I have written before about how people come to believe ‘fake news’, even if such beliefs are counter to all evidence and more, importantly, harmful to the believer. I think my first foray down this road was Kangen water. The claim is that when water is given an alkaline, rather than an acidic, profile, it has huge health benefits. It can cure cancer, certainly measles (no need for a jab), causes weight loss and all around good health. To get your own Kangen water, which you can then sell on via a Tupperware model, all you need to do is invest around $4500 in your own flash-looking electrolysis machine.
The trouble with it is that it is totally fake news. Everything is acidified when it hits the stomach, whether it starts out alkaline or not. There is no science supporting any health benefits. It was a big thing among poor Pacific communities a few years ago, people searching for a leg up out of their difficult lives.
Covid jab myths are exactly the same as Kangen water myths, but there are more of them. Oh my goodness, there are so many! Starting with the fake news view that Covid 19 does not exist, or is just flu, that the injection will harm you or kill you, will give you cancer, contains a microchip so that Google can control you, is not safe, is worse than the disease, negates your life insurance if you die and yadda, yadda, yadda. If God wants you to be protected, he will provide.
We have known all along that 20% of people are likely to be vaccine hesitant. Some time ago the numbers were higher. Oddly enough, the reality that your government is now going to let the virus into the community has sharpened some minds to the likelihood and a portion of refusers have now changed their minds. I particularly enjoyed some of these people being interviewed on super vax Saturday, recounting how when they saw that others around them were not getting sick from the jab, they felt it might be safe for them. Good deduction!
The incentives got lots of people over the line. Free food, good music, a brief sit-down in business class on a plane. More particularly, I think some of the telethon-type atmosphere did turn around the fear into something better.
There are three matters which are going to make problematic much in the way of further progress. The first is that the least successful part of the vax weekend was enrolling first-jab people. The primary goal was to get people into the system with their first jab, but two out of three who turned up were second-jabbers. The now leaves a residue of around 15% of eligible people (around 600,000 people) with no jab. That’s a lot of vulnerable people, and Māori appear to lag behind, and yet are most vulnerable to the virus.
The second issue with super weekend was that the most deprived and most rural areas were, by and large, at the bottom of the ‘success’ list. Tairawhiti, Whanganui, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Waikato in particular were particular targets that failed to fire. The MOH is not so good at regional responses, but it is clear they are needed, in those areas and others.
The third point is reaching the hard core of opposition. Mostly this is people who believe that their ‘freedom’ is being impinged by Covid in general, and the vaccination, mask and other mandates aimed at preventing the spread of the disease, in particular. I wrote about these freedom protestors three blogs ago, and will not repeat myself.
I am tempted to say put a vaccine station and lots of (contingent on vaccine) free food at the next protest, but that won’t work. People motivated enough to come to a protest will not be swayed by the delectable smells of street food. There could be violence: the burger battle, the charge of the fish and chip brigade, bacon buttie biffing. (Sorry, strayed from the point a little, imagining culinary conflicts).
To get to the 90%, which will give us reasonable protection against what appears to be the inevitable opening up before Christmas, at least 200,000 more first doses need to be given pronto. Ideally, two more super Saturdays worth of jabbing, incentives and promotion, focused on the most deprived areas and bringing it to the people. I don’t know if it can be done, but it is definitely worth the effort trying.
That leaves 400,000, probably among our most vulnerable citizens, undefended when the virus is unleashed on the country. It may only be 10% of the eligible population but the numbers are shockingly high.
Let’s hope the government is well geared up with good plans when it unveils the rest of the roadmap on Friday.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.