Vaccination for the greater good

PPTA Te Wehengarua President Melanie Webber, explains how, for her, getting vaccinated is the ultimate expression of collectivism.

I dropped the C bomb today. The problem is I just can’t abide a ringing phone (my student years were spent in call centres) and so I picked it up. At the end of the line was a member seeking information about the vaccine mandates.

Except they weren’t really seeking information about the vaccine mandates. They were seeking someone who would give them the answer they wanted about the vaccine mandates. An answer that said it was ok, and that they weren’t going to need to be vaccinated really.

I couldn’t do that for them. I could point them towards the screeds of explanations already put out by the ministries of health and education as to how vaccines work and how this vaccine was approved so quickly. I could point them towards our own excellent advice around employment rights and exemptions and process, but I couldn’t point them to anything that would tell them that they could remain unvaccinated and in front of students in Aotearoa New Zealand past the 15th of November.

Desperately seeking different answers

I know what it’s like to seek desperately for the answer you want because the answer you’ve been given isn’t the one you want. That’s where the C bomb came in. Because there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to send you on a desperate hunt for some different answers, descending deep down a google hole in the hopes of finding something that’s going to tell you it’s all going to be ok. There’s certainly very little time to pause and think about it and make a fully reasoned decision, you have to find some smart people who are specialists in the field and put your faith in them.

Whenever someone mentions invasive medical procedures I’m tempted to whip my top off and show them the scars from my operations. Lay them out end to end and we’d be looking at over a metres worth. Experimental drugs? How about some thoroughly tested ones. Cyclosphosphamide, a key component of many chemo regimes, is a medicalised form of a chemical weapon developed by Bayer scientists under the name LOST and outlawed in 1925. You may know it better as mustard gas. Side effects? Well yes. You should hear some of the things women in my cancer groups are living with, but they’re living and that’s the point.

Keeping vulnerable people safe

I read an article talking about what a privilege it was to be able to rely upon the belief that your healthy immune system would keep you safe. Not everyone gets one of those. Not everyone gets to keep it. We have to keep those people as safe as we can. We have an obligation. My cancer friends have enough side effects without some long covid to top it off.

Just after our elected executive had passed a motion supporting public health advice in relation to vaccine mandates, I contacted our international education union to ask how other countries were managing mandates. They told me that in most jurisdictions they were still struggling to obtain access to vaccines for teachers. I felt like Marie Antoinette complaining about cake. If you visit you can see the faces and memories of educators across the world who have lost their lives to Covid.

Ultimate expression of collectivism

Through this pandemic I’ve thought a lot about collectivism and individualism. Like all arguments it can be twisted either way, but for me, vaccination is the ultimate expression of collectivism. Of valuing others over self. Of doing something you don’t necessarily want to do for the greater good.

A friend shared a picture of his boy who has a genuine needle phobia standing proudly with his vaccine card. It took two goes, and an hour with the nurse at the GP, but he did it. Thank you Fynn for making that choice.

We’ve all had to make some pretty hard choices these past 18 months, and we’ve had to make them quickly. This isn’t an ideal situation, but then this whole global pandemic thing isn’t an ideal situation, and I know that we are going to lose valued colleagues to the mandates. I’m so sad to see them go, I know their students will be sad to see them go, and I worry who will take their place next year, but I also know that I would far rather lose colleagues to another profession than to Covid.

Seyyed Reza Miri

Mathematics Teacher from Iran

“He was a kind teacher”

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 09:11