OPINION: Where were you the night of October 4? I was yelling at the TV. 1 News was doing what 1 News often does, and stoking the fires of discontent. Joe Fleener, a pastor at Rolleston Baptist Church, was being interviewed about the vaccine.
It was a troubling segment. It started with vague discussion of his belief that aborted fetuses being used historically in medicine has contributed to people’s current fears, but it ended with the pastor admitting that he is going to get vaccinated. And it came directly after some video footage of the anti-vax protest in the Auckland Domain where, interestingly, Brian Tamaki was wearing a mask.
Of course I have no time for any “Christian” who believes that being pro-life and anti-vaxx is not mutually exclusive. But the way that the whole interview was cut was troubling: how many people tuned in for the first couple of minutes, and heard only the fetus theory? Which wasn’t even related to Pfizer?
After a day of feeling betrayed by a government whose Covid response I used to believe in, this cherry-picked segment, featuring two pastors who are extremely comfortable gambling with the lives of their congregation, felt like an overload.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approach to Covid has kept me feeling safe. Unable to ignore what has been happening everywhere but here for so long, I spent a lot of my summer reading about death tolls and the effects of long Covid. Approximately 10,000 people a day are still dying in the States, but lord knows I watched that stream of Doja Cat’s performance at the Rolling Loud festival. There were hundreds of thousands of people in that crowd. I saw their whole faces. There were too many visible chins for my liking.
We’ve taken a year or so to catch up to the rest of the world but we’re here now, coping with our own version of the pandemic. Heavily muted by our vintage Level 4, located for the moment in the central North Island only, but still.
We’re doing all of this with months of news stories in front of us, and a full awareness of how bad this could get, of how severely we could fuck this up. We can see that half-assed approaches to lockdown haven’t worked, anywhere.
Our nurses are underpaid and there aren’t enough of them. Apparently we don’t even have enough beds in ICU nationally if this does get bad. Which is terrifying.
I slid into Level 4 like an electric blanket in winter. Our lockdown had worked before, it would work again. What I felt for loved ones overseas was sympathy, not empathy. I have zero understanding of year-long lockdowns, mass death, violently ignorant anti-vaxxers waving their dicks around en masse.
I felt sure that we would suck it up and get through to the other side. And now I truly don’t know. Yes we might be fine. The vaccine uptake since Delta hit our shores has been truly something, the government has got an enormous amount of Pfizer into our arms (with the maximum possible serving of fetus), and throughout this whole ordeal, this second go at it, we’ve had ready access to toilet paper.
But we also might not be. Vaccine uptake for Māori is too slow. Everyone with a brain cell can understand and hopefully be empathetic to why POC in general and our indigenous population in particular, might be distrustful of the government. The government which, despite these inequitable rates of vaccination, is still ready to allow people to open their bubbles and have garden parties.
Of course many Auckland suburbs have got ahead of these new regulations. Residents of Ponsonby, Remuera, Parnell, Ellerslie and Herne Bay have all been having catch-ups, didn’t you know? Friends flatting in all these areas have been sharing stories of folks (probably their landlords) enjoying a bevvy or two on the street with their golfing buddies.
And of course these multiple homeowners won’t be the ones who suffer as a result of eased restrictions. Anti-vax or not, we all know they won’t be targeted by police or forced to show their passports while leaving the house. We know that no matter how bad the economic, physical and emotional crisis of this virus gets, they will be the ones spared.
So what is there to do other than yell at the TV and remind the vaccine hesitant of the side effects of the virus itself which include (other than death), losing your sense of taste.
Imagine losing your sense of taste. Lifelong heart damage and dizzy spells and exhaustion and interrupted sleep and mood swings are pretty bad, yeah, but not being able to taste?
I do fear, in writing this, that I am going to be just another non-scientist sharing her opinions. And I am. But unlike Brian Tamaki, my opinions aren’t going to kill anyone.