OPINION

Immunity and defeat

immunity-and-defeat

The number of Covid-19 infections is on the rise, the deaths and hospitalizations remain high, the number of vaccinations is decreasing. With 34 deaths Thursday, the total has risen to 15,519. A difficult winter lies ahead as the fourth wave of the pandemic is at the gates. The experts hoped – in their most optimistic scenario – that 95 percent of the population would be vaccinated by mid-July, as Professor Sotiris Tsiodras said this week. However, aside from children who are still to be vaccinated, it seems that our society has come to its saturation point, with only six out of 10 having been vaccinated. Nine out of every 10 people who die are unvaccinated. The fact that this does not seem to alarm our otherwise excitable society suggests that those who are vaccinated believe that each is responsible for the decisions they take, while the unvaccinated either don’t understand the danger or think they are not at risk. 

With 63 percent of the population vaccinated, we have achieved herd immunity not with regard to society being protected from the coronavirus but toward our feeling anything for each other’s fear and death. Vaccines, masks, the protective measures that most citizens take, are an expression of solidarity, of being members of a society in which protection of one is protection of all, and vice versa. Vaccine deniers either don’t understand the threat or don’t respect society. Often, they are encouraged by parties and movements that invest in social turmoil. This, however, does not absolve the rest of society – the government, scientists, the Church, news media, each one of us – from the responsibility to help change their minds. 

The question is not merely ethical or philosophical. The evidence shows that as the pandemic spreads, it will affect more and more of the vaccinated. As the death of former US secretary of state Colin Powell shows, even those who are fully vaccinated are in danger if they have underlying health problems. The threat will be around for a while yet, as in large parts of the world (such as Africa) vaccination rates are still very low – through no fault of the people there.

This strange acceptance, this familiarity with the death of so many people each day, shows a dangerous fatigue. It is as if we are in a hurry to end the war and so turn our backs on the enemy. But cities, nations and civilizations are destroyed not in the first wave of attack, but in the small, daily defeats to which we become immune.