As a closet anti-vaxxer (see here), I delayed getting the mRNA vaccines as long as I could until the non-mRNA ones were available in my country. Then I decided to get those. 

Two reasons – the first, more pressing one was that the government had started to implement very stark and severe vaccine-differentiated measures in my country. There were already restrictions to the numbers that could dine out together, group sizes for socialising, even the number of visitors to homes. 

For fully-vaccinated people.

For unvaccinated people, no dining out at all, no access to malls, no access to cinemas.

Think leprosy in the Old Testament and you get the idea. Therefore, the motivation for vaccination then was not for medical reasons, nor even “social responsibility”, but to have some semblance of social life and be able to take my kids (one at a time) to eat somewhere other than home.

The nice part though, of getting the non-mRNA vaccine is I could then rub it in the noses of all those who did take it. Especially those who secretly didn’t like the idea of it, but felt pressured to do so, got it anyway, then started lashing out at those who delayed in their resentment.

This was an “in your face” moment for me. A moral victory of self-satisfied smugness whereby I avoided the risk of weird side-effects or horrors of the mRNA vaccines (which these people did not) but now could enjoy the full privileges of fully-vaccinated people anyway. I would have my cake and eat it.

Of course, God (or fate or whatever you believe) saw it to it I didn’t get away with it.

On the very weekend I got my first dose of the non-mRNA vaccine, my son developed a fever, a couple of days later, he tested positive. And because I was his main carer while he was ill those two days, I caught it too along with my wife despite our belated efforts at isolating him.

As per national guidelines at that time, we duly reported our results to the authorities, locked down the three of us in our bedroom, barricaded the nearby bathroom for our exclusive use so as to protect the remaining household members from catching it from us, and settled down for the “prisoner in your own home” routine for the next 10-14 days. But at least we had each other for company. Which, as the days wore on, proved to be a mixed blessing at best.

The day my son officially tested positive on a proper PCR test, we all tested ourselves with the home-test kits and were negative. However, the next day, I developed mild symptoms – nothing more than a slight runny nose and a vague sense of unease in my body. My wife and I tested ourselves again and both came back positive, which is when we bade farewell to the rest of the household and locked ourselves in our bedroom to sit it out.

For the next two weeks, I got front row seats for a very vivid demonstration of the difference between a Covid infection in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. On the first day, I had the secret ambition of getting better from it at least as quickly as my wife, if not sooner.

And why not? I was fitter, I was more active, I exercised regularly – running 5 kilometres on alternate days at a respectable pace, I even practised Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I would shrug off the virus in a few days on account of my superior general health and constitution and live to brag about it.

On day two, I was sleeping fitfully for about sixteen hours while my wife was up and about with an irritating cough. By day three, my son had fully recovered, my wife still had a cough and was getting bored, while I was mostly out of it the whole day. And this was the pattern for the whole of week one for our joint Covid experience. My son had a high fever for two days, coughed and moped around a bit for the next two, then effectively recovered. My wife had a cough and a bit of a runny nose for a week – not even enough to keep her from work normally in a pre-Covid world, and effectively was mostly fine after that.

In my second week, my body was wracked with aches and pains all over, I was exhausted after the slightest activity such as going to the toilet, or the frequent coughing fits that overcame me. If I stayed on my own, I would have checked myself into a hospital. Not that I ever felt that my life was threatened, or that I was ill enough to require hospital care per se, but I would not have been able to manage simple things such as preparing food for myself, and clearing the dishes.

I couldn’t even Whatsapp.

And then there were the cluster headaches like I had never experienced before. Like blinding explosions of pain across the head with no warning, often after movement, but just as often occurring for no reason. Again, whilst I never felt my life was actually in danger, there were times when I wished I were dead.

I didn’t do so in the first week because I was too out of it to be conscious enough to wish I were dead.

In the end, I gave in to taking some over-the-counter basic painkillers just to make life bearable. They helped somewhat, enough for me to function, but only just. (I had a reluctance to take medication when ill, believing it was “better” and more “natural” to sit it out. The basis of this is almost exactly the same as my previous anti-vax stance. And this has likewise now been abandoned).

In due course, I did get better. At least, the headaches mostly eased off, the coughing wasn’t in fits, and the body aches settled. The deep fatigue and weariness remained, but at least there wasn’t outright pain anymore. But it did take me the full fourteen days to recover.

By the time I could step out of isolation, I had lost three kilos in weight, and practically all cardio-vascular fitness. A slight cough lingered for two weeks after and so did the headaches. At time of writing it has been more than a month and I’m still only walking distances I used to run with ease.

My wife, in contrast, more or less cleared it in a week and has been fine. To add insult to injury, my elderly vaccinated mother also caught Covid a few days later, had mild symptoms for a few days then recovered as though nothing happened.

Without going into the long reasons why I resisted taking the mRNA vaccine again (you can read about it here), the short and sharp answer to why I now support vaccination is in this very stark and obvious demonstration of the difference it makes when we all got Covid together. No government conspiracy, no skewing news in favour of one view or another, no fudging of figures, no unknown person on youtube spouting their opinion. 

(I know I am such a person to you, but obviously, I know myself and my pre-existing health, so to me, I am trustworthy).

Vaccination makes a massive difference in the outcome of Covid even in healthy, young-ish individuals like myself. The experience of the illness itself in its full glory is enough for me to regret not getting vaccinated earlier, let alone the long-Covid which I suspect I now have to deal with long-term.

For the elderly and vulnerable, that difference could easily be life and death.

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