Online influencers would be better at getting message across
Looking through the weekend newspapers, it is clear there is pressure building on the unvaccinated, using the stick rather than the carrot approach, with vaccine passports clearly going to be a feature of all our lives very soon.
I am grateful to be double jabbed, thankful for the scientists that have saved millions of people by creating vaccines in record time as the global pandemic brought our world to a standstill.
A positive fall-out of the pandemic is that it has made science sexy and I would hope has encouraged a new generation to consider the sciences as a future career.
Back in March last year, the fear of Covid was very real. I remember looking out my window at empty streets, the silence from the absence of traffic, no planes overhead, no children playing. It was all very apocalyptic.
We were told to expect up to 15,000 deaths in Northern Ireland.
Almost everyone knows someone who died in our conflict, in my case more than one person, so I could not fathom what it would be like if four times as many people died in the pandemic.
Not a single family would have remained untouched.
Around this time, while horrific scenes of exhausted medical professionals in Italy and Spain were being beamed into our living rooms, I had a conversation with my mother about her wishes should she or my dad succumb to the virus.
With other parts of Europe experiencing ventilator shortages, she told me, should she take ill, to tell the doctors to save a younger person; that she had lived her life. I still get emotional now thinking about it.
I feel blessed that, with both my parents now fully vaccinated, I never had to carry through on those wishes.
The pandemic highlighted the unfairness of society — those living in overcrowded housing, in areas of economic deprivation and working in public-facing, often poorly paid, roles the hardest hit.
Not everyone had a comfortable lockdown and so those who judged other’s behaviour, while themselves cocooned from the financial and mental health impact of lockdown, were the worst of us. Similarly, those currently judging the unvaccinated without asking the reasons why need to realise not everyone’s circumstances are the same.
As a journalist working in an industry that means I am bombarded with information daily, it is easy to forget that not everyone reads papers, or tunes into the news.
I do not believe that everyone who is still not vaccinated is a conspiracy theorist, or that they are all selfish citizens with no care for others.
The hardcore anti-vaccination movement in Northern Ireland is a small one. The Trump-style rallies that have been taking place in London only attract small numbers when organised locally.
Instead, I believe the majority of those who have yet to be jabbed are simply misinformed, or have genuine fears of the unknown.
Threatening people that they will not be able to travel, go to a concert or sporting event, or even have a meal in a restaurant will only feed the idea that this is a totalitarian diktat, rather than a public health issue.
Rather than threaten them with exclusion from society for not complying with the call for vaccination, the Government need to have those fears alleviated in an accessible way.
The main source of misinformation on vaccines is social media sites such as Facebook.
Stormont should be using the same methods to get accurate, scientifically based information to the section of society who are switched off from mainstream media.
Young women, especially, have concerns about taking the vaccine if they are pregnant, or trying for a baby. Let’s hear accurate, informed science on this issue.
I hate the term “influencer”. It usually means some rich little madam who makes YouTube videos because they’ve no need to work for a living.
But if the demographic who are not taking the vaccine would listen to someone they relate to, rather than a politician, then so be it. Those people should be recruited to get the message and valid, science-based information out there.
All talk of vaccinating children should be postponed until every step possible is taken to ensure that every adult who needs vaccinated takes the jab first.
While most of us vaccinated our children against childhood illnesses, there is no need to give them a vaccine against a virus that poses no real danger to them until we know for sure that it cannot be controlled by vaccinating the adult population and watching what the impact of that is.
The Stormont Executive and UK and Irish governments need to get creative to get the message out there.
There is a better way than simply threatening people into compliance and yet, to date, politicians seem reluctant to face that fact.