And of a sound mind

A sound mind.” When you search that sentence in the internet, it often refers to issues revolving wills, family estates or inheritance. But when you become more specific in your search, you discover that there is another application of a “sound mind” that is preceded by “Power” and “Love” and has absolutely nothing to do with inheritance or wills being challenged.

In the second epistle or book of Timothy the apostle chapter 1 verse 7, he states: “For God (or the Holy Spirit) has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” Many teachers often apply this verse to character issues such as a spirit of timidity, lack of courage or plain and simple being scared, and that is where many Filipinos, especially the elderly, seem to be right now regarding the decision whether or not to be vaccinated. Aside from a large group of seniors who have stayed away from the vaccination centers, many of those belonging to the D & E economic cluster or the poor have also kept away and have not lined up to be vaccinated.

The top two major survey companies in the country have reached the same conclusion that 60 to 70 percent of the adult population have not been vaccinated and are scared to be vaccinated, being fearful of side effects, bad reviews or because of the confusing pronouncements from government talking heads. Given the inherent intelligence and awareness of the average Filipino on matters of general concern, it’s difficult to imagine that 60 to 70 percent of them would be acting on fear based on ignorance or imagination. There is, as the Bible would say, “a cloud of testimonies” proving that the vaccines and vaccinations are safe. A majority of all our health workers have had at least one shot, many people I know are already on their second dose of the once doubted and maligned Sinovac and they all give a thumbs up, indicating no side effects and all good.

I won’t argue the fact that part of the problem and the fear comes from all the bad press that got thrown in because we were all groping in the dark in determining what was good, what was acceptable and what was safe for the public as well as for all our families. It did not help either that for the most part most of our behavior and decisions were largely affected or guided by international developments related to COVID-19 variants and vaccines. But we have Power, the power to search, inquire, investigate and to confirm what is fact and what is false, what is safe and what is harmful. Not only do we have the cloud of testimony from the millions who have been vaccinated, we also have the testimony of doctors, virologists and health experts and our own personal physicians who will all agree on the need for vaccination to protect you and protect others. These physicians or doctors are also “authorities” whom we should follow, not just the political authorities.

In terms of the Spirit of Love, vaccine hesitancy can be categorized as a selfish kind of fear, where your personal interests conflicts with public interest that also includes your loved ones. Many senior citizens I know lament not being able to see their children and most especially their grandchildren. Those in the D and E segment claim they have to prioritize or find money over wasting two days getting vaccinated. But what happens when someone brings the COVID-19 virus into their lives, their homes and their family? One aspect of the disease that is barely highlighted is the astronomical cost of hospitalization that I’m sure will bankrupt at least 70 percent of those who end up with critical COVID. Another 30 percent will probably die or have died, based on people I know and their families lose whatever savings there was. If you think you have reason to be worried or afraid of vaccines, do some research on the impact of the disease on survivors.

After spending more than three weeks in the ICU, over P1.6 million in hospital charges, a very good friend now spends his days at home recovering from long-term COVID effects such as fibrosis of his lungs where the lining have essentially been damaged and hardened, thereby reducing his lung capacity, making him tired after walking or talking a few minutes. His doctors claim that his recovery can take as long as six months to two years and with reduced capacity for activities. Another friend who also landed in the hospital stayed four weeks in the ICU. He ran up a bill of P5 million but never made it home. Even more tragic is the story of someone who went out to attend an intimate social gathering with a couple of friends, observed all the health protocols and went home right after, not knowing she was now COVID positive and passed the virus to her elderly parents, husband and kids.

Here in our small place in Lipa, I’m beginning to sound like the barangay nagger who growls at people for going around with no face mask or not observing social distancing. I keep repeating to them the nightmare they will experience medically and financially if they get COVID-19. I do so because it is within my God given power to speak, I do so because I love people and I have the faculties and sound mind to convince them. Fear is a “spirit” the same way power, love and courage are. Take courage and choose love.

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