Unless you have some kind of medical condition that makes the risk of vaccination greater than the risk of getting covid-19, you should get vaccinated. But there are people who decide, against the best scientific advice, that they know better alternatives. Not all of them are rabid anti-vaxxers or are opposing it because of some ideological fixation or because they believe in some bizarre conspiracy theory that it is a device for the government to gain control over one’s body. There are those who do not get it because they have folkloric beliefs, such as that healthy people have natural immunity or that the symptoms will not be serious or that certain practices such as wellness or Ayurveda or other folk remedies will stave off the infection.
That attitude can lead to tragic results, such as the case of the Czech folk singer Hana Horka. She was not vaccinated, believing that getting covid-19 was not so bad and that if she did, it would be actually beneficial because it would provide her with the immunity pass that would enable her to attend public functions in the Czech Republic. That country requires proof of vaccination or recent infection in order to gain entry to things like cinemas, bars and cafes, and she decided that the latter option was better and set about to deliberately infect herself. So when her husband and son (who had been vaccinated) got breakthrough infections, she took her chance and decided not to isolate herself from them, deliberately exposing herself so that she would get infected. And she did. And then she died.
Her son, Jan Rek, said she got infected on purpose when he and his father had the virus, so she could get a recovery pass to access certain venues.
Mr Rek and his father, who are both fully vaccinated, both caught Covid over Christmas. But he said his mother had decided not to stay away from them, preferring instead to expose herself to the virus.
“She should have isolated for a week because we tested positive. But she was with us the whole time,” he said.
Two days before she died, she wrote on social media that she was recovering: “Now there will be theatre, sauna, a concert”.
On Sunday morning, the day she died, Ms Horka said she was feeling better and dressed to go for a walk. But then her back started hurting, so she went to lie down in her bedroom.
“In about 10 minutes it was all over,” her son said. “She choked to death”.
There was no point in trying to discuss the issue with her as it would just get too emotional, he added. Instead, he hoped that by telling his story he could convince others to get vaccinated.
“If you have living examples from real life, it’s more powerful than just graphs and numbers. You can’t really sympathise with numbers.”
Rek is right that for many people, expert opinions and statistics don’t have much impact. It is when someone they are close to or at least know on a personal level dies or becomes very seriously ill that the message about the seriousness of the pandemic and the need to get vaccinated hits home. But having people die in order to convince others to save themselves is terrible method of persuasion and for a few even that will not be enough.