpose, but as a result of either my misunderstanding of the science of the spread of epidemics, my having lived in some conspiracy theory bubble on-line for too long, or as a result of my lack of care for my neighbours. I might also have wrongly thought I was at risk for being vaccinated. (In this latter case, I must at once present myself at a Covid vaccination centre, and ask to speak to the Doctors who are always present to discuss such issues with every single person stepping up for vaccination. I can also go on the following site: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/health-conditions/ On this site, there are links to every health condition that I might have and what it means for vaccination against Covid.) 


The way Covid threatens society is that it is just dangerous enough, infectious enough and long-lasting enough to threaten health care services when the epidemic is not controlled by lockdowns and/or near-total vaccination of the population.


So, there are basically three ways of us getting people to go out and get vaccinated:


1. Convince people with the science of how vaccination works for the good of all; being vaccinated is like playing an instrument in an orchestra or band. The players are not all just a ramasi of “soloists”. We all get vaccinated together, just as all musicians play together to make a fantastic symphony or jazz ensemble. And just as we have to keep rehearsing, so we have to keep up with boosters, until we can contain the pandemic, and this world-wide. This task is not so difficult in Mauritius – where there is a working class tradition of public health, including vaccination – but the work of explanation needs to be maintained by us all.


2. Convince people on the moral and practical importance of us all caring for “us all” – i.e. showing the role of the individual in “the big picture”. In Mauritius, we call this working towards “lakorite” – a form of agreement that is in the interests of all (especially the oppressed) people. In the USA, they call it “not having ‘the right’ to pee in the pool”. It is not good for you, yourself, nor for everyone else in the pool. And in society, we all live in one big pool, world-wide. 


And it is when these two methods fail, that there is the danger of:


3. State repression to enforce a vaccine mandate. To prevent repression, we need to convince everyone of the importance of stepping up for vaccination. When the vaccination rate is too low, repression follows. In countries as different as Austria, the unvaccinated as from today are not allowed out in public, except to buy essential supplies and France, where there is a “Vaccination Pass” in operation until August 2022 and you need it in order to go into public spaces (or proof of a PCR test in the past 48 hours) and China, where there was the first Vaccination Passport as from March this year, and where 2.3 billion doses have been administered, keeping the epidemic under containment. In Mauritius, too, public places are increasingly available only to those of us prepared to protect others, i.e. the vaccinated. But we should not have to rely on state repression.


That means we, as individuals, as members of organizations, political parties, trade unions, associations, have a duty to do the first two things, in order to prevent the third. It is not good enough to get indignant about repression. We have to work at generalized vaccination becoming the moral norm and practical solution to controlling the pandemic world-wide. It used to be thought of as inevitable that people would spit in public. Everyone did their duty of teaching and learning that this was a public health danger. And it is no longer so. And the more this contribution to society was respected by common consent through understanding, the less repression was needed. It used to be thought of as inevitable that people would smoke cigarettes in aeroplanes where each seat as well as the toilets had ashtrays, in hospital wards where the bedside table had, next to the vase for flowers, an ashtray. No longer so, either.


Because we all learnt how to think of “us all” and not just of “me” – and we all stopped spitting and stopped smoking indoors. The aim should be to respect public health with as little repression as possible, or better still, no repression at all.


How to think of “us all” and not just “me” is the question, in addition, when it comes to wearing masks properly and avoiding social contacts for a while.


Which is why we, in LALIT, are encouraging people to do these three things:


1. Get vaccinated and encourage everyone around you to, and to take up booster doses.


2. To use masks properly, respect social distancing maximum possible, and keep windows wide open.


3. For the next month to go out as little as possible. If the government cannot mobilize a new “stay home mandate”, we can organize a voluntary “stay-in”. For example, we can go to the supermarket only on the days we used to be restricted to – but voluntarily – by alphabet. 


So, here is an appeal to all organizations – trade union, political, associations, co-operatives. Develop a program for facing up to the Covid pandemic, which starts with the following, and aims to short-circuit the State and its repression:


1. We will encourage everyone in our organization to get vaccinated against Covid, and to also become a militant in favour of everyone being vaccinated, fully vaccinated, including eligible children; we will convince everyone of the science of near-universal vaccination for the good of all, and in order to protect our health care services.


2. We will encourage everyone in our organization to wear masks properly, respect social distancing and keep windows thrown open, and become activists on these three methods of further slowing down the Covid epidemic.


3. We will, for the next month, encourage those in our organization, to go out as little as possible, and this on a voluntary basis, to avoid grouping especially indoors, and to shop by alphabet only.


4. We engage all our members, and our organization, not to blame, insult or in any way attack health care workers, but to salute them, encourage them, show respect to them.


5. We call on the Government to recruit more health care staff and train them up so as to support the existing staff, and to take them on on a permanent basis.


Then each organization can put forward its other programmatic demands.


Note that 13 organizations, as well as some well-known public intellectuals, have signed up to most of demands already last week in a Common Declaration of Solidarity with Health Workers. Since then, we note that many organizations and individuals have become more pro-active in supporting health care workers.


We also note that Labour Party leader Navin Ramgoolam has put forward a program in point form, which is a start. It needs to put more emphasis on vaccination, and to propose avoiding using the repressive forces. We note that MMM leader Paul Bérenger made a vibrant appeal for people to step up for vaccination. And Arvin Boolell leader of the Labour Parliamentary group has publicly appealed for vaccinations for even the under-fives as soon as possible. This kind of stand in favour of vaccination and in support of health care workers is what we need.


This pandemic is not easy to bring to heel. It will take the shared actions of all of us in order to prevent it, again and again, rising up and becoming a threat to the health services of our whole society.


LALIT