An image of a sticker on a shirt saying, 'I got my COVID-19 vaccine!'.

THE VACCINE

Marquees line the car park, litter on asphalt, a rattle from the train tracks beyond a fence below. Arrows mark the way to makeshift health centres. Red lane, blue lane, check in desk, a dystopian earth. People move around the space chaotically, each of them here for profoundly distinct reasons, yet part of the group. The news reports declining and ascending rates at all hours of the day. Phone screens light up with notifications, barcodes scan and alerts fire out their respective buzzes. Street signs proclaim distance, newspapers conflict the masses. All the while we each wait our turn to stand in the queue.

It’s easy to avoid confronting the vast array of thoughts and commentary surrounding the vaccine. ‘The vaccine’ has become a sort of buzzphrase, a fast-track to clicks from people who are looking for hope, and people who are looking for rage. Each group has their reasons for their belief systems, and each individual has the autonomy to consider their responses to the vaccine. But, why would we need to consider our responses? Why would something as simple as a vaccine require such high levels of discussion? How does this discussion influence self-development, or mental health?

The discussion starts with the media politicisation of healthcare. Of course, healthcare itself has been a political issue for as long as governments and leaders have controlled and managed public health. It’s the media politicisation which is the distinguishing feature in the current climate. When healthcare is inevitably covered by the media, it often emerges through the different biases of its respective presenters and channels. It begins with the questions of a regime, of policy and individual, of freedom of thought and body.

There is a philosophical question which goes something like this: if a person is in a room, and the room is locked without their knowledge, is that person free?

Let’s get this clear: we’re not talking about lockdown here, but the vaccine and concerns over bodily autonomy. Many of us are lucky to feel a general sense of freedom, freedom over our space, our choices, our healthcare, our friends. We only recognise the metaphorical locked door when something makes us feel at odds with our place in the world, something like a pandemic. It is only when we see a whole planet facing that same strange disconnect that each locked room seems to amount to a prison.

The vaccine is not a locked room. The vaccine is a vaccine: a carefully-made, thoroughly-tested treatment, with the aim of remedying a global health crisis. ‘Freedom’ isn’t manifested in one vaccine, but it does spring from our careful actions: from our choices to help a wider cause, from our hope for and belief in a future where we all feel free again. Before the freedom comes the noticing of a locked door, but it’s a little easier when we already know the way out.

Featured image: Marisol Benitez via Unsplash.

This article is not aligned with any political view, or with any specific health provider. This article has not been sponsored by, or paid for, by any organisation or individual, and solely reflects the views of the article author. More information on the COVID-19 vaccination via NHS or on your local healthcare practitioner’s website.

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