Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Pandemic of the Unvaccinated- A World View

By Dhiraj Kumar

Several countries in the world are witnessing a see-saw of rising and dropping Covid-19 cases as the months pass since their first vaccination. The human race continues to face an unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 and had painstakingly responded with a vaccine (for emergency use), which usually takes close to a decade on trials, within a year of the first case in China. Since then, multiple vaccines from companies and countries have made it to the approved list of the World Health Organization (WHO) offering mankind to get inoculated against the deadly virus to save their lives (or at least reduce the severity of Covid and risk of hospitalization cut by nearly 90%). The year 2021 has demonstrated the will and resolve of the planet as countries recorded impressive numbers of their vaccinated population.

Live data tracking of global vaccination suggests that 50.20% of the world population has got vaccinated with at least one dose, while 7.23 billion doses have been administered so far. As per Statista, apart from Greenland, Gibraltar, and Maldives, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts of 85% coverage of its population to have been fully vaccinated followed by Portugal. The world’s most populated country China has informed that it has vaccinated over 80% of its citizens against the first dose and close to 76% against the second dose followed by India which though lacking on the second dose (the early twenties) has vaccinated over a billion people with the first dose. The United States of America has fully vaccinated approximately 60% of its population while the United Kingdom has inoculated 68%.

Though vaccine makers have stepped up production and new vaccine makers are securing cautious yet rapid approvals from the WHO, top countries of the world are facing a humongous challenge of people who are refusing to get vaccinated. Various nations have not made vaccines mandatory, though governments are constantly urging citizens to get vaccinated. The issue at hand has moved from the unavailability of vaccines to the unavailability of the population wanting to get vaccinated!

On the 1st of November 2021, the European country of Austria has placed curbs on its unvaccinated population from entering cafes, restaurants, large events, and other public places. Greece which is witnessing an explosion of fresh cases has placed additional restrictions on unvaccinated citizens demanding them to comply by showing a negative Covid-19 test report. Faced with a sizable populace of unvaccinated people, as per a Reuters report, Canadian companies have begun to fire unvaccinated staff in an already staff crunched market. German Health Minister Jens Spahn has warned that the pandemic of the unvaccinated is leading to a resurgence of Covid-19 cases and ICU beds are in shortage again. Romania has a dubious distinction of recording the highest death per capita due to Covid-19 (majority deaths are of unvaccinated people) due to its low rate of vaccination at 30%. The United States of America which has opened up for travelers is strictly inviting vaccinated passengers only. It has also announced that it will allow unvaccinated passengers only in case of an extreme crisis (tourism and business cannot be reasons). The Latvian Parliament has mandated employers to suspend/fire staff who remain unvaccinated while imposing a partial lockdown till November 15th due to a surge in cases. Taking a stern view of people who remain ‘unvaccinated by choice’ the Singaporean Government has asked this segment of people to pay for their medical bills citing the pressure on health services and infrastructure of unvaccinated people. Costa Rica has announced that visitors need to be fully vaccinated to enjoy its clubs, parks, and the like.

Several world leaders through tweets and press releases have urged their citizens to mask up and vaccinate to avoid the virus but a significant population has so far refused to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated population is a result of several factors; the vaccine may not have reached remote locations yet; the vaccine may not be available; simple refusal to get vaccinated; not wanting to get vaccinated by a syringe; wanting to take a Covid-19 pill instead of injection (Pfizer to introduce Covid-19 pills); conflict with religious beliefs; people who believe Covid-19 is a global conspiracy; vaccine leads to impotency; a victim of an online campaign against vaccination; lack of counseling to help an individual to undertake a vaccine; lack of trust in a vaccine or its manufacturer; nothing-will-happen to-me-syndrome; possible side effects; online-offline misinformation and reduced fear due to lower cases.

Despite the Covid-19 vaccination being administered free across the globe, anti-vax campaigners who have advocated complacency, doubt, and confusion to vaccinate are flooding online forums with anti-vaccination campaigns. A significant population that subscribes to powerful anti-vax opinions online have convinced themselves of the non-efficacy of the vaccine. The carefree and careless population who refuse to get vaccinated refuse to comprehend the risks they are posing to their lives. Hospitals across Europe are reporting younger people getting infected with the virus out of which the majority remain unvaccinated.

Possible solutions to increase the coverage of vaccinated people includes, a global campaign of trusted influencers to request people to get vaccinated, forums and counseling sessions to allay fears of the unvaccinated population, presenting a global case of the efficiency of the vaccine, a possible carrot and stick approach to encourage vaccination, incentives to get vaccinated, increase the availability of the vaccine, employ religious and ethnic leaders to address their followers to get vaccinated and even a doorstep delivery of the vaccine.

With a surge in cases, Governments, local administrations, corporates will only tighten the curbs on unvaccinated people who in the end will be left with a choice to either die, suffer a long hospitalization, incur huge financial losses at personal expense, bear unknown health side effects of the virus and face a certain ruin of livelihood!

For the others, mask up and get vaccinated!

(Dhiraj Kumar is an author, writer and columnist based out of Mumbai. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at his Twitter profile @authordhiraj and his website

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