Some of us live in times of crisis; Some of us live through the times of crisis. The gravity of a time of war, for example, is only best expressed by those who have memories of loved ones slain in the battle, or those who remember the exchange of fire not by the sound of the gunshots but by the wounds that they bear from them ,or those who do not just remember the season with a blurred vision because they were young but those who have to live their entire life with no childhood memories because they had to mature up way too soon and bear scars of warfare at tender ages- child soldiers and children who had to take up parenting roles to their siblings because they lost their parents in war, instantly handing the adulthood baton to them. Those who lost everything that they lived for or traded part of their life to bargain for a future so uncertain!
And so is the reality of living in and through the covid Pandemic.
I recently had a conversation with a colleague who had just survived the virus.
We were all infected, my wife, our young child and myself. My wife ended up in a ventilator, our child handled a lot better than all of us; and then there was me oscillating between being okay-ish and not okay at all. On many occasions, I contemplated putting my affairs in order, you know sharing bank account passwords with my folks, disclosing my property and investment details and opening every page that had remained closed to the people who mattered because every moment that I was not okay was a subtle reminder of how insignificant wealth was in the grand scheme- in the absence of health.
Did that change your attitude towards the pandemic?
Greatly. Not just towards the pandemic but life in the general. I am a cautious man, I dutifully follow the general preventative measures, I also steam every so often and have gotten to the habit of living a healthier lifestyle. And hey, I got vaccinated too!
Did you have any reservations towards the available vaccines?
Before or after?
Ha ha, both
Before yes; and after -NONE whatsoever.
Some people will grab the opportunity at the earliest chance, some will be on the fence-indifferent: and some will feel strongly against it. Having been on at least two sides gave me a clearer view of the society’s attitudes and a deeper understanding of why people would feel the way they feel about the covid vaccines.
Timely! Do you have 5 (or more 😊 ) minutes for us to chat through it?
For what it’s worth, yes!
Fantastic, shall we then…Such a broad topic this one, and so I will let you drive it in whatever order
Very you! (I know I know)
People feel differently about different things generally; always backed up by solid reasons. How I felt in the initial stages of the pandemic was largely influenced by the information that I had and the general myths around the vaccines. There was also social media that had, (still has), a big influence on perception of the available information.
Reading about it later, I came across a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) that outlined that the factors that contributed to vaccinate hesitancy were broadly classified into: Complacency, Convenience, and Confidence-largely influenced by Community. Rates of vaccine hesitancy, as well as contributing factors, varied widely based on a person’s location, background, and community. While there are many (strong) reasons to be vaccinated, there are also many (compelling) reasons a person might feel skeptical. And justifiably so.
In driving a conversation for the importance of getting vaccinated , one must understand the underlying C.
A complacent person is okay with the situation, most likely because they have neither being infected nor affected directly yet. There is also the misguided notion that it is only those with underlying conditions who are likely to be more affected ; or loose their lives in extreme cases and as far as they are concerned, they do not fall in that bracket.
Convenience largely has to do with vaccine availability and how the benefits of getting the vaccine weigh against the risks of getting the vaccines. Generally, people prefer minimum effort. Therefore, those who have vaccines close by are more likely to get vaccinated than those who have to make elaborate journeys to access them.
Community has to do with our backgrounds and the shared interests and beliefs of those around us. Some people will resist the vaccine because, say their community does not believe in modern medicine, or their religion believes in God being the ultimate giver of health, or the common belief that science has brought more harm than benefits and therefore the vaccines are only bound to make the situation worse. Our community will therefore have a big influence on our confidence level when it comes to the vaccines. It goes further to the culture that we are exposed to ; including work place culture that either encourages or discourages vaccination for employees.
Being cognizant of these differences is critical if we are to make any positive steps in Covid vaccine conversations.
I have learnt how to lead conversations from a point of shared values as opposed to general facts. For example, if one values their family’s well being ; it might be easier to gently strike a conversation around the risks of getting infected and what their family stands to loose in the event of extreme cases.
I have also shifted from discrediting the myths and misconceptions to an approach of leading conversations with facts and talking more about the benefits of getting vaccinated and importance of adhering to the WHO guidelines on hygiene and preventative measures.
Why you ask?
Because reality is – repeating misinformation gives it more weight. It translates to the misinformation being more available and ultimately overshadowing the facts. It’s the same dynamic that has seen a shift in the media campaigns from calling for people to get vaccinated because not enough people were receiving vaccines; to focusing on large-scale inoculation drives and positive stories of the people who chose to get vaccinated and why.
This way, those on the edge or feeling strongly against the vaccines are not swayed even further by the validation that other people do not also want to get vaccinated or proof that other people are indeed not receptive to the vaccination drives.
Having my wife on the ventilator revealed such a scary part of the Virus that opened my mind to the reality of how serious the disease is. And while I might never have understood the gravity of the disease if I had not gone through the experience; I would hate to have other people live the same experience to the same magnitude.
I would not want to be the Covid survivor next door giving people sleepless nights by endlessly retelling the chilling story of how scary the experience was and how I saw death glaring at me! Or the person who entirely centres conversations on facts of how deadly the disease is or how delicate the times that we are living in are.
I just want people to acknowledge these two facts simultaneously: that Covid is real and serious, and that being vaccinated is a simple and effective countermeasure.
Big little girl | story teller for all seasons | Kenyan |