My mother is, all of a sudden, an anti-vaxxer.
I just found out a couple of days ago, and am aghast. Having spent many hours doom-scrolling on Reddit and Twitter over the past months of home-boredom, smug in my outrage at so much weirdness and ignorance around the world – Q-anon, anyone? – I was mortified to realise that conspiracy theories, fake news, silly misplaced trust and unfounded suspiciousness had made a home in, well, my home.
I also just had my first Sinovac jab earlier this week and was really looking forward to getting mum and dad vaccinated by the first week of next month so I can finally relax and stop stressing out about any risks to their health. So, I was beyond shocked to hear my mother tell me to cancel her appointment. She also called me about five times last night to checked that I was still alive from my jab, convinced that I had keeled over from a blood clot or raging fever.
This is a real problem, shared by millions across the world no doubt, and one I am unsure how to tackle.
Like so many of her generation, she is a luddite (bless) and constantly falling prey to unscrupulous advertising and marketing. She is also not just leery, but cynical about the dangers of the pandemic. She has no real basis for her dread of the jab, only (mis)quoting remembered snippets of conversations and concerns she has heard on daytime talk shows or from some of her friends. She can’t explain why she insisted we all had the flu jab last year, or why our entire family is just about caught up on all essential vaccinations, yet this particular one is an anathema to her. What is so ironic is that while she normally believes every word uttered from her beloved politicians’ lips as though they were delivered from a Sherpa descending Mount Sinai (you get the point), when it comes to taking this needle, suddenly the government’s campaign for vaccinations is a matter she won’t even discuss. She is being beyond obtuse and there is nothing I can do to convince her – yet.
Not only that, she has a ‘doctor’ she visits regularly whom I once found out had been prescribing her boxes of expensive dates (yes, the palmy kind) as medicine for her many self-diagnosed ailments over a period of years, costing tens of thousands of baht we simply didn’t have to spare. From the same doctor, as well as tv commercials, she buys endless amounts of celebrity-recommended health supplements, whether they be some seaweed from Korea or the latest, a weird tacky looking ‘golden caviar’ for the face – all of which she gives away to anyone she can find to give them to. Basically, she generally ignores the diagnoses and prescriptions given by actual doctors, believing instead in the flashy, the loudly promoted and the unscrupulous. She is the perfect victim to those who peddle in the snakeskin oil and unprincipled agendas. She is kind, she is generous, she has trust and she gets taken advantage of. Whether it is financially or by those pushing this ridiculous paranoid narrative about the vaccination, I am deeply concerned for my beloved mother.
Another irony is that her daughter – me! – is in media and advertising. I know a thing or two about taking advertising with a pinch of salt and how to navigate the vastly complex and compromised media landscape, relying on the trustworthy over the agenda-fueled. Yet, in a vein similar to so many parents
of medical and scientific experts these days, my own mother would rather believe something outrageous pushed by a pretty celebrity over, well, me. It is disheartening.
And now, at 78 years old, she is refusing her vaccine and telling me that I am not allowed to take my aged father, 87, to get his either.
I think that many of us may be facing similar problems. I have no solutions. All I can do is rage, beg, cajole and bribe (it’s never about money of course, but time spent together).
So, when yesterday I received an email from Ben Svasti, Secretary of the Consular Corps Chiang Mai, asking me to help spread the word among the expatriate community of the importance of accessing the most up to date information to register for vaccinations in an effort to, well, herd us all towards herd immunity and returning to our new old life, I immediately showed my mother the email. My mother likes and respects Ben, and I thought that that would be the clincher. I have also had the formidable force of all nine of my cousins bribing to send her her favourite dried fish from Bangkok and cajoling her with promised photos of various nieces and nephews…but all to no avail.
So, while I have failed to convince my own mother to take the vaccine (don’t you worry, I am going to pester and plead with her until she gives in, or perhaps kidnap her and take her to the hospital, if need be), I feel that I have to readdress this indignation in my own home by urging you all to please register. I know it is terribly frustrating, what with all the mixed messages and some administration failures from the government, but please take a read of our latest update on the vaccinations for expatriates here and refer all of your Covid-related enquiries to here.
Here is to seeing you all basking in the light at the end of the tunnel.
UPDATE: As I prepare to publish this editorial/rant, I received an email from Ben Svasti which I think I should share:
“Just one thing. However well we organise ourselves in Chiang Mai for COVID vaccination for all, our great weakness is that we are totally dependent on the whims of Bangkok to send us the vaccines we need to get the job done. The question of when vaccines will be available in Chiang Mai for vaccination of foreign nationals is one which local health authorities are reluctant to answer in order not to falsely raise expectations and invite future criticism. The fact is that this matter is totally outside the control of local authorities as it is dependent on the national supply of vaccines which is controlled by the central government. Initially local health authorities answered that some foreign nationals would be vaccinated in June and most in July and latest in August. In my opinion, that is still a realistic timeframe and indeed many foreign nationals, those with pink ID cards, have already been vaccinated this first week. However, the health authorities are now hesitant to answer as the initial shipment of vaccines to Chiang Mai was less than what they had asked for and been promised, hopefully further shipments this month will pick up the shortfall, but it is not certain hence the hesitance. To be fair if the supply of vaccines is limited for whatever reason it should rightly go to the area that needs it most and in the past few weeks new COVID cases in Chiang Mai have almost vanished but in Bangkok new daily cases continue to be very high.” Those who wish to register, simply click here. This is the direct link. If you enter through Wall of Chiang Mai or the QR Code you will end up here as well.