Under normal circumstances, the fact a 79-year-old pensioner had decided to get the flu jab would hardly be front page news.
But, as we’re all sick of being reminded, these aren’t normal circumstances and, in this instance, it’s no ordinary pensioner and it’s not the regular flu jab.
The news that Michael D Higgins is ready and willing to take a Covid vaccine once it has been approved shouldn’t even be news. It’s simply common sense. But as this hideous year finally stumbles to a conclusion, common sense has become an increasingly rare natural resource.
Over the weekend, the President’s office was keen to point out their man would indeed avail of any vaccine that came along and for that we should be grateful for the fact this country’s first citizen was prepared to do his bit to combat the pernicious growth of paranoia and conspiracy theories from the anti-vaxx movement.
People are scared, and have been scared since March. When people are scared they make bad choices
It’s hard to imagine a worse choice than refusing a life-saving dose of medicine, yet the most recent survey found 70pc of the people were willing to take the vaccine, while 14pc remained unsure and 16pc were adamant they would have nothing to do with such an idea.
If we lump both those latter categories together, that means that when the vaccine does finally arrive, as much as 30pc of the population will forgo the treatment, which rather defeats the purpose.
In years to come, when historians look back at the strange and terrible year that was 2020 they won’t just examine the pandemic, they will also have plenty of fertile ground to explore the epidemic – the epidemic of stupidity which has swept the land. Not just our land, either. After all, the anti-vaxx movement has managed to carve a niche for itself in just about every country in the world.
Previously, the anti-vaxxers were seen as little more than a strange curiosity, a rag-bag mix of fringe conspiracists and cranks who laboured under the illusion they were the only people smart enough to see The Truth.
Up to last year we could look at these people with a mixture of pity and scorn. After all, I may not be a doctor or public health official but I’d still take their advice over someone like, say, Jim Corr.
But the pandemic has provided fertile grounds for wild, paranoid fantasies and if they weren’t so bloody dangerous they’d actually be quite amusing. Did you know that Bill Gates wants to secretly microchip us all through his proposed vaccine? Well, you do now.
Apparently, the multi-billionaire wants to earn even more money and his fiendish mind-controlling vaccine will force us all to buy more of his computers.
Or did you know the vaccine is an attempt to turn us all into human/animal hybrids? That was the claim made by one Christian ‘prophet’ recently.
Nobody would have been aware of the demented rantings of an obscure wannabe cult leader until Black Panther actress Letitia Wright shared a video by self-styled religious guru Tomi Arayomi.
He admitted that while he wasn’t a medical expert, he had a hunch any new vaccine would make people “grow new limbs”. This is the level of madness the rest of us have to combat.
In fact, a lot of the anti-vaxxers seem to be engaged in their own private arms race of idiocy as they compete with each other to come up with the most outlandish theories they possibly can. In fact, they’re not even theories. They’re just half-baked paranoid delusions which have absolutely no basis in reality. None whatsoever.
This is not an ongoing medical and scientific argument. It’s not a dispute between two sides of experts which leaves the rest of us with an option to pick one side or the other.
Instead, it is simply science fact. Vaccines work and if you doubt that, ask yourself when was the last time you saw someone with polio?
People like Wright like to say they are merely asking questions. They like to portray themselves as edgy free thinkers who are too smart to swallow the official line. Of course, the opposite is true.
Wright has now been ‘cancelled’ and her acting career is in jeopardy but that’s not the right way to go about the issue, either. Anti-vaxxers just love to be silenced because it feeds into their delusion the establishment is terrified of their heroic quest for the real, hidden truth.
I’ve always said you should never make a martyr out of a moron, and when it comes to this particular debate there are a lot of wannabe martyrs out there.
Instead it would be better to focus on what the Government’s communications department is doing – preparing a campaign to educate and inform. The fact people even need to be educated and informed is depressing enough in itself, but that’s the unfortunate reality.
The sense of social cohesion which was present back in March at the arrival of the pandemic has dissipated. There are a variety of reasons for that, perhaps most notably the understandable sense of Covid-fatigue which is now afflicting us all.
But just because we’re sick and tired of living under conditions which would previously be considered unthinkable doesn’t mean we should start listening to every huckster and grifter who suddenly realises they can give their empty lives some meaning by pretending to be an oracle of truth.
However, while we shouldn’t listen to them, we shouldn’t actively suppress them. After all, the best way to beat bad ideas is with better ones, not by driving them underground.
In fact, I’d quite like to see a panel of these eejits appearing on any of the Irish current affairs programme so their batty theories can be properly debunked by people who actually know what they’re talking about.
But I won’t be holding my breath.