The have-nots need to be addressed

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This month, I wanted to talk about the haves, and the have-nots. It isn’t about financial equity or social equity.

It is about the issue that is tearing parts of our community apart right now — and that is vaccinations.

The great majority of people are in the ‘‘haves’’ corner, with more than 80% of all people over 12 years old having had at least one jab. The ‘‘havenots’’ make up arange of people who have differing reasons on why they haven’t been vaccinated.

Some are hesitant, possibly a bit anxious about needles and are waiting; some are philosophically opposed to vaccines; others are opposed because it is the Government forcing them to be vaccinated; and there are some who just haven’t gotten around to getting vaccinated yet.

There has been more than enough name-calling and abuse, particularly on social media. Or should that be antisocial media?

There are many conspiracy theories swirling around our community and mainly driven by online research.

Let me state from the outset — I am fully vaccinated and as a recent media article stated recently, so are all the other mayors in the South Island. That is a good thing as we all have the responsibility of leading our communities, and of doing what we can to improve people’s wellbeing. That includes the health of our communities as well.

It would be great if we could all have complete freedom of choice, as freedom is a key tenet of Western civilisation.

But on the other hand, there have always been rules that are designed to keep people safe — speed limits on our roads are a simple example of that. There are many people who don’t think the speed limits should apply to them, but to keep everyone as safe as possible, there are limits which are enforced by police.

And as we all know, there is even an age limit and licensing requirement that people have to pass before they are allowed to drive on the roads.

The most common argument used by those against the Covid vaccine is that the vaccines are still experimental. However, with several billion vaccinations carried out, they are the most tested vaccines ever, and the sideeffects, as well as the success rates, are very well known.

Then there is the argument that the vaccines don’t stop people from catching Covid. The reality is that they stop the great majority of people from getting it and from spreading it — it has been consistently proven to minimise the chances of catching Covid. For the small percentage who do, the symptoms are much less, with a significantly low chance of needing hospitalisation, and that is important in keeping our hospitals free to carry on with all of the other life-saving work they do.

As New Zealand steadily moves towards the 90% minimum target for the number of people who are vaccinated, the battles between pro-vax and antivax people and groups grow in passion and sadly, anger.

Like pretty much anyone in New Zealand, I know quite a few people who are anti-vaccination — acquaintances, friends, and family.

I’ve made no secret that I support vaccinations for the wellbeing of our community. I have a long-standing trust of the medical profession as a whole.

Like any profession, there are some who damage the reputations of the majority, but overall it is science and the medical profession which have helped extend average lifetimes, with every decade bringing an increase of around two years extra life expectancy for Kiwis.

I remain concerned for my friends and family who won’t get vaccinated as I know they are at a much greater risk of getting harmed by Covid than they are by the vaccine, and I’m concerned that they will help share Covid more widely amongst our community.

I care about our community and I care about those people who refuse to get vaccinated — it is a terrible situation for any community and it is a debate which is dividing populations of most countries around the world.

It may get framed in terms of political beliefs, philosophical positions, or accusations of fear, but the sooner we get to 90% and then to 95%, the sooner I will know that our community is taking care of ourselves and each other.

Gary Kircher is the Mayor of Waitaki