License to not kill: The small printout is a “corona passport” from the Norwegian authorities, verifying that I am mostly harmless when it comes to transmitting COVID-19. It is a good start, but is it all there is?
So I took the chance to travel a long distance by public bus to get vaccinated, and it paid off: I got injected, not infected. It was a gamble, since there was a major outbreak in the area, and I wish it had not been necessary, but it was, and paid off. In my own municipality, people my age are being given their first dose of vaccine this week, and the second dose in 12 weeks, or around the start of September! By now I have also received the second injection with artificial genes, and recently two weeks have gone since that, so I am no considered as protected against COVID-19 as humanly possible. Presumably getting infected in the supermarket is now less dangerous than drinking the Pepsi I sometimes buy there.
For many people in the same situation, the obvious conclusion is to return to the same lifestyle they had before the pandemic. I am sure there are many who are genuinely hoping for that. But we are also many who think that’s too early, and some of us even suspect that there will be a new normal, one that is different from all that has been before.
But let us take the first thing first. As I mentioned, I was “privileged” with a chronic illness that is usually not hindering a moderately active lifestyle, but which could make COVID-19 even much more dangerous than it already is at my age. That is the reason why I was packed off to another municipality for early vaccination. But all around me here are other people in their 60es who are not vaccinated at all, or so recently that their immune system has not yet been set up properly to recognize the virus. And most people in their 50es don’t even have an appointment yet. But for the last couple of months at least, patients in their 50es have actually been the largest group at the hospitals here in Norway. Very few of them die, but those who get that sick tend to not recover fully in months, if ever.
Here in Norway, we don’t really have a problem with large groups avoiding vaccination because of superstition or following the teachings of insane or evil leaders who relish human suffering. So that’s good, even though we have a tiny minority who are personally too confused in their brain to understand the value of vaccination. And of course, there are a few who simply cannot be immunized, because of some genetic disorder, or because of transplants, or some such. In total, there is a large number of people who can still be infected. And we know that it is possible for a double-vaccinated person to get symptomatic COVID-19, although in Norway at least we have not had any severe cases. But even infections so light that you don’t get symptoms, can still shed virus for a while.
The main purpose of the vaccine is not really to protect us as individuals, although that may be our motivation to get it. It certainly was for me, because I am just that selfish. But the real plan is to achieve herd immunity, where there are so many vaccinated people that the virus simply gives up. We achieved that with smallpox, we almost achieved it with measles and polio before some evil or insane people starting seeding rumors that caused gullible and disturbed souls to reject vaccination. Now we will probably have to be on guard against these diseases for the foreseeable future.
It will probably be something similar for COVID-19, with waves of infections coming to Norway from the USA and developing nations, only to fail after a short time because most people are vaccinated. It seems that many of the vaccinated overcome the virus before it has time to replicate, even if some (especially older people) get sick for a short time. Statistics show that as vaccinations go up (at least with mRNA vaccine), transmission of disease goes down. In Norway, so far around 97% have chosen vaccination among the groups that have had the chance. This should be enough to stop the virus near the border, before it gets a chance to find the few vulnerable.
But that is all still in the future. For now, we need to show restraint. Avoid close contact with strangers (“ale and whores” as one says in the roleplaying community), stay home if sick, use masks in dense indoor settings.
The masks are probably come to stay. In East Asia, it has already for a time been normal to wear a mask if you have a cold or people around you have a cold. It is not seen there as a sign of covardice, but of acting responsibly and not causing problems for others. I believe this has a good chance of becoming the rule here in Norway as well. In the USA, it seems masks are now a political symbol, so they are probably going to stay in part of the population for that reason. That’s not how it was supposed to be, but luckily the USA is only 333 million people out of almost 8 billion. From the global perspective, the important thing is to get everyone who wants, vaccinated, and until then be careful to not cause more suffering and death than there has already been.