Life as we know it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I reckon this latest lockdown in New Zealand has felt harder than the first one 16 months ago.

Despite the constant reminders about being kind, people seemed more insular, less patient, more stressed and more defiant (I’m looking at you, Brian Tamaki).

The first lockdown us kiwis experienced last year was ultimately a journey to an unknown destination. Would we see our loved ones again? Would we have enough toilet paper? Is my job safe? Is the economy going to tank? How long can we survive like this?

All of this combined to pull us together. Psychologists call it the integrative function of conflict against a common threat. It’s what got us through and allowed us to be a beacon of shining light to the rest of the world that yes, we can eliminate Covid-19.

We knew the supermarkets weren’t going to implode, the economy would probably do great and there were unlikely to be widespread fatalities. And we backed ourselves to get through it.

This lockdown has hit different though. After a year getting to know the virus and how other countries got through, we just became impatient at the wait. A wait that Aucklanders are still experiencing. We’ve become divisive. We’ve become a nation of keyboard warriors, anti-vaxxers and ignorants.

By now it should be apparent that one of our best defenses against this deadly virus is to get vaccinated.

Medical professionals have endorsed that the available vaccines against Covid-19 are safe, and they are our best route back to a more normal way of living. Disagreeing with them because of a comment you read on Facebook is not only undermining their years of hard work, study and research but also undermining the very reason we don’t have many other viruses and diseases from the past knocking on our door.

I will be fully vaccinated next week and no, I don’t know what’s in it – neither this vaccine, nor the ones I had as a child. I don’t know what’s in a Big Mac or Paracetamol. I just know that one cures my headaches and the other cures my hangover. I don’t know what’s in the ink for tattoos, vaping, or every ingredient in my soap, shampoo or deodorants. I don’t know the long term effects of mobile phone usage on my brain or whether or not that waiter at that restaurant I ate at last week really washed their hands. In short, there’s a lot of things I don’t know and never will but I just know one thing: life is short, very short, and I want to do something with it other than staying locked in my home for fear that the government is trying to control me.

I still want to travel and hug people without anxiety and find a little feeling of life “before”. As a child and as an adult I’ve been vaccinated for mumps, measles, rubella, polio, and chicken pox; my parents and I trusted the science and never had to suffer through or transmit any of said diseases. I’ve chosen to be vaccinated, not to please the government but:

To not die from Covid-19.

To reduce the risk of my getting and transmitting COVID-19 to my loved ones and the community.

To not clutter a hospital bed if I get sick.

To be able to pursue my careers, dreams, travel, socialise and embrace the world.

For Covid-19 to be an old memory.

To protect us.

In New Zealand, you have the right to make informed decisions regarding immunisations. Making informed decisions means being able to find and understand relevant information, be given the opportunity to discuss it, and make the decision that is right for you and your family. Misinformation can play on existing biases and societal racism, in ways that are manipulative. Science communication is typically straightforward and factual. People aren’t irrational or stupid for being susceptible to conspiracies or asking questions but what makes the difference is where people go to find good information.

At 95% efficacy, the Pfizer vaccine is one of the best vaccines the world has ever seen and you are much less likely to catch Covid if you have had your two doses. For younger populations, the vaccine nears 100% protection against dying from the disease. Being vaccinated also means that your body will be able to clear the virus much faster if you do catch it and being infected for a shorter period of time means you are likely to infect less people. You are not only protecting yourself against this fight, but you’re protecting your whānau and your community too.

We’ve stamped out Covid before – and we can do it again this time. While we can’t stay isolated forever and will have to eventually adapt to life with the virus in the community, now is not the time to do it.

Do not allow it to run rampant while our nurses and medical staff are working so hard day in and day out to vaccinate the population. No country in the world has returned to normal, while at the same time preventing swathes of its people dying or getting sick. No one has the answer yet, and until someone does, the elimination strategy is by far the best way to go.

Yes, lockdowns are tough and having your freedoms temporarily taken away is frustrating – but New Zealand has proven to the world that lockdowns work, especially when you go hard and fast, with a small population, on a small island, with everyone obeying the rules, and getting vaccinated is the one thing you can do today to get that normality back.

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