Editorial: Danger of antivaxxers must not be ignored

Johannesburg – On March 26 last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would go into hard lockdown for 21 days, which was to begin from March 26 to April 16.

This extreme measure was taken as the government hurriedly began to contain the spread of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, which was wreaking havoc across the globe, especially in China, Italy, Spain and Brazil, where people were dying like flies.

The unprecedented move was taken under the Disaster Management Act. South African streets and roads immediately became empty.

Towns and cities looked like ghosts as citizens were instructed to stay home.

Exception was only granted for essential services like the buying of groceries and medicines, access to banking services and the collection of social grants, among others.

We were given no choice as the government told us that the measures were necessary to disrupt the chain of transmissions, prevent the spread of the virus and save lives.

We all complied.

We were all afraid, very afraid, especially as we witnessed how millions of people were perishing around the world. It was a terrifying moment never seen before in the history of this country.

We complied because we understood that the right to life preceded all other rights in a disaster situation.

Salaries were cut, if not lost. Businesses shut down and many people went hungry as a result. Even opposition parties, who would usually always criticise the president , submitted to those measures, which were described as draconian in certain sections of our society.

“While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far greater,” said the president to a stunned nation.

In the midst of this pandemic, worldwide focus and prayers went to scientists as they scrambled to find a cure to this invincible enemy. We all celebrated with a sigh of relief as a solution was found in the form of a vaccine. However, now that a vaccine has been discovered, we are witnessing the rise of anti-vaxxers.

These are people who have become a danger not only to themselves but to their families and society at large.

They have offered various muddled excuses for their refusal to get the jab.

What is more astounding is how the government, especially the president, is failing to take a strong stand against anti-vaxxers.

While on the one hand the president admits that those who refuse the vaccine increase the risk of further infection waves, which would lead to more deaths, he on the other hand vacillates by defending their constitutional right to choose.

How strange that our constitutional right to choose was not considered when a hard lockdown was introduced. Why should other considerations now supersede the right to life, especially in this era of fake news and misinformation about science and the development of the vaccine.

It looks like the president and his government are in this instance pandering to the whims of mischief-makers.

vaxxersYou can do better by being decisive, Mr President.

To read more political news and views from this week’s newspaper, click here. 

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