By Lindelani Mnisi
The year is 2021 and although the times may look strange, many things about the times still look quite familiar. Lately, we have been faced with a whole new problem of battling some new strain of the Coronavirus, but sadly the hope we have been told to place in the saving grace that is the vaccine seems to be quickly fading away, due in large part to the lack of trust many of us hold with our government in South Africa.
They say new day, new devil, and the new devil these days has been a villainous virus threatening total global collapse, and possibly the end of humanity. So, to combat this evil, governments all over the world have unanimously decided to produce and rollout vaccines against the virus. This is not new at all because we have had numerous pandemics throughout our history, and numerous vaccines to fight them: the first vaccine was developed in 1790 by Edward Jenner against the smallpox. As useful as they are, vaccines regrettably carry a small air of doubt with them, and the stakes have never been higher than now. Medicines are known to come with side effects – generally small and inconsequential – but vaccines are an exceptional case where side effects have long been feared, and rumoured, to be drastic leading to two distinct groups in the public: (1) those who are for vaccination because they believe in their benefit, and (2) those who are against vaccination because they do not trust the concoction. Thus, possibly one of the greatest debates of our time arises: to take the vaccine or not to take the vaccine?
The general public’s feelings towards the vaccine cannot be summarized into a simple one-dimensional problem, but it must rather be seen as an array of factors that culminate into everyone’s viewpoint that falls into one of the two categories: (1) those for, and (2) those against. Some of these factors would include experience, as there are those who would say they trust the vaccine because they have been vaccinated before so they have good experiences with vaccination, and then there are others who would argue that they have heard or known of someone who suffered adverse side effects, and therefore would not trust the vaccine. Another factor at play would have to be the level of trust that individuals hold in the government that is rolling out these vaccines. If there is one thing that is remained consistent throughout the years in this country, it is our government letting us down, from poor service delivery bordering on neglect, to rampant corruption rotting the country from the core. Recent examples of their subpar performance being evident in the flawed handling of vaccine procurements, and subsequent delays resulting from that. It is no wonder then that many South Africans would harbour great doubt, not only in the vaccine themselves, but in the government and its ability to deliver viable vaccines.
South Africa is no stranger to strife, and struggle, with some of the worst affected being those who live in rural areas, and in poverty, because it is often the rich, and well connected/positioned, who manage to stay afloat through this country’s ups and downs; illustrating that there is a very real class divide in our nation. There is a noticeably clear difference between the haves and the have-nots, and the haves are very unlikely to come across many challenges in obtaining high quality vaccines to secure themselves, while the have-nots will likely struggle a great deal with the vaccine, whether it is successfully getting a good quality dose, or trusting our infamous government and its questionable concoctions enough to even consider taking the jab. An adjacent issue to look at here, is also how this vaccine debacle will affect our rights, as many rumours, and conspiracies, have been circulating in the air about how the vaccine may one day eventually be considered as mandatory for certain things such as work, and travel, thereby strong-arming citizens into taking it through an ultimatum, under the guise of benevolence. So, we find ourselves in a very precarious situation, where our free will, rights, and overall wellbeing, may be at stake here, or we may be giving too much power to fear, and conspiracies, but one thing that is for certain is that we are during confusing times where caution could be the most valuable thing to pay.
The times look strange indeed, and these days it is not only the future that looks uncertain, but the present as well, with a lot of confusion, and panic, hanging in the air, which makes it all the harder to make good, and rational, decisions when they could be fatal or vital. No one can be blamed for seeming cautious, or hesitant, when so much is on the line here, but the one option we do not have is to be idle, because one way or another there will be an outcome, and the least we can do at this point is hope for the best.