For Christmas this year, I got Covid-19

Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

Yes, I’m one of the hundreds of thousands of people who recently tested positive for Covid-19 (presumably Omicron variant). It’s impossible to know exactly where I caught it but it’s most likely to be the family Christmas meal (or potentially, the plane trip the day after).

And before you judge, believe me, precautions were taken. Everyone was double (or triple) vaccinated, everyone had a PCR test less than 48 hours before, some even had a lateral flow test on the day. Basically the same precautions you need to travel and more. Shit happens in a pandemic.

So far, it seems to be milder than the cold I had back in October, with the occasional cough and sneeze. But I’m triple-vaccinated. Although the vaccine I had is not 100% effective against Omicron, it has primed my immune system enough to be able to tackle it fairly effectively and without going into any sort of overdrive. I’m also young-ish, relatively healthy and lead a relatively healthy lifestyle. But again, comparing to the other double-vaccinated infected family member who is of the same age, I am fairly certain the booster was pretty important.

Here are my two pandemic stories

As a scientist, I shouldn’t be sharing anecdotal evidence of why vaccination is important. But as humans, we find stories far more powerful than data.

During the pandemic, I’ve had two stories from people very close to me that truly advertise why vaccination against Covid-19 is important.

  1. My friends’ grandma caught Covid-19 from her unvaccinated carer. She is in her 90s, overweight, with diabetes and heart disease. She was double-vaccinated at the time of infection. She got through it fairly easily. Without a vaccine, she stood no chance. By not vaccinating, the caretaker almost killed her (needless to say, the carer is now also vaccinated).
  2. My stepdad, who suffered a stroke in January and a serious infection in May (and therefore basically almost died multiple times this year) got Covid-19. He ended up in intensive care and almost died again. After ~5 days, he was released back home. He was double-vaccinated at the time. Had he been unvaccinated, he would have almost certainly died.

There is still a lot of discussion around vaccination and many reasons cited among those who refuse it

There are conspiracy theories around Bill Gates, Fauci, 5G and microchips, which I don’t think are worth commenting on.

There are stories perpetuated by spiritual leaders (pretty strong reason for vaccine hesitancy in Greece, where I’m originally from).

There is a general government mistrust, and valid fear that is accentuated by misinformation perpetuated online and beyond – the “vaccines cause blood clots” and other similar stories have highlighted our science communication failures.

As I type this I wonder if my personal stories of the triumph of vaccination will continue to have a happy ending

Because we all have a responsibility to contribute to ending this pandemic. Unfortunately, the narrative of “my body, my choice” doesn’t quite cut it when there are consequences for others too.

  1. Some people simply don’t have a choice. They either can’t be vaccinated for health reasons or for whom the vaccine simply isn’t very effective because their immune system is suppressed (eg if on immunosuppressive medication for an autoimmune disease or cancer). While the virus is still strongly circulating, they are at serious risk of illness, hospitalisation or even death.
  2. The Omicron and Delta stories highlight how low rates of vaccination can lead to the emergence of new variants, for which we remain susceptible until new vaccines are developed. This will continue as rates of vaccination remain low. We do have an urgent vaccine distribution challenge across the world, but we can at least all do our bit.
  3. Ok, this is the more self-righteous reason but here goes – there is some evidence (although accounts are conflicting) that the majority of patients with COVID-19 in ICU are unvaccinated, which, together with their extended stay causes strain to the healthcare system.

What does this have to do with yoga?

Vaccine hesitancy seems strong in our community, despite the fact that yoga philosophy puts so much emphasis in the idea of ‘no harm’. I don’t believe there are any official stats or research on this, but this is my impression, in particular from reading posts on the yoga teachers facebook group.

Perhaps it’s because of our tendency to prefer all things natural.

Perhaps there is a general scepticism and lack of belief in science and the scientific method (and possibly a preference for the supernatural).

Perhaps it’s something else.

Without understanding why it is that people don’t want to get vaccinated, it is really difficult to do something about it. I would love to do a research project to understand the reasons behind it. (In the meantime, dialogue is hugely important. Here is a useful resource I found if you ever find yourself in this situation. Unfortunately, I find the subject a little too triggering to ever engage in dialogue, I just get angry).

But mainly, I wanted to get this off my chest (no pun intended).

Here’s to 2022 finally bringing the end of this fucking pandemic.

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