Cork woman on her choice not to get Covid-19 vaccine; GP moves to reassure vulnerable of its benefits

Cork woman on her choice not to get Covid-19 vaccine; GP moves to reassure vulnerable of its benefits

A woman receives the AstraZeneca vaccine at the vaccination centre at the Cork City Hall. Picture Dan Linehan

A CORK cancer survivor feels she is being ostracised from society after making the decision not to get vaccinated.

Catherine Mellerick from Togher is among those who marched in Cork in a recent protest against Covid-19 restrictions.

The Cork woman explained she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer in 2013, and is now in remission after battling the illness twice. Ms Mellerick said she opted not to get the vaccine out of fear.

“I was given one to two years to live,” she said of her initial cancer diagnosis.

“When I was diagnosed, I was fighting a battle to keep myself alive. Even now, I don’t drink tap water or even use paint or nail varnish in case it affects my health.

“This is my choice. I have gone through enough already. It’s getting worse. We are constantly being told the unvaccinated are the problem. However, the treatment of us has been too hardcore. I wonder where it’s going to end?

“Hearing that the vaccination passports are now being extended keeps me awake at night. People are asking what society should do with people like me, branding us as ‘selfish anti-vaxxers’. We are being told that the vulnerable are being protected, but instead, they are being persecuted.”

The Togher woman said she feels the unvaccinated are being discriminated against.

“I was relieved that I had the freedom to decline surgery after my diagnosis without any coercion, but this is different. The topic of conversation always elicits seething rage and hatred. I get frightened and clam up at the thought of having to tell people.

“It’s frightening and dangerous, and I’m not the only one experiencing it. A minority of people aren’t vaccinated, and they have legitimate reasons for making that choice.”

She expressed her concerns about the future.

“Not being able to eat in restaurants because I’m not vaccinated is the least of my worries,” she said.

“I heard one person publicly say that the unvaccinated should have to stay in their bedrooms, which wasn’t a balanced comment.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me when I heard they were extending the legislation. I find it terrifying because of what is potentially down the line.

“Is it going to get to a point where the unvaccinated have to stay within 5km of their homes, while other people can wander freely? From what I can see, things are becoming dangerously unbalanced.”

Ms Mellerick said she feels that hostility towards the unvaccinated is unnecessary.

“I believe that Covid exists and that it’s very dangerous,” she said. “However, I also feel that the discrimination facing people who are unvaccinated is bringing us into dangerous territory. People’s attitudes are hardening. Right now, this is way more worrying than the cancer. It’s difficult when the reality sinks in about what the world has become. 

"Now when I leave the house I have to be careful who I talk to. I don’t want to live like that anymore. I can understand why people would be uncomfortable with someone coughing in a closed space or showing Covid symptoms in public. However, the discrimination towards people who haven’t been vaccinated is too much.”

Reassurance

Meanwhile, Fine Gael councillor and GP Dr John Sheehan, who owns Blackpool Bridge Surgery offered reassurance to medically vulnerable people hesitant about getting the jab.

“If you look at the evidence in terms of people who are vulnerable, they probably benefit the most from the vaccines,” he said. 

“When we were first giving out vaccines the people who were immunocompromised in terms of cancer treatments and things like that were the ones who were prioritised, because they were the ones who were most at risk. However, they were also the ones who benefitted the most from the vaccine.

“At this stage, there is so much evidence showing that the vaccine is effective in all age groups in terms of reducing the rate of infection and lowering hospitalisations and deaths.”

Nonetheless, he urged people not to be judgemental towards the unvaccinated.

“People shouldn’t be left to feel ashamed or ostracised,” he said. “People have many reasons for not wanting something. As a society, we should be mature enough to respect that, but equally, I think people against vaccinations have a responsibility not to scaremonger, generalise, or feed into conspiracy theories. The responsibility lies on both sides of that debate.

“My advice to people would be to look at the facts from reputable organisations both locally and internationally. There is so much information out there from the National Immunisation Office to the WHO. All of them have looked at the evidence and come up with similar recommendations.”

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