My Covid-19 vaccine pledge: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Covid-19 has wreaked havoc. It has destroyed lives and livelihoods and it has robbed us of the comfort of family and friends, but we can stop it. We have vaccines.

I join many other world leaders in pledging to have a vaccine against Covid-19 as soon as one becomes available to me.

Vaccines have eradicated terrible diseases such as smallpox, and we are close to using them to make others, such as polio and measles, history. Yet many people are scared or wary of this simple, safe and effective way of protecting people against infectious diseases before they even come into contact with them.

There is nothing to fear. Vaccination uses your body’s natural defenses to build resistance to infections. It makes your immune system stronger, and because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of disease-causing viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications.

When I was a teenager, in 1945, I contracted tuberculosis (TB). It robbed me of two years of my life as I underwent treatment in a TB hospital. I was lucky. I recovered.

TB remains South Africa’s number-one cause of death, and in the more than 70 years since I underwent TB treatment, millions of South Africans, and millions more of their brothers and sisters across Africa and the world, have also lost their lives, to a disease that is preventable.

In many countries, TB is no longer a threat. This includes large parts of Africa and South America. Its eradication is thanks to a combination of vaccines and effective treatment. We can do the same with Covid-19, and claim our lives back.

The more people who are vaccinated against Covid-19, the more every one of us is protected against this unpredictable and devastating disease.

Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease against which they have been inoculated and from passing it on. This breaks the chain of transmission, but to do that properly, the majority of people in a community need to be vaccinated. This is what is known as “herd immunity”.

The percentage of a population that needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity differs from disease to disease. For measles it is 95%, for polio 80%. We do not yet know what the percentage for Covid-19 is, but we do know this: the more of us who have the vaccine, the better for all of us.

I am pledging to have a Covid-19 vaccine, because I already know what it is to lose years of your life to a disease. I also know what it is to worry that I have passed a preventable disease on to people I love. I ask you to do the same.

Don’t let Covid-19 continue to ravage our country, or our world. Vaccinate.”

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Cape Town

January 2021

Photograph – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu getting an HIV test in 2009 – Wikimedia Commons -(Wikimedia user: Abcdion)