The human species had evolved and grown throughout the years. They made advancements in sciences, technology, and other fields. The research they had done helped humanity reach new heights in living conditions. Our life expectancy had dramatically increased from the average of around 31 years old during the 1900-s, to the new average of around 71.2 years old. Our life expectancy almost doubled over the span of 100 years. Although the advancement of medicine and technology brings many benefits, it also comes with bad effects as well. The increased human population has lead to many disastrous impacts to our planet. It could be counted as inevitable considering that we are the only species that has utilized our environment to suit our ‘desires’. (Notice how I do not say ‘necessities). Yes we as humans have exploited our environment to suit whatever we want. New shopping malls, unnecessary sky-scrapers, vehicles that produce harmful gasses, and so on that have become the norm in our society today. Which is why, an egregious plague has been brought upon us in the form of a virus, the COVID-19 virus.
Throughout the time that humans have been on this planet, every hundred years or so, a plague that brought catastrophe will appear upon our planet. Let’s take it back to 1920, with the Spanish Flu. This plague had a death toll of around 500 million people from the Southern Seas to the North Pole. Also, due to the fact that this plague happened during the height of World War 1, the number of deaths greatly increased. Fun fact, this plague did not start in Spain, as Spain did not participate in the war. It’s just that they were the only country with a free press. So the first publications of this plague were recorded in Spain, and inevitably, the suspicions that it arose from there were spread.
Besides that, The Black Death. This plague occurred around 1346-1353. The Black Death had a wonderous journey from Asia to Europe. With an estimation around half of Europe’s citizens had succumbed to this disease and died. This plague was spread by rodents. Another fun fact, the death toll this plague caused actually invited technological innovation due to the lack of manual labor present.
Furthermore, The Black Death’s last major outbreak in Great Britain caused a mass exodus from London, led by King Charles II. The plague started in April 1665 and spread rapidly throughout the hot summer. Fleas from plague-infected rodents were one of the main causes of transmission. By the time the plague ended, about 100,000 people, including 15% of the population of London, had died. But this was not the end of that city’s suffering. On Sept 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London started, lasting for four days and burning down a large portion of the city.
Well, enough about the history lesson, let’s take it a little bit to the present. The recent Swine Flu and Ebola viruses that were plastered all over the news and media during its time eventually died down. Why is that? The answer is staring right at your face. Human innovation and technological advancement. What’s to say that the same will not happen to our new friend, COVID-19? Well, this virus has been around for a year, since its inception in a black market in China after a presumably adventurous person decided to have bat soup (if the rumors are to be believed).
Recently, major breakthroughs in vaccines have been achieved by scientists all around the world. You may have come across the Pfizer vaccine, Astra Zeneca, and a few more. Why vaccines are important? Well, the simple reason is: it’s a way to get back a sense of normality that we so greatly crave. Since April 2021, almost 140 million people have been vaccinated. But, surveys have shown that 1 out of 5 people are reluctant to take the vaccine. Because of all the rumors they have been hearing about the side effects of the vaccines. These people have not been properly educated on how a vaccine actually works. Do you remember back in primary school, when those scary doctors with needles come and poke your shoulders? Well, that was a vaccination for diseases that have long disappeared from our society. Diseases such as measles have been cured by vaccines. You may have also seen the disastrous effects of people who don’t allow their children to take vaccines. Proudly calling themselves anti-vaxers and brought about small clusters of measles-ridden children after refusing to vaccinate their children.
Well to put it simply, our body has many ways of defending itself against pathogens. A vaccine is basically inserting a weakened version of the pathogen (antigen) into your body so that it can produce an antigen against the pathogen by triggering the immune system. With the COVID-19 vaccinations, it requires multiple doses. In lay man terms, it is basically training the body fight specific diseases by building up a memory of the pathogen so that it can rapidly fight it in the future.
The goal of mass vaccinations is to achieve something called herd immunity. Since after someone is vaccinated, the chance they will succumb to the disease will be minimized. When a community of people is vaccinated, it allowed their body to build protection that will greatly reduce the possibility of further spread of the virus. The more people that are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus to circulate between people and the easier it is for the virus to be contained. This particularly helps people who have underlying health conditions and cannot handle vaccines, as they will be kept safe by staying in a community that has herd immunity.
The side effects of the vaccines may vary according to the person, but generally, you will have muscle aches, chills, fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, soreness at the injected part, and many other side effects that only you might experience. All of these are just the way of your body adapting to the new foreign weakened form of the virus.
So far these are the few vaccines that have been clinically tested; Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson’s Jannsen. A few days ago in our country, the higher-ups had been offering registrations to take another vaccine called AstraZeneca which had been quickly snapped up by residents of Selangor and KL. But, if you wait, Malaysians are still going to get the other vaccines that have been provided by the government through registration via the MySejahtera App. If you have not done it, go do it now!
It is our job to educate and motivate people to take this vaccine. Not only to help ourselves but for others who are more susceptible to the virus. Governments around the world have implemented different strategies to ensure more people are motivated to take the vaccine. For example, making it non compulsory to wear masks when gathering with other people who have been vaccinated. Besides that, governments have been trying to implement vaccine passports, which is essentially a way to prove that you have been vaccinated before travelling to other countries as now most countries are planning to only allow vaccinated people into the country.
In a simple nutshell, getting vaccinated is an important step to protect yourself and other people around you in order to overcome the pandemic and reduce the number of deaths so it won’t be as many as the black death and the Spanish Flu. Even though there are side effects, that should not stop anyone from taking the vaccine. I’ve heard stories about the quarantine center as one of my friends who was positive had stayed there for quite some time. The stories he told were very unsettling and it motivated me even more to try my best to avoid being in contact with the virus. Don’t be stubborn, be smart and cautious.