I was unlucky this year: drew the short stick and joined the many millions who suffered a respiratory illness at the end of the year and into the new one. Three years of Covid-19 running rampant across the globe, we are no longer surprised by its emergence from time to time. Variants, environmental factors, international travel, the relaxation that comes naturally after living with an illness for a long time — all of them have contributed to our general acceptance. Covid-19 is here to stay.
To be fair, I have no way of knowing if I just caught a garden-variety flu or went another round with the 21st Century’s disease du jour. It appears that, even though things have improved, they have not improved that much.
Tanzania is no longer as nuts as North Korea trying to deny that Covid-19 exists at all. However, we do not really test for the disease. Our medical personnel have become adept at diagnosing and treating not-Covid, which is generally an outpatient phenomenon these days. And, yet, I could swear we were told to get vaccinated just a month or two ago? It is all very confusing. I wondered: Where did Tanzanian anti-vax sentiment really come from, and why did it take such a hold on us?
We vaccinate quite religiously, like many countries in the world. Across generations we have the scar to prove that as we once got jabbed to prevent a variety of illnesses. We’re not great at safe childbirth but, once a child arrives, most medical facilities rural and urban do their best to keep the babies somewhat healthy and protected, even from malaria. So if we begin so well, where does the doubt about continuous prevention creep in?
Of course, we have a dual healthcare system, who doesn’t? Even in the vaunted West I hear it is fairly common in certain circles to try and pray diseases away before seeking modern medical help. I think we all do it. I am a huge fan of modern medicine and even I am easily distracted and sometimes even convinced to embrace alternatives, especially if they are of the vegetable variety that can be grown in a backyard pharmacy. But this is in addition to the cornucopia of modern treatment available to me at the doctor’s office, the pharmacy and, heaven forbid, at the hospital when needed.
Best of all is vaccination. Africans invented deliberate inoculation by the way, as we did the Caesarian section. But, leaving history aside, what is cooler than the possibility of acquiring immunity from pesky disease? That’s the ultimate superpower right there: not getting sick in the first place. And all it takes is a little prick from time to time, nothing we cannot handle. So what is with this newfangled fear of needles?
Here is conspiracy theory to chew on. Imagine this: In production are vaccines that may potentially create immunity against HIV infection as well as malaria. Two major killers on the continent could be de-fanged.
In light of this, consider what kind of a “friend” would expend their energy convincing Africans that vaccines are a bad idea, especially if those “friends” preach about it in evangelical churches on a continent that is known to be highly religious.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]