If you’ve been working from home and are missing spontaneous office chatter, here is a little excerpt of banter across the desks and over the bookshelves.
“Do you know when you’re getting yours?”
“I’m supposed to be getting mine in two weeks but my doctor called and said I might be able to jump in early as there have been a few cancellations.”
“My mom just had her second one so she’s really happy but her older brother isn’t so keen.”
“Interesting, because my cousin had the virus, got better, then got her jab and had to go into hospital because she had a bad reaction. I can see why some people aren’t that keen.”
“Which one did you get? Moderna?”
“I had a choice. I went for Moderna because it sounds nice. The other one is a bit of a mouthful…”
As vaccinating picks up pace around the world, I’ve been keeping a little mental tracker about behaviours, side-effects and resistance. My 102-year-old grandmother has had both her jabs and has been completely fine. She’s the type of woman who would have probably turned it down so someone else could have it but it seemed to be house rules that she needed to be vaccinated. Don’t get my mother started about the Ontario government’s poor rollout as she’s still waiting. She reminded me that it’s important that the province steps it up a gear, since some people in her building haven’t left their apartments in over a year. In London, many friends and colleagues have had jabs with mixed results. One senior staffer went for hers on Thursday, was entirely knocked out by it and needed a day to recuperate.
Here in Switzerland the vaccine is a topic that has more angles to it than just approvals, jabs and rollout. The sluggish acquisition and distribution of the drugs has become a source of national embarrassment for many. Why can’t a tiny, rich country known for efficiency do this better? How can it be that a nation known for big pharma and advanced research does not have its own vaccine in full production? And why is it that the federal government is in charge of pandemic policy but is leaving the vaccine rollout to the cantons? At the same time, there’s a heated debate about creating a two-tier society of those that have chosen to be vaccinated and those that have chosen not to.
A doctor friend who runs a family practice put it this way: “We have a very strong tradition here of not vaccinating. Many cantons and even certain valleys are known for their anti-vax stance. It cuts very much to the core of what it means to be Swiss. You’re free to make a choice and also to take responsibility. Of course, along the way it becomes political.”
Currently the Swiss media, not to mention ethics committees, are hosting lively discussions about whether it’s even possible to have a vaccine passport. Are we allowed to discriminate against people if they choose not to have a medical intervention? Is it acceptable to exclude people from travel or getting their hair cut if they haven’t been inoculated? And won’t we soon end up in a place where the unvaccinated will have to be given special recognition anyway so the whole “vaxxport” idea becomes a bit redundant?
My neighbour could be the poster boy (OK, he’s in his mid-eighties) for the problem that legislators, airline CEOs and many others face in the rush to get things moving, thinking that vaccines for all will solve everything. On my way out to run my Saturday errands I bumped into him as he was coming up the drive from his daily walk. He’s a sharp, feisty chap who’s definitely up for making mischief and always has a bottle of champagne chilled for spontaneous visits. He complained about the current government measures and made some fuss about masks. I asked him where he was heading for his holidays.
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying in Switzerland. I’m not getting that bloody injection,” he said. “Just you wait and see what happens in two years to all those people who’ve been vaccinated.”
At first I was a bit startled by his take on the topic but then again, not entirely surprised. As a world traveller with a taste for southeast Asia, was he going to be banned from travel? In the short-term, perhaps. Would he be up for taking any number of airlines and governments to court, and spending his savings on making a point? Most definitely.