Vaccinated!

Vaccinated!

This blog is for old people who want to travel to Africa or similar places. Since old people are often spunkier and certainly smarter than young people, young’uns wouldn’t be wasting any time reading it, too. Just get your macchiato or Glenfiddich, whichever relaxes you best, find a rocking chair or bean bag then take a deep breath. Some brain scratching required.

This blog is about how Covid-19 and its growing family of mutants might effect your adventure to distant lands starting this late summer. If your trip is planned earlier it’s probably even truer and probably covers a much wider global area than just Africa: Alaska, for instance.

First and foremost, understand how incredibly different the situation is from most of America and the distant lands you want to visit:

  1. Despite grumblings Americans are getting vaccinated at super-sonic speed compared to virtually everywhere else in the world except Israel.

Tanzania is the one country in all of the world right now with no plan to vaccinate its citizens, because they claim to have no virus. Imagine what that really means.

South Africa, which was instrumental in the Oxford vaccine trials, has been unable to get any vaccines before this week when it turned to India for a vaccine that has yet to receive approval in the western world. Mounting criticism there locally distracts from the reality that big countries like America are hogging the best of the vaccines.

In Kenya there is no reliable timetable for when the country will get the vaccine, but the government announced it would cost each person at least $8 for a shot of the less tried or approved Indian or Russian vaccines. This is equivalent to around $280 for an American at home.

Understanding that the public would not respond well to this the government announced this week it would seek to get the Astrazenca vaccine, but that would cost each person twice to three times as much.

So the public discussion in Kenya has moved quickly into ignoring vaccination efforts altogether and simply forging ahead until natural herd immunity is achieved.

In those two situations, South Africa and Kenya, officials are understandably reticent to predict when herd immunity and the end of community spread might occur. The World Health Organization says it will not be until the end of 2023.

An important scientific compendium published this month in the Journal of Public Health implies Africa is “turning … into the next potential hotspot for the global pandemic.”

So it seems likely that travel to any part of Africa this year and through much of next will engage societies that will still be seriously infected.

  1. “So what? I’ll be vaccinated!”

When asked this morning on MSNBC if now that enough time had past since his second shot, Dr. Fauci said, no, he was not ready to visit his daughters yet, and yes, he was still masking. Why?

Fauci said there is no evidence yet that vaccination which protects you from getting sick stops you from being a spreader.

  1. “So what? I’ll be vaccinated!”

Fine, fine – you’re protected, yes. But it now depends upon the place you wish to go. Sophisticated societies like South Africa are likely to continue mandating masking and social distancing even for those who are vaccinated, for fear your cavalier experience makes you even more likely a spreader. There is every indication right now that state-of-the-art PCR tests will be required for entry and exit, regardless that you’re vaccinated. Make sure that your itinerary allows for all of this.

  1. “So what? I’ll be vaccinated!”

None of the vaccines exceeds 95% efficacy. A 5% risk is inconsequential for virtually all other diseases when your itinerary takes you randomly through populations where even endemic disease is encountered relatively infrequently. But in a “hotspot?” Then a 5% risk really means 1 in 20.

The point in all the above is not to dissuade you from pursuing travel plans. Africa especially needs tourism to recover as rapidly as possible so in many regards expect that an early trip will render some unexpected services and benefits.

The point is that the selfish retort, “So what? I’ll be vaccinated!” stops at the incoming immigration hall. Masking, social distancing and the utmost respect for the less privileged equally suffering from this pandemic is not only called for, but needs to be embraced by incoming travelers.

And when you do then you’ll eliminate the concern about the efficacy of your own vaccination because you’ll not only be protecting others, you’ll be protecting yourself.