“I was anti-vax, now I’m double jabbed, here’s why…” / A.J. Hendry

Who would have thought almost two years ago now that vaccines, epidemiologists, QR codes and the Director General of Health, would be a part of our daily conversation?

When you stop and reflect on it, it’s crazy how fast our world has changed.

And yet it has changed.

And with change comes discomfort, anxiety and fear.

I grew up opposed to vaccines. Legitimately, I thought they were harmful and posed a risk to some kids. It wasn’t until I had my own kid that I was forced to reexamine what I’d previously believed.

Leading up to the birth of our firstborn my wife and I began to do some reading and research. We looked at the official national and world health information, we even looked at the some of the information on the opposing end of the spectrum.  

In the end we discovered a couple of things. For a minority of kids, there is a chance of some type of adverse reaction, from some vaccines. And that in most cases, the chances of getting the disease we would be vaccinating our kids against, was far more likely, with far more deadly or dangerous side-effects, than the vaccine. And yet still, that small percentage of kids that may have suffered harm was concerning to me. What if our kid was the one? What would we do? How would we forgive ourselves?

I remember when we finally made the decision, we decided that our decision needed to be one made out of Love, not fear. The information that argued against the official world health information was information that was filled with fear. And yet, despite that fear, the scientific evidence from the official sources of information provided both data and long-term studies that gave context, and real information, to the personal antidotes that seemed to dominate the over perspective.

In the end we decided to vaccinate our kids, because though there were some risks to some kids, the risks and consequences of our kids getting the diseases we were vaccinating them against were both far more likely, and far more serious.

It’s easy to look at people who aren’t vaccinated and write them off as uneducated or unintelligent. It is a common characterization, and if I’m honest it’s unhelpful. People have a whole range of reasons why they don’t want to be, or in fact can’t, be vaccinated.

And to be honest, when I leant more towards the end of the spectrum that was opposed to vaccinations, these sorts of characterizations drove me further away from examining my own thoughts and opinions further. I remember several times being asked by health professional’s if I had been vaccinated and receiving scorn and ridicule, rather than patience and good information.

It won’t surprise you to learn that it was that sort of approach that just made me dig in deeper.

What actually helped me reexamine this, was not scorn, condemnation or shame, it was patience, being allowed the space to engage with good information, and to talk and think through my perspective without judgement. If I hadn’t have had that space or that time, it is unlikely that I would have been able to change my position.

When we think about people who aren’t vaccinated, we need to start by thinking about people.

To remember that people have diverse thoughts and opinions on a range of things.

That no person is the some total of one idea.

We need to be careful that our thoughts, and our words, don’t slip into the realm of otherizing, or dehumanizing another.

And we also need to remember that what might seem really clear to you, actually might seem completely different to someone else. Largely, our current vaccine debate, that of whether to get the Covid vaccine or not, has been framed in what I think is an unhelpful way.

You either believe the science, or you don’t. You’re either trust the government, or you don’t.

Framing the conversation in this way has led to countless unhelpful and fruitless conversations, with each side throwing facts at each other, neither listening to one another, and with less chance of anyone changing their view.

If you have a desire to engage in this conversation, in any conversation, I believe it is important that we learn to listen to one another. To hear why people take a certain position or not. To provide space for safe, nonjudgmental, and empathetic reflection. To seek to understand one another.

As I’ve engaged in this kōrerō it has struck me that this isn’t really about the facts at all. It’s about the sources we choose to trust. And for some people who distrust the vaccine, they have legitimate reasons not to trust the sources. For some of our māori whanau, they still remember a time when the government lied to them and sought to eradicate their people and their culture. Some would say this is still going on today. Others have had hugely negative experiences with health professionals. Health professional’s that gave them advice which they trusted, and then turned out to cause them harm. Other’s come from a religious context and faith where fear of government and establishment is deeply embedded. Whatever the background, whatever is sitting behind that distrust of the official health advice offered, those feelings are real for the people expierencing them.  No conversation progresses if we don’t learn to listen, and to love, one another.

In the spirit of this I wanted to share some of why I decided to get the vaccine.

I can’t emphasize enough, that regardless of whether we disagree here, it doesn’t lower my estimation of you as a person. You bear the image of the Divine, no decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate takes that away from you. You have worth. Yet, some of the language that has carried this conversation forward has been dehumanizing, degrading, and straight up dishonoring. And that goes for people on both sides of the fence.

So, I want to say clearly that I totally get the fear surrounding what is happening in the world at the moment. As we’ve discussed above, some people have really legitimate reasons to be fearful of the government and our health officials. I’ve felt that fear too. The night before my vaccination I had that thought, “what if I’m one of that small percentage that suffers from a significant adverse reaction?” I knew that the data shows this to be such a small minority of people, but the thought, the fear, was still there. I don’t want to die as much as the next person, I want to be here for my kids. The idea of them losing me is terrifying.

But, then I remembered that – for me – this choice isn’t just about me, or even just about my whānau.

It’s about all of us.

And from where I’m standing, I genuinely believe that this virus is harmful. Not simply because the Government has told me this, but because I have friends with whānau in parts of the world where they have been unable to control the virus. Friends who continue to lose their whānau, who tell stories of hospitals overwhelmed, and grandparents waiting in hallways unattended, due to the health system being pushed beyond capacity. I believe the advice, because I know people who have covid, and I’ve heard of how it’s impacted them and continues to impact them. But, most of all I believe it because – from what I can understand – the data coming from around the world seems to back up and provide a larger context for these experiences.

And so, I got the vaccine, even with a small chance, of a small risk, because I wanted to protect my kids, my family, my friends. I got the vaccine, even though I was afraid, because I want to protect the young people I serve, I want to protect my street whānau. I got the vaccine, because I know, that now Covid is in the community, it is these people who are most vulnerable, and most likely to experience the worst of this pandemic. Rangatahi, māori, those who experience homelessness, and our kids.

I got the vaccine for them.

There is so much more I could say here, but I really need to draw this to a close.

Hear again; your decision to vaccinate, or not to vaccinate, does not make you less of a person.

We need to learn to disagree here, without losing love for one another.

These conversations are important, our choices here do have huge consequences, so we should not shy away from engaging with one another.

But, as we do so, let us do this in Love.

Listen in Love.

Because, in the end, Love is the only Way there is.

#LoveIsTheWay

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

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11 thoughts on ““I was anti-vax, now I’m double jabbed, here’s why…” / A.J. Hendry

  1. Man your blog is just so onto it balanced real and coming from a place of love. It builds me up every time I read it. Bless you man you are doing go

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whenlambsaresilent 12/10/2021 — 9:59 am

      Thank you my friend 💚

      Like

  2. I’m not an anti-vax. I choose not to jab because I don’t have the peace of God taking it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whenlambsaresilent 12/10/2021 — 9:59 am

      💙💚🧡❤

      Like

    2. whenlambsaresilent 12/10/2021 — 9:59 am

      What do you think would give you that peace?

      Like

  3. Your comments on vaccinations are totally on to it. A great resource as well on how to approach the subject with friends. I’m finding your blog so uplifting you are doing a wonderful job well done and keep em coming please

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whenlambsaresilent 12/10/2021 — 10:21 am

      Thank you my friend

      Like

  4. Love this! Please send it to other publications. Stuff, The Spinoff, NZ Herald. Your tone and words are powerful yet gentle and embracing. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whenlambsaresilent 13/10/2021 — 8:03 am

      Thanks Carmen 🙂

      Like

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