‘Have you been vaccinated yet?’

Published July 20, 2021, 12:12 AM

by James Deakin



James Deakin

Over the last couple of months, “Have you been vaccinated yet?” seems to have become the new “May-asawa/anak-ka-na-ba?” conversation starter of choice during get-togethers.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with either, the level of awkwardness or offense all comes down to the tone of the one asking. Because just like that one relative we try to avoid in family gatherings, I notice most people who ask are not necessarily asking out of concern, but for comparison or compliance. And that’s where it may start becoming counterproductive.

Don’t get me wrong. I support the vaccine program.  I have just had my first dose, and I believe it’s our fastest and safest way out of this Twilight Zone we now live in. But I can also appreciate that not everyone feels the same way. And if the goal is to get better compliance, we all should be more sensitive to how we frame the true value of this whole campaign rather than how to enforce it.

So here are a few random thoughts I wanted to share about the program.

Firstly, while promoting the vaccine through different influencer campaigns is a very effective tool in getting the message across, at this stage of the program, we need to be more sensitive to those who have registered and have been waiting to get one, but cannot.

Try and imagine how that feels. It comes across to them as aggressively promoting something that’s not readily available. You know, kinda like how our telcos keep advertising their unli data to new subscribers when those who are already subscribed can’t even get a stable connection or decent customer service when they have concerns.

So it feels like insult over injury when they see expensive ad campaigns with foreign endorsers telling more people to buy more of their services when they can’t even service the ones they already have.

The issue right now is not a lack  in demand; it’s a lack of supply. It’s coming, I know, and we are doing a better job than a lot of other countries, but we should temper the messaging to be in sync with that.

Also, while we are on it, can we be more conscious about asking people publicly about what brand they took. Again, while I’m sure the question is coming from a good place, it almost always ends up in a bad one because there’s really not many productive ways for that conversation to go.

Unless you have a direct source within one of these ‘preferred vaccine brands, it usually only ever goes the opposite way and creates remorse, envy, false pride, or worse, turns political. And for what?  It’s not like you can do anything with the information anyway if they took a “socially inferior” vaccine or were one of the lucky ones that got the branded one. You can’t un-jab them.

So treat the question like the “parang tumataba ka” comment. Even if you feel it’s true, the statement has zero value and an almost 100 percent chance of ending somewhere awkward or worse.

End of the day, unless it’s family or very close friends, it’s none of our business. If they want to tell you, they will. Just like if they want to have kids and get married, they will – for their reasons, not yours.

Secondly, if the vaccines are really the ticket to freedom that we are told they are, then can we start giving back some of those freedoms to those who actually get vaccinated?

We could start by making face shields optional, and do away with those expensive RT-PCR tests and those utterly useless “contact tracing” forms at stores. That alone offers more incentive than the restaurant throwing in a free desert with your meal.

And it’s far more relevant. If we are trying to create some kind of club or movement here, just remember that you can’t sell memberships without privileges. Identify the privileges. And if they are substantial enough, watch them come rolling in.

This is not so much of an issue now, simply because we haven’t even vaccinated the shut-up-and-take-my-money crowd yet, but if we really want to reach herd immunity, we need to properly address the casuals and the skeptics and not just brand them as anti-vax and threaten them with ostracization.

It’s rarely ever that black and white. Almost everyone I hear from actually wants the vaccine, or is at least willing to be convinced, so let’s focus on communicating the risks versus benefits, and then let people make their own decisions based on that.

The key here is to incentivize. Not penalize. People have suffered long enough as it is.