From coro pandemic to the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’
After my last Coro-related intervention (Coro: Coming & Going 3rd time around…Conspiracy Theories & Vaccine Hesitancy (2/9/21), I received an elating message. An Enugu-based friend, townsman and an ardent reader of this column, Nze Ezeudokanma Okeke sent this message ‘Ichie thank you for your astonishing and all-encompassing reportage. I have changed my mind on vaccines. I will look out for the jab’. I jumped up for joy and celebrated with a big bottle of water, which I sipped with very beautiful tumbler. I will take a glass of palm-wine whenever I am home (Igbo-Ukwu), to complete the celebration. Last week, I received a dreadful WhatsApp message. A physically and emotionally distressed ‘man’ was regretting that the world had been divided into two, each group with morbid expectation of the other: The vaccinated, waiting for the unvaccinated to die, and the unvaccinated waiting for the vaccinated to die. This sounds funny but it actually creates very dreadful scenario. An amalgam of seemingly believable conspiracy theories, has led to an alarming vaccine hesitancy, to the extent that people are really expecting the vaccinated to die. Such people then look at a doubly jabbed fellow like me with pity, waiting when the deadly metals, electricity or poison inserted or mixed with the vaccine will knock me out. I also received another hilarious message. It was a jolly good follow, clutching a glass of beer and declaring that if the Government had mixed the vaccine with beer and opened up all the clubs and pubs, everybody would have been vaccinated within a week. Well, it can’t be everybody; I do not drink beer and I am not a club patron and as such, this strategy will not work for people like me.
However, the truth remains that the vaccinated have better chances of survival than the unvaccinated or at least do not suffer any Coro-related disadvantages. Those who refuse to vaccinate have been equated to those who refuse to strap on their seat belts because such belts do not prevent accidents. But we know that belts minimize the resultant harms from accidents if and when they do occur. Records from across the globe shows that most of the casualties are the unvaccinated. Thus, we have moved from the Coro-Pandemic to what Dr Rochelle Walensky of Center for Disease Control termed the pandemic of the unvaccinated! This is because the fresh cases and deaths are preponderant in areas with minimal vaccination.
The efficacy of vaccines has been proved both scientifically and from verifiable experiences as in this unfortunate instance. Bobby and Bill Ford, identical twins, worked in the same auto-shop at Vero Beach and did almost everything together except vaccination. Boby was jabbed (Johnson &Johnson) but Bill refused because he has heard too much of conspiracy theory mixtures. When Oga-Coro invaded and ravaged their workshop, Bobby, who was vaccinated, had 3 days of fever and nothing more. Bill’s case got progressively worse and while in the valley of shadow of death in the ICU, he ‘repented’ and started persuading everyone via phone to get jabbed. But it was too late for him as he died 14/8/21( see Treasure Coast Newspapers: Vaccine? What happened when identical twins got COVID?). In US, Dick Farrel, Phil Valentine and, Marc Bernier, three unrepentant anti-vaccination radio hosts succumbed to Coro within a month. They had all repeatedly and publicly mocked vaccination or derided the overall vaccine efforts. Incidentally, Farrel and Valentine publicly repented of their anti—Vaccine stands before they died while Bernier maintained his anti-vax posture until death did them part. It reminds me of one of the greatest anti-vax Nigerians, Fani Kayode. Incidentally, after he had deceived and confused many people, he went and got jabbed. Just like he has just joined APC after he had said over his death body!
In Florida, where the Governor Ron-Desantis dismissed the importance of vaccines and banned compulsory masking, 15 staff of Miami Dade Public School died within 10 days. As at mid-August, Florida ‘enjoyed’ about 244 deaths daily and 2,345 deaths and over 129,000 cases in a week. It was so bad that they rented refrigerated units (mobile ‘cold-rooms’) to store corpses! And just the other day, Uche Pete-Edochie reported that he just recovered from Coro after spending N6m on treatment and still counting, including N350000 daily charged by the facility, and that one of his Coro-colleagues sent as much as N17m( $28000) on treatment. Even if one can afford N17m, does it make sense to invest it Coro-treatment; Coro that one could avoid by free vaccination, masking and personal hygiene?
Coro is real and one of the surest exit routes is vaccination. Governments across the globe are tired of what Central Bankers call ‘moral suasion’ and now they have barred their fangs adopting ‘by fire by force’ strategies’. In Nigeria, the Edo State Government, despite pending, and threats of further, court cases, barred all un-jabbed fellows from the secretariat. The FG is intending to adopt draconian measures to enforce vaccination on its employees (once the issue of availability is sorted out) but 6 states are not eager to follow suite (Enugu, Taraba, Cross River, Ogun, Bauchi and Abia). The Chief Executive of National Primary Health Care Agency made a pointed point when stated emphatically that ‘you have a right to reject the vaccine but you do not have the right to endanger other peoples’ health’. In Zimbabwe, the Justice Minister had ordered all staff who did not want to jab, to resign and leave in peace. On 16/9/21, France suspended 3000 health workers without pay for refusing to be vaccinated. That was just a day after the policy came into force.
The US has just (9/9/21) introduced a stringent vaccination regime, making it compulsory for all federal works and contractors, all health workers and 30000 head teachers. Employers of more than 100 staff should also enforce compulsory jabbing or in the alternative, non-jabbed fellows should produce negative test-results every week, with a fine of $14000 (N8m) per infraction. The TRUMPeters have termed this authoritarian and have threatened to head to court. One peculiar thing about the US is that the pandemic and its containment are seen from political prisms. Thus, only 50 percent of Trump voters have been vaccinated as against 91 percent of Biden voters (NBC News) while Republicans in general, are the second least likely people to be vaccinated (Kaiser Family Foundation). Just the other day (5/9/21) the unimaginable happened; almost an abomination for football fanatics. The Brazzilian Police/ health authorities audaciously invaded the pitch and disrupted the Brazil/Argentina match,so as to enforce Coro protocols, which some visiting team members, Martinez, Romero & LoCelso & Buendia had violated. I think this is the first of its kind and evidences the power of Oga-Coro. In Vietenam, Le Van Tri was convicted and jailed for 5 years for breaking quarantine rules and democratising the virus amongst the people.
The University of Ottawa, the largest bilingual university in the world has made vaccination compulsory for everybody: staff, students, service providers and visitors. They all have to show evidence of vaccination online and in advance before gaining access because they believe that the community comes first before individuals’ interests and preferences. And for students who charge the university of infringing on their rights, Prof Deonandan reminded them that there is a great difference between a free society and an anarchic society and that already public freedom has been short-circuited in the public interest because one cannot cross the border without a passport, drive without a license, cross the road when the light is red neither can you enter a private property like Ottawa, without the owner’s permission. He also reminded them that just as you cannot inject heroin into your veins, drive the car as fast as you want (or even drive against traffic as we do in Lagos), defecate on the side walk because these are against the public good, so also will you not enter the university unvaccinated because it is against the public good. This admonition is good for all of us across the globe, especially the anti-vax horde.
Talking about Coro protocols and human rights, one of my colleagues, Dr Adesola Adeleke of the Department of Chemical Sciences has just sued the Lagos State Governor, Commissioner of Police and others for N65m for declaring her wanted after she had returned from South-Africa, complaining that she was made to go through psychological trauma and was ensconced in a mosquito infested hotel at Isolo Lagos despite the fact that she fulfilled all the requirements. Hers is not a case of refusing to do the needful; it was and is a case that despite doing the needful, the authorities still treated her as a delinquent returnee.
Meanwhile, the delta variant has become the predominant strain in Nigeria while Coro-bed occupancy in Lagos has increased to 53 percent ( as at 6/9/21). The numbers are also rising as 5773 new cases were recorded within 10 days, despite the fact that some states were not testing. 320 deaths occurred in August alone out of the 2495 since the advent of Coro (average,130 monthly). Nigeria is expecting 52m doses in 2022 while Jah Prayzah & Killer T were arrested at Mugabe Airport over fake Covid certificates, after they had performed at Adam Molai’s birthday party. Some people have linked the arrest to the fact that the party in South-Africa was largely attended by the G40 group, which is at ‘war’ with the current Zimbabwean Government. The Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), has also asked to be integrated into the war against Oga-Coro.
As the war against Oga-Coro is raging, Guinea had confirmed the first Marburg virus case in West Africa, while the Nipha virus, which is more deadly than Coro, claimed the life of a boy in India in early September. Furthermore, out of the millions of Americans Coronised, only 678000 have succumbed to the vicious virus, about .0017 percent of the population. Some nay-sayers would argue that despite the ‘whole noise’, Coro is not that deadly. However, it might have been worse if it was not frontally attacked and we should not concentrate all efforts on Oga Coro and overlook other micro and macro health challenges. It also appears that those who are confusing and frightening people about jabbing in Nigeria are doing a ‘good job’ because the total number of Nigerians jabbed is barely 1 percent of the number required to hit the herd immunity. Oga-Coro has also been beneficial to the banking industry where E-transactions rose by 82 percent between March 2020(N36trn) to March 2021(N65.6trn). How is this linked to Coro: lock down, work from home and de-crowding of the banking halls.
• Stan Ukeje, my friend before-before, was a pro-bono research assistant for this edition
I am pained by the death of Dr Mailafia, with whom I have shared the same page in BusinessDay