As the days of the pandemic roll by, more and more people are getting vaccinated, and less and less are not. Those who are inoculated wonder why others aren’t. Is it selfishness? Stupidity? Stubbornness? At present, I belong to the shrinking minority of those who haven’t received a jab against Covid-19. So why haven’t I been vaccinated yet? Here‘s my story.
(Disclaimer: What follows is no advice, but simply one story of many. I was hesitant to write about this, as it is such a sensitive and controversial subject, but I believe it‘s important to hear different voices, to look at different perspectives. I‘ve already written about and published very personal experiences in the past, be it about my Ayahuasca journey, or quitting tobacco, or many different fears and joys in my blog posts. So I might as well do the same now.)
I was visiting my mother when the pandemic started to kick off properly. She had been diagnosed with severe lung cancer only two months prior. The disease had already spread to her brain and she was in a very fragile state. I stayed with her for the full first lockdown, which was a true gift to us both, despite all hardship.
With the new coronavirus conquering the whole world and nobody really knowing what was going on, I, too, was scared. I thought of my Mum. I dreaded the possibility that Covid might spread to Africa. Right from the beginning, I fully supported masks and didn’t understand why some people refused to wear them. It was an emergency, right? A little later, when the second and third waves dragged on, I promoted the idea of Zero Covid, i.e. a strict lockdown for two or three weeks in order to cut the chains of infection. As the pandemic continued, I became increasingly fed up with people on either side of the extreme. Walking into a petrol station without a mask, playing at being some kind of 21st century Che Guevara and inciting fierce arguments with shop assistants – I didn’t get it. At the same time, seeing people walking along the beach or in the forest, all alone, with a mask on, made me question the existence of common sense. Everything was getting to become more insane and I started fantasizing about a lonely hut in the woods.
From scarcity to abundance
In May of 2021, five months ago, I went to my GP in Germany for a tetanus booster. He did some blood work, and as I still had enough antibodies, I was told I didn’t need another shot. At that time, the Covid vaccine program had just arrived at the 60+ age group. I’m 45, so it wasn’t my turn yet. Knowing that I was going to spend the whole summer abroad, my GP said that he could, perhaps, get me a Johnson & Johnson shot for the following week, just before I was due to leave. But given that I wasn’t in any risk group and I was going to spend the next months outdoors anyway, we decided to leave it for autumn.
During the summer, there were a few times I felt a tinge of regret for not having gotten the shot back in May. The feeling of regret usually arose when I heard news stories about young people ending up in the ICU or even the cemetery. I inquired whether I could get vaccinated in Spain, but as I wasn’t registered in the local health system, I was told I couldn’t get it. I made several calls, even to the German consulate. Nothing. If I wanted the vaccine, I was going to have to get it in Germany. But it was summer and other life challenges demanded attention too, so I stayed in Andalucía and continued oscillating between worry and indifference. When I finally got back to Germany at the beginning of October, the vaccine scarcity had turned into total abundance. There were so many vaccines available – at least in the rich countries – that thousands of doses were thrown away because they had passed the expiration date. Suddenly I had the option to choose which vaccine I wanted. But for me, things had changed.
Almost 80% of all Covid cases that end up in hospitals are people with obesity. The average age of those who die is 82 and the vast majority of younger people who experience severe Covid complications suffer from other serious health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure. I’m neither overweight nor diabetic, and I’m 37 years below the critical average age. I gave up smoking early on in the pandemic, I do yoga, meditation and have regular acupuncture sessions for general health maintenance. Does this make me naturally immune to Covid? No. Does it mean I can’t end up in hospital or even die from a bad infection? No. But I’m certainly nowhere near any risk group either. So I started asking myself, why do I really want to get vaccinated?
Solidarity, fear and freedom
The main argument used by people and politicians to convince the unvaccinated of changing their minds is one of solidarity. ‘If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re being anti-social because you’re putting others at risk.’ It’s been clear for some time now, however, that the Covid vaccine is not a sterile vaccine, meaning vaccinated people can still get infected and also infect others. Even the viral load is very similiar. If every single person was vaccinated, the risk of high viral loads would be lower, true, but if everyone stopped drinking alcohol and eating refined sugar, the ICU’s would be half empty too. Where is the discussion about banning alcohol and sugar?
A vaccine is not just a mask you put on or a distance you keep, it’s an invasive injection. Hence I don’t think it’s fair to blackmail people reasoning solidarity and getting them to put something into their bodies that they don’t want. If you don’t share your wealth, you’re showing a lack of solidarity, but I think it’s very different if you simply don’t want an injection. Having said all this, I do empathize with people wanting to feel safe. If it was one or two shots and that’s it, I’d probably do it eventually. It won’t be just one or two shots though, as recent reports from Israel show. Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to get vaccinated every six months or so. I might change my mind when I’m 70, but not now. In the meantime, I’m happy to get tested and wear a mask if someone is concerned about my presence.
There’s a small part of me that is still scared of Covid, yes. Suffocating is not the way I want to go. But I’m actually more scared of flying, and I still fly. When I went to India almost 24 years ago, the official recommendation was to get seven or eight different vaccines. I got a few, but not all. Climbing a tree is also scary, you can die if you fall from the top, but are we going to stop climbing trees or only climb them if a fire brigade is securing the bottom? Life is scary, but is that a reason to stop living?
If solidarity and fear aren’t convincing to me, what other reason is there? The answer is the same reason why many others get vaccinated as well. Not because they’re such selfless beings, nor because they’re terribly scared, but because they want to be free. I’ve just been through a separation, moved out, have all my stuff in storage – I would love to travel, it’s the perfect time for it. But there are many countries I can’t even enter without a vaccination pass, and for others, I need several PCR tests and extra time spent in quarantine. I could still do it, and I might, but frankly, without a vaccine pass, it’s a pain in the arse. I was considering getting vaccinated just because of this, but... It just doesn’t feel right sacrificing my freedom of choice for the freedom of travel. I know many people who got vaccinated for this exact reason, and I totally get it. My own daughter is one of them. But still, to me, it doesn’t feel right.
Pressure and side effects
Despite my lack of total conviction, for a long time, I didn’t give the Covid vaccine a clear ‘No’. Some days I felt good about my reasoning, other days I felt confused and insecure. Then two other things started to happen.
First, the growing pressure of the Covid-vax community. I feel like I’m being pushed into a corner, not gently, but in a rather hostile way, by news articles, commentators, and even presidents. ‘We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin’, ‘these evil anti-vaxxers need to be isolated as much as possible’, ‘unvaccinated people who end up in hospital shouldn’t receive any treatment’. Or my favourite, ‘if you’re unvaccinated, you probably also believe the earth is flat, right?’ Sometimes I laugh about it, other times I want to cry because it feels like being trapped in a strange dystopian drama. So much hatred and frustration and division. Ultimately, I think the vaccine debate is just the tip of the iceberg of a huge underlying dissatisfaction with life that has spread amongst humanity. And while I’m only thinking out loud here, I’d also say there’s a deep fear of death that has been left untreated for far too long. The biblical God has almost died, fine, but who took his place? Stuff? Money? Netflix?
Secondly, I’m starting to hear more and more reports of people getting side effects from the vaccine. Not the usual flu-like symptoms, the normal immune response. I mean quite serious heart problems, menstrual problems, neurological problems. Some people I talked to dismissed these stories as rare cases, or worse, fictional stories created to stir panic. But these are not isolated or fictional cases, I know several people who have experienced problems they haven’t had before getting the Covid vaccine. And there are many more. Yes, I know lots of people who had the two shots and are completely fine. But does this mean all those who report side effects have gone crazy, making up symptoms? Why are these cases not being taken much more seriously, and why are people who raise concerns treated as if they’ve gone nuts? Conducting a massive human experiment is one thing, but it’s quite another to pretend it’s not an experiment. It IS an experiment because there simply hasn’t been time for long-term trials yet.
I have been dedicating a lot of time to this whole subject, and I continue to do so. I take the warnings of scientists very seriously, and also the stories of people who suffered badly from Covid. Sometimes I wish I could just get myself to go and get the damn injection, but I can’t ignore that feeling of deep resistance. I guess a small part of me wants to be a rebel, the one who disagrees with authority. But this is not the main reason why I’m not getting vaccinated. It’s not about wacky conspiracy theories either, and yet I do wonder what is really happening behind closed curtains. For over forty years, climate scientists have been warning us of the catastrophic effects of destroying the environment and burning ancient energy supplies at lightning speed. Who has listened in all those years? A few hippies, hardly anyone else. And now a virus comes along and suddenly all virologists are Gods and vaccines are the only solution. Is this really only about public health and not at all about profit and power? I might be wrong, but something doesn’t seem right.
So if being a rebel or a conspiracy theorist are not the real reasons why I’m not getting the vaccine, what is? I’ve asked myself this question many times and I came to the conclusion that it’s to do with my perspective on health. For most of my life, I’ve looked at health and disease in a holistic way, i.e. all the different parts of the body are connected, just as body, mind and soul are connected too. Disease is the result of an imbalance of the whole organism, and so in order to overcome illness, or to protect yourself against illness, the whole organism needs to be treated. It’s common to take antibiotics at the first sign of infection, but to me this has always seemed a destructive practice, especially in the long-term. People pop pills as if they were sweets, and as with any drug, the more you take, the more you need. Is this a sign of progress, or a sign of madness?
Everybody can do whatever they want, but personally I think a more gentle and natural approach to healing makes much more sense. A big factor is time – in our modern world, things need to happen as fast as possible: shopping, parcel deliveries, travel, etc. We live in an age of instant satisfaction, and so it’s not surprising that health problems need to be overcome immediately too. But true healing requires patience, and in a hyper-capitalistic world there’s hardly any space for patience.
If I were 72 years old, or if I had severe health problems, like my Mum (who is still here, by the way, her cancer has improved dramatically), I would get the vaccine. I’ve been vaccinated for all sorts of other things, I’m not an anti-vaxxer. Nor am I anti-medicine or anti-science, as some have suggested. I don’t want to go back to the Stone Age and live without hospitals and powerful medicines. But if I do a personal risk assessment, I don’t see myself at high risk. I’m 45, I don’t have any chronic health issues and don’t take any prescription drugs other than a painkiller once or twice a year; no antibiotics in many years; at least 80% of the food I eat is organic; I get regular TCM treatments; no McDonalds, no tobacco and very little alcohol; I love dark chocolate and take a few vitamin supplements when the weather gets rough. Does this mean there’s no risk? Of course not. But for me, there’s more risk dying in a car crash than dying from Covid. Which brings me to the main criticism I have in regard to the way society is dealing with Covid: It’s just about the vaccination, nothing else.
What about other drugs to treat Covid? They exist, but so far, most have been suppressed and ridiculed, be it conventional or alternative ones. If vaccinated people can still infect others, why do we differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people? Why don’t we test everybody, vaccinated or not? And shouldn’t we be talking about immunity passes, rather than vaccine passes? What about reducing the risk factors? If almost 80% of hospitalized people are overweight, shouldn’t we be talking about diet and exercise 24/7? What about profit in the healthcare system? Most ICUs struggle to cope with an average flu season, and yet public hospital beds are being reduced because empty beds, kept free for emergencies, aren’t making any money. What about our toxic agriculture, producing toxic food? Every day, pesticides are infecting clean land – why does this get so little attention? Why are people encouraged to get the vaccine by being offered unhealthy fries and burgers? Why are so few people talking about the importance of our terrain, creating healthy soil for healthy lives? The official narrative is, ‘just get the vaccine and we’ll all be fine’. To me, this is not a healthy strategy.
The road ahead
Science is based on careful observation and asking questions. During the course of this pandemic, many wonderful doctors and researchers have saved countless lives, either through direct treatment methods or through administered vaccines. This is amazing! But it’s only one side of the story. Many questions remain and many observations need to be made in order for humanity to evolve into something better. And while I’m no official scientist, I intend to continue doing exactly that, observing and wondering.
Who knows, maybe I will get the Covid jabs one day. I have friends who think I’m crazy for running around unvaccinated; other friends think I’m crazy for obeying the mask and test regime. They all have their reasons, some I understand, others I don’t. I can accept that because I think diversity is natural. And as we move towards the unknown territory called the future, I hope that we find a way to honour and value this diversity. We could even love each other, not despite of, but because of our differences.