By Raffique Shah
July 26, 2021
I got vaccinated last week. I received the first of two doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine. I chose the drive-through option at the Ato Boldon Stadium because it is close to my home and I didn’t have to leave the privacy or comfort of my car to queue up at any stage of the proceedings, which is helpful to people who suffer with Parkinson’s and similar neurological disorders.
The operation was organised by Proman, a large project management corporation in the energy sector, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Fazad Mohammed, the company’s manager of corporate communications, said they hoped to fully vaccinate 7,000 people in this initiative.
With the chorus of dissonant voices confusing citizens over whether or not they should get vaccinated, I think I owe readers and the public an explanation of my decision to take the vaccine. When the potency of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear for all to see, except those who view any- and everything through a politically-tainted lens, I realised this was a virus like no other that I had seen in my life. It was infecting people by the millions in countries across the world, with a “kill rate” that would have been the envy of the armed forces of any war-mongering country.
Worse for people of my age, the deadly virus seemed to have trained its armaments on our demographic: over age 60, stricken with what we would learn were “co-morbidities”—which meant chronic lifestyle diseases that themselves could kill their victims. These are, in the main, diabetes, hypertension, other threatening cardiac conditions, as well as respiratory ailments such as asthma.
I assessed my situation: I have Parkinson’s, which, though not listed as co-morbid, so battered the body that it was sure to have compromised my immune system. And I have asthma, which is under control most times. I concluded, and wrote as much in a column then, that if I were struck with Covid-19 and had to be hospitalised, I’d surely end up as another pandemic statistic. So I had to keep out of its way—no easy challenge, given Trinidadians’ propensity for congregating, hugging and otherwise celebrating friendship on any occasion.
But PD had more or less confined me to my home since 2013, so the restrictive measures the Government imposed in attempts to curb the spread of Covid-19 did not affect me.
There was always a vaccine on the horizon, or several vaccines the world hoped would save us from destruction, maybe extinction. And just as there were the prospects of vaccines, there were doubts about vaccines. I relied on my life experiences to guide me. And I relied on the expertise of Dr Roshan Parasram and his formidable team to guide the population through the pandemic.
Because of my peculiar background, having matured early in life at military college, I had learnt that it was important to lead a healthy lifestyle. I have exercised all my adult life, and stayed fit most times, although my eating habits were not exactly exemplary.
But at any point in my pre-Parkinson’s life, even when I carried some extra pounds, I could run one and a half miles in times ranging from 12 minutes or faster when I was young and fighting fit, to 15-to-20 minutes as I aged and slowed down.
In fact, one of the first symptoms of PD I experienced was slowing down in the closing stages of my daily, three-to-four-mile workouts. I also learnt the value of herbal and homoeopathic medicines. So, for example, at the first sign of a flu, via a sore throat or congested bronchial system, I would take Vogel’s Echinaforce. I managed my health very well, maintaining close to perfect blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The last vaccine I took before last week’s Sinopharm shot was a yellow fever shot that was mandatory when I travelled to India in 1983. I have never taken the annual flu vaccine.
So it was no easy decision for me to breach my traditional health practices that have served me well for 75 years and take a vaccine that is shrouded in uncertainties, as all the anti-Covid vaccines are. Two factors influenced my decision: first, I am no longer as fit as I ought to be to fight this deadly foe. And second, I am disgusted with the uninformed diatribe being peddled to the public to dissuade people from taking the vaccine at a critical point in our war against this pandemic, when either we rid ourselves of it using the vaccine or significantly reduce its impact—or it will get rid of us.
I chose to fight with whatever weapons we have, the vaccines being the most potent, over flight and confusion, which is the coward’s way out.