WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE of what Delta is doing in Gibraltar? This tiny British toe-hold at the very tip of the Iberian Peninsula has the distinction of being the most Covid-19 vaccinated community on Earth. Thanks to the fact that many of the people who work in Gibraltar every day, return to their homes in Spain every night, fully 118 percent of Gibraltar’s 32,000 inhabitants have been inoculated. That’s pretty impressive – or, so you might think. But the truth is that Covid-19 is once again surging through the tiny Crown colony. Its daily count of community cases is about the same as ours, which, given its size, is pretty damn scary.
Also frightening are the obvious domestic implications of Covid-19’s global resurgence. For months now, we’ve been told that getting vaccinated is they very best thing New Zealanders can do to defeat the virus. But, if a vaccination rate of 118 percent can’t stop Delta in its tracks – then what can? What lessons we are supposed to draw from Gibraltar’s experience?
The first lesson to learn is that statistics should never be taken at face value. That figure of 118 percent, for example, is derived from the number of Gibraltans aged over 16 who have received a full dose of the vaccine. The true percentage of fully vaccinated Gibraltans must, therefore, be considerably less than 118 percent. While children and teenagers under the age of 16 remain unvaccinated, Covid will always have plenty of vulnerable human-beings to prey on.
Another lesson to be drawn from Gibraltar’s experience is that booster shots of the vaccine are essential. The waning effectiveness of the initial jab/s means that those particularly vulnerable to infection will need to be vaccinated again. If we’re talking about the Pfizer vaccine, that means giving the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses a third jab as soon as they approach six months since their second injection – maybe even sooner. Like the flu, Covid-19 is shaping-up to be one of those viruses that must be battled constantly. Getting your Covid shot seems likely to become an annual event.
It would also seem prudent to inoculate the nation’s children. The United States Centre for Disease Control has found that inoculating the over-5s would be both prudent and safe. Reducing sharply the number of potential Covid targets is, obviously, a key strategy for curbing its spread. New Zealand should, therefore, start protecting its children – and the families they live with – as soon as possible.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from the Gibraltan experience, however, is that vaccination is not a magic bullet. Yes, it makes it harder to contract the virus, and significantly ameliorates its worst effects, but it does not confer absolute immunity to Covid-19 – especially if you received your second jab four or five months back.
What’s happening in Gibraltar – and the Netherlands – and Singapore – and South Korea – is a timely reminder that all those other anti-Covid measures: social distancing; strictly limiting your indoor human interactions; and, most importantly, wearing a mask whenever random human contact is likely; remain vitally important weapons for keeping the virus at bay.
Unsurprisingly, New Zealanders (and Aucklanders especially) are looking forward to enjoying a kick-ass summer holiday. It has, after all, been a bloody awful year! Unfortunately, in facilitating this heartfelt wish, the Labour Government has set up the conditions for Delta’s rapid spread across the country. Undoubtedly, a number – perhaps quite a large number – of the vaccinated will, nevertheless, contract the virus. Some of them – hopefully a very small number – will get quite sick.
Just because you have printed-off your Vaccine Pass and/or downloaded it to your phone, does not mean you are now officially bulletproof. All those other instructions about wearing your mask, sanitising your hands, and keeping 2m distant from your fellow citizens, offer vital additional protection – alongside the Pfizer vaccine. They should not be treated as afterthoughts.
For the unvaccinated, however, the nationwide spread of the Delta Variant is promising the Summer from Hell. While the immune systems of those who are double-jabbed are fighting off the virus’s invasion force, unprotected immune systems will soon find themselves overwhelmed. In communities where the vaccination rate is low, the results are not likely to be pretty. The Delta Variant of Covid-19 is a killer. Many unvaccinated New Zealanders are going to die of it before Autumn.
If not for their own sake, then for the sake of those who love them, and rely upon them, I implore the vaccine resistant to give themselves a fighting chance.
The fate of heavily vaccinated Gibraltar should not be taken as proof of the inefficacy of the vaccine, but of the deadly efficiency of the Delta Variant. This thing is a Terminator every bit as deadly as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Cyborg assassin. Remember Kyle Reese’s chilling words from the movie:
“Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 19 November 2021.