Editorial: Vaccination: A civic duty | Sunday Observer

Editorial: Vaccination: A civic duty

It was revealed that Sri Lanka on Thursday administered more than 500,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses which was the highest number of jabs administered in a single day so far.

According to the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry, 515,830 people had been vaccinated on Thursday alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also congratulated Sri Lanka’s achievement of vaccinating over 500,000 people in a single day. Cumulatively, Sri Lanka has so far administered over 11 million Covid vaccine doses, which is a singular achievement for a developing nation. In South Asia, Only Bhutan is ahead of Sri Lanka in terms of vaccination.

Sri Lanka has now received nearly 13 million vaccine doses from various manufacturers including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sputnik, which are going into the arms of people at a rapid pace. It has now come to a situation where anyone over 30 who wants to be inoculated, can get the jab easily at the nearest vaccination centre.

Yet, there are people who seem to be reluctant to get the vaccine due to various reasons. One of the prime reasons for vaccine hesitancy is misinformation, primarily via social media.

Fear has been created in the Central Province about the Moderna vaccine via social media to the effect that it contains nanoparticles and microchips and that it can change your DNA. None of this is true. Vaccines do not have any of these properties. True, vaccines could sometimes have serious side effects, but these are reported from say, 15 out of four million recipients.

Moderna is one of the best Covid vaccines around with a 94 percent efficacy rate, with a 100 percent track record against developing a serious form of Covid-19. It would be a pity if any residents of the Central Province opt out of receiving the Moderna jab based on these dubious and completely incorrect claims. This “infodemic” of misinformation must be countered by the heath authorities through a sustained mainstream media campaign.

There are others who have other illnesses and are immuno-compromised. However, these People can consult a doctor and get the Covid injection under medical supervision.

There are also those who are confined to their homes due to illness, old age or disability. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed health authorities to go to the homes of these People and administer the vaccine. A few people are averse to needles, but the truth is that the process of inoculation is almost painless.

In any case, scientists are developing Covid vaccines that will take the form of pills and nasal drops.

It is in this context that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed officials to conduct a census of non-vaccinated people in all parts of the country.

This is an extremely important step, Studies of Covid-19 infections and deaths have shown that unvaccinated people represent nearly 95 per cent of deaths in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

In fact, Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the USA has said that Covid-19 is now turning into a “Pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

The President has pointed out the need to look into those who have not yet been vaccinated despite the distribution of the vaccines and to persuade them to get vaccinated.

As the President has rightly pointed out, the Government has fulfilled its responsibility by bringing enough vaccine stocks and it was the duty of the people to act in a manner that would prevent the spread of the disease and to get vaccinated at the earliest.

It is in this context that we should look at steps taken by other countries to encourage vaccination. While some US States are offering US$ 1 million lotteries for getting vaccinated, France has found a rather simple solution: Those who are unvaccinated will not get access to restaurants, theatres, concerts or tourist attractions. In short, they will have no life per se.

One will be able to enter these venues only with digital or paper proof of vaccination i.e. vaccine passports. Pakistan and Italy are also contemplating similar measures, while US President Joe Biden is mulling a ‘vaccine mandate’ for federal workers.

Many airlines already seek proof of vaccination (or having recovered from Covid/Negative PCR Test) at the time of boarding.

In fact, Sri Lanka’s Special Committee on Covid-19 Prevention has also focused on the possibility of making it mandatory for people visiting Government institutions and public places in the future to have the vaccine certification card.

Digital Technology Minister Namal Rajapaksa has initiated a program where those equipped with smart phones will get the certificate digitally, which will be accepted internationally. It will not be long before they are required by all countries with one’s normal passport.

Vaccine passports are a necessary evil. They make life easier for the vaccinated who want to enjoy life with a semblance of normality. True, requiring vaccine passports will infringe on the rights of those who cannot or do not get vaccinated for various reasons. But society does have a right to ensure the greatest good of the greatest number, in this case through vaccination.

This is important, because we might have to live with present levels of Covid at least until 2025 and thereafter it is likely to become an endemic disease like the common cold. We might even require annual Covid vaccine booster shots to maintain immunity.

It seems that sooner or later, those who are ‘on the fence’ about vaccination will have to make a choice. Vaccination against Covid must be thought of as a civic duty and responsibility that we must not shirk away from.