The road to herd immunity: How can we get back to our usual motoring and travel habits?

“Precautions and protocols are better at limiting infection than blunt instruments like lockdowns”
by Raymond Figuerres | May 28, 2021
ILLUSTRATION: Echo Antonio

Across a road cutting through a forested mountain, a dead tree’s trunk has fallen, blocking traffic on both lanes of the highway. Without an alternate trail, motorists are stuck. But with cooperation and a bit of hard work, they’re able to cut up the branches and move these out of the way. Someone calls up the local government unit, who sends up a team to help them clear the traffic.

Essential mass transportation, traveling to tourist destinations, and driving for leisure have been radically changed by the ongoing pandemic. The transportation and tourism sectors have suffered greatly. Some successful countries and communities have mitigated that, and we could mimic what they’ve done. Their proactive leaders have implemented a reliable and trustworthy contact-tracing system and complemented it with readily available testing when needed.

Those measures are allowing them to open up mobility in general—not just regular mass transportation, but also recreational excursions. Even with the slow rollout of vaccinations, an efficient way of tracking infections can help us isolate sick individuals and allow for safe interactions. It’s a win for everyone as we can focus resources on those who need healthcare and also insulate the vulnerable. We can gradually ease the current strict restrictions if we have such measures in place, while waiting for a better and lasting solution.

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Science has historically proven that vaccines can limit suffering from diseases as well as control the spread of infectious pathogens. We’ve had numerous vaccines over generations, and they’ve been successful to varying degrees. Some are better than others, but in general, they have been valuable tools for providing us with healthier lifestyles and allowing us to live longer lives.

The novel vaccines developed for the peculiar coronavirus that’s been plaguing us have been polarizing opinions. On one hand, some people have learned to trust the vaccines by diligently digging through scientific data or asking experts for advice. Others, while doing the same, have concluded that it’s not for them. They have their various reasons, and however irrational some of these reasons may be, they ultimately have to decide what’s best for themselves.

No one should be forced, or coerced with aid, to receive a vaccine. A majority seem to be on the fence about that decision. In my conversations with them, a lot seem to have a preference for certain vaccine types and brands, and they want to wait for their choice to be available—as opposed to those who are hesitating because they are waiting for more reassuring facts on safety and efficacy. There’s also a growing minority who are against vaccinations in general. Their reasons are private, not baseless, and should be respected.

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A large proportion of those infected with COVID-19 will not suffer anything more than a bad cold or flu. If they want to take the risk, that’s a personal decision. But vaccination programs are more about community stewardship than personal responsibility. It’s more than protecting yourself—it’s protecting those who don’t have an adequate immune system, those who will suffer more severely.

Few can claim they live in total isolation. Everyone has interpersonal contacts within the community they belong to. Being in a prolonged quarantine is also a form of community responsibility, albeit a state-mandated one. Pandemic precautions and protocols, when employed correctly, are better methods of limiting infection than blunt instruments like lockdowns. If we invest in those specific processes, we can do away with oppressive restrictions. Let’s all do our part, so we can move on and get to our favorite destinations using our favored mode of transportation.

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Get vaccinated when you can, wherever it’s available. If you haven’t decided yet, my advice is to ask the opinion of health professionals, read the informed consent form that’s a prerequisite for vaccination. All your relevant questions should be answered. Social media is not the best platform to get the information you need. Even mass media sometimes loses essential nuances when digesting scientific data, which can easily translate into inadvertent misinformation.

Be discerning, and even if that leads to a decision not to get vaccinated, it’s all right. It won’t require the participation of everyone stuck on a mountain road to remove the tree blocking the route to the places they want to go.

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ILLUSTRATION: Echo Antonio
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