Immunity to a disease doesn’t equate to protection from infection

 Govt should shoulder responsibility for COVID-19 vaccine disinformation

There is one phrase that I always pray I do not find myself saying, since its uttering would only mean one thing – that, something has gone terribly wrong, with, possibly, grave consequences.

That phrase, which I dread so much is – “I told you so”.

I have never found any pleasure in this phrase, as whenever I have been forced by circumstances to form it in my mouth, someone, or some people would have not heeded sound cautionary advice – but, have stubbornly, or arrogantly proceeded with a reckless or dangerous action, that had caused pain and suffering, either on themselves or others.

Unfortunately, only a few days ago, I found myself tempted to say those ugly words again – as I encountered news articles expressing shock at reported incidents of some of those who had received COVID-19 vaccines being infected with the virus.

Further to this, the widespread shock and bewilderment by a cross section of the Zimbabwean community, at such an occurrence, sank my heart to its lowest depths, as I asked myself, “Why, on dear Earth, did all these people honestly believe that vaccines were meant to protect them from infection?”

An article I wrote a few months ago returned to my memory – in which, I tried my level best (considering my lack of medical qualifications, and limitations) taking the Zimbabwe government to task for its irresponsible and dangerously flawed vaccine “marketing” narrative, that conveyed a false impression that, once one had been inoculated, they could not be infected, and subsequently, could not infect others.

Whenever one watched those endless “let’s get vaccinated” advertisements on the state broadcaster, the “celebrities”, and other public personalities featured, always portrayed being vaccinated as a way, not only to protect oneself against the dreaded pandemic, but also as a sure way of protecting “our loved ones”.

That is why, even the country’s president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, went as far as threatening that, in future, all those who would not have been vaccinated, would not be allowed to travel on public transport (such as the state-run ZUPCO), or secure government employment.

In fact, such ill-advised statements instigated a panick amongst the population, that also drove some private companies into forcing their employees into receiving the jab – as a way of “protecting others”.

In all this madness, I always scratched my head as to where this misguided and erroneous notion of vaccines emanated?

Then, I had my “Eureka moment”, when I heard the government repeatedly use the term, “immunity”.

It then dawned on me that, those who are supposedly in charge of running the affairs of the country – shockingly, together with their science and medical experts – apparently, had a misunderstanding of this word.

For them, “immunity” meant that someone who had been vaccinated, would now be protected from infection, as they had some sort of shield around them – no wonder the distorted belief that, once one had received the COVID-19 jab, they would no longer pose a threat to others, since they could no longer acquire the disease.

That was extremely shocking, especially coming from a government!

Nonetheless, quite simply put, a vaccine is a substance given to stimulate the body’s production of antibodies, and provide immunity against a disease without causing the disease itself in the treatment, prepared from the agent that causes the disease (or a related, also effective, but safer disease), or a synthetic substitute.

Yes, a vaccine provides “immunity” against the disease it has been designed for – but, what does “immunity” mean?

When someone is said to be immune to a disease, this simply means that once infected by a particular pathogen (in this regard, the SARS-CoV-2 virus), they will not be susceptible to the particular disease.

The operative word here is, “susceptible” – which means that someone who has been vaccinated (even with the best and most efficacious vaccine ever created on this planet) is only protected from being vulnerable to a certain disease.

In other words, someone who received a vaccine can still be infected by the disease, and is still able to pass it on to others – but, is simply protected from falling very sick, or even dying from the illness.

This should be common sense, since the antibodies created by the body (at the proding of vaccines) work by fighting pathogens that have already entered the person – which means that, during all that time, the individual would be infected.

That is why, those who have been vaccinated will still need to continue masking up, hand sanitizing, social (physical) distancing, and following all other health guidelines – since, they can still be infected, and in turn, infect others.

Therefore, it was rather irresponsible and unacceptable that a whole government would mislead an entire nation into believing a false narrative concerning these COVID-19 vaccines – potentially, leading to reckless behavior by those already vaccinated.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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