Has COVID-19 sped up the demise of reason and common sense in Jamaica?Sunday, October 03, 2021
DR LEON WRIGHT
In the distant past when reasoning and common sense were applicable, people influenced by their religion, education or cultural values, trusted respected and knowledgeable community figures to offer sensible advice.
The sick in Jamaica sought healing from their physician, priest/clergy, village healer/Obeah man and/or herbalist. These were usually people they knew personally or who were recommended by those in whom they confided. Today, people no longer trust established community resources. Instead, most blindly, and devoutly look to anonymous, and mostly uninformed sources masquerading on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the Internet for advice.
Numerous information sources
This whimsical, irrational information seeking behaviour by those who consider themselves educated, unlearned, religious, community leaders and self-appointed sources of authority is as baffling as it is sad. The result is unnecessary premature illness, suffering, and frequently, untimely, gruesome death. The response of too many in the Jamaican society to the novel coronavirus pandemic is a clear demonstration of the above described ignorance or folly.
Negative impact of new information technology and questionable sources
Decades ago Jamaicans relied on the relatively slow telegram process to share important, time-sensitive, private information with family thousands of miles away. The sender and recipient were the only ones privy to the shared details. Today, in an instant, information can be shared with large audiences without the veracity of the information or the sources being determined. And the gullible audience worldwide is immense.
Abundant fake information and conspiracies
Here is an example of material accessed on this fake information network and their gaudy claims. A well-resourced, overperforming hospital system based on overwhelming patient demand and support decided to do away with the use of expertly trained physicians.
The qualified, experienced, battle tested physicians are instead being replaced by committed parents who do not support higher, quality education, but access their knowledge about health care from available social media. The rationale for this approach is a patient's freedom of choice to determine the trajectory and level of their individual medical outcome. And reluctant acceptance of how the society has rejected scientific principles, medical expertise and prudent medical advice while responding to the pandemic.
Compare this behaviour with the imprudent approach of many to the spread of COVID-19. Here many insist each person has a right to refuse vaccination, or engage in social distancing and mask-wearing behaviour. The directive limiting smoking in public protects one from the negative effect of nicotine which typically is not immediate and from which the exposed may seek to escape because of the obvious nicotine odour. The spread of COVID-19 like cigarette smoke is also through the air. But unlike with nicotine, those engaged in spreading the coronavirus germ often offer no indication of this deadly transfer. People who then become infected may only recognise days or weeks later that their life has been put at risk of serious illness or death. In the interim, they likewise unknowingly spread the infection to unprotected, unsuspecting others.
Making a will
Now that upwards of 900 Jamaicans daily are being diagnosed with COVID-19, routine elective medical procedures and traditional health care for medical emergencies is rationed. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is highly infectious irrespective of the age or medical comorbidity of the exposed. Mortality of this infection is also increasing. It may be time for each Jamaican to complete a will. The will should allow surviving members of the family to more adroitly navigate the grim and deadly effects of the pandemic. Orphaned minors hopefully will not become the responsibility of the State but instead benefit from the care of a loving family. Possessions of value also can be seamlessly transferred. Wasteful, drawn out litigation can be avoided.
Anti-vaxers and COVID-19 sceptics
The compliant COVID-19 fatigued likely will suggest society should seriously consider using anti-vaxers and COVID-19 sceptics as volunteers to take care of those of a similar view/hue who are now infected. Rationing of care to those who ignored COVID-19 infection mitigation strategies should also be explored. They believe this approach is reasonable as those resistant to the benefits of vaccine, social distancing, and mask-wearing, have by their conduct clearly demonstrated their belief in eternal life and an eagerness to prematurely and consciously engage in an early meeting with their maker. Hopefully the prudent, aware of the significant devastating COVID-19 impact currently being witnessed by the vaccine hesitant will decide to receive the effective protective vaccines which are becoming more available.
Myths about COVID-19
(1) The vaccine is not effective. FALSE: Millions of people have been protected by the vaccine. The small fraction of the vaccinated who do become infected have a much milder form of the disease. COVID-19 and especially severe life-threatening disease is now considered a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
(2) Health-care workers are safe without the COVID-19 vaccine. FALSE: Mask and social distancing help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection among health-care professionals but those who are vaccinated consistently develop a much less severe form of the illness when infected.
(3) The risk of injury from the vaccine is higher and much worse than from the actual COVID-19 infection. FALSE: Data from the millions of vaccinated reveal the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the use of relatively new vaccine technology, is extremely safe.
The more common side effects are similar to those from most vaccines. The Food Drug Administration (FDA) has granted full approval for the use of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 which is additional clear evidence supporting its safety. The initial vaccine trials in thousands of individuals and the extensive use under emergency use authorisation were instrumental in substantiating the safety of the vaccines.
(4) The vaccine will change your DNA. FALSE: The evidence suggests the COVID-19 vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the human cell and has no effect on the body's DNA. In the cytoplasm of the cell the vaccine facilitates anti-body production to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) thus offering significant protection against the infection. Except for the mRNA all the components of the COVID-19 vaccine can be found in commonly used medications. Mention of nano particle best describes how small the parts used in the vaccine construction are, and is in no way related to nano-chips or monitoring devices. Cellphones and credit cards are much more effective monitoring devices.
A worrying future not without hope
Dark, deeply depressing and difficult days await Jamaica as the society navigates its way out of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The economy likely will see contraction as travel from major tourist destinations again become restricted.
The cost to purchase medical supplies including vaccines, steroids, oxygen, very costly COVID-19 antibody treatment like Regeneron will be significant. The high mortality will be disruptive and disturbing. Families suffering loss or in other ways impacted will be irrevocably reshaped and left in devastating despair.
Yet there remains one faint flickering hope. All Jamaicans, the destitute, learned, un-churched, insincere, doubting, hesitant, and engaged, will even if reluctantly, simultaneously unite to comply with all established and proven COVID-19 mitigation strategies to successfully subdue this relentless, intransigent pandemic. If not, historians will record this period as an unnecessarily dark day in the life of a nation known around the world for typically outperforming in a most positive way.
Dr Leon Wright is a Jamaican-born, United States-based medical practitioner