The call went out a few weeks ago to pray for my friend’s sister Judith (name changed) who was very ill in hospital with Covid.  She was a hair’s-breath away from the ventilator, which can have lasting effects on those who recover.  Was Judith vaccinated, I asked.  No, said my friend, none of her (large) family were except herself.  They were all strongly anti-vaxxers.  She tried and tried to reason with them but they were adamant.  After a couple of weeks Judith came home, but is still very poorly.

It was a worst outcome from prominent anti-vaxxer, money guru, Alan Steel.  He died last week after a month long battle with Covid. Just days before he fell ill he highlighted on social media links to reports on vaccine deaths by a conspiracy theorist website, as well as telling friends to listen to videos on how ‘it’s not a pandemic of the unvaccinated’.  I wonder what he would have posted from hospital had he been able.

Then there are the two very close friends, who both have a passion for healthy living and spend much of their time together at the gym. One believes that the vaccine rollout is just a ‘big ploy by the drug companies to make money’.  She thinks that people who get a jab are just looking for a quick fix, rather than taking a long-term approach by getting fit and eating well. Her friend pointed out that she eats healthily and exercises daily, but she still got Covid and it nearly killed her. She’s vaccinated now.  Wanting to remain friends, they closed down the conversation, saying that they should agree to disagree.

But it left the friend writing the story feeling very uncomfortable. She was concerned that the loving, generous and kind person she knew was choosing to put other people at risk by not having the jab.

I’ve found that conversations with anti-vaxxers can be confusing, because they’re a bit like chasing smoke and mirrors, or listening to strange conspiracy theories. As Matt Hancock wrote in an article today, ‘it is not some conspiracy masterminded by all-powerful lizard-men.’  Almost 50 million people in the UK have had at least one jab. The Covid vaccines rollout is one of the most intensively researched, clinically led, carefully monitored program any government has ever embarked on.

The point Matt Hancock makes is the same one that divides the two friends and probably thousands of others. The majority of people in hospital with Covid are unvaccinated. How can it be right that people who have refused the jab put such a burden on the NHS?

Do they ever think of the people who have died, and those who will die because they can’t get the treatment they need?  And the suffering they cope with as a result?

One of my dear friends is in her late 80s.  She’s been waiting since March for an operation to increase the capacity of her heart pacemaker.   She’s been told there is no capacity in her local NHS, and she’s even talked about digging into her savings to have it done privately if that’s possible.  She is so tired and out of breath it’s all she can do to get dressed in the morning.  Oh, and she’s also carer to her husband recently diagnosed with dementia.

Do the anti-vaxxers realise the effect they are having on others?

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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