Stumbling Blocks On Covid-19 Vaccination Freedom Path!

Every day we hear from our governments and health authorities that Covid-19 vaccination is the freedom path; the more of us that are vaccinated the greater the chance of ending lockdowns and returning to that which we have known as normal living. But also, another loud voice keeps hitting our senses to uncomfortable levels and that other voice comes from the so-called anti-vaxxers or people who are against vaccination. This voice keeps telling us among other things related to “control of people” that the governments want people vaccinated so that the rich behind vaccine manufacture can get even richer through the money they will make on vaccines. Granted, amassing wealth through vaccine sales may well be true, but if the same people have such strong views against big money-makers, it is rather peculiar that they don’t say the same things about people producing the food we are buying or consuming or beverages we drink as they do for vaccine manufacturers.

We are in a war against lies, a war against misinformation, a ferocious war to have enough people trust their health providers, their doctors when it comes to Covid vaccination – after all, they trust them and have trusted them for everything else to do with health.

The arrival of the first coronavirus vaccines less than a year after the pandemic began blew away the previous development record of four years, which was held by the mumps vaccine. Once the vaccines were produced it was clear that social scientists and public health communications professionals must clear another hurdle: ensuring that enough people actually roll up their sleeves and give the shots a shot – two doses per person. It is said that somewhere between 60 and 90 percent of adults and children must be vaccinated or have antibodies resulting from infection to arrive at the safe harbour known as herd immunity, where the whole community is protected. In Australia the public has recently been told that reaching 80% of adults vaccinated will mean safety with which our lives can regain freedoms we had prior to the pandemic and lockdowns.

At the same time the anti-vaccine group among us started distributing on social media a video of men in police uniforms chasing, grabbing, dragging, and even hitting people in a park and falsely explaining to the public that the video represents Australian police hunting people down to take them for forced vaccination! Then there was an awful false flyer supposedly issued by Australian Health that on a certain date in July supermarkets would close. Then we are told how the vaccine will change our DNA!  

Prior to Covid-19 the only lockdowns we have known in our midst were those placed in operation during a terrorist act. Certainly, for Sydney Australia, the last lockdown prior to Covid-19 pandemic occurred in its business centre, to protect people in their workplaces or who were shopping, while the so-called Lindt Café on Martin Place siege, 15-16 December 2014, played out and ended with two innocent people killed. To my understanding lockdowns have always been about safety of people’s lives or their health, and lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic are construed as such by most people, including myself, even though most of us are tempted to criticise them as they are very inconvenient to say the least.

I live in Sydney, and I have had the opportunity to experience in “real time and real life” the effects prolonged lockdowns have on people that psychologists worldwide have been writing about. As a trained and experienced Psychologist, myself, I recognise these effects perhaps more easily than those not trained in the field of mental health. These effects are amplified in the so-called “ethnic” communities, particularly among people who do not have adequate use of the official language used in the country they live in. And so, in my case, there are members of the Australian Croatian community who may have found themselves is a state of confusion and anxiety regarding Covid-19 vaccines. The government has certainly provided avenues to important information in all community languages, sadly however, “word-of-mouth” appears to be the easiest channel to “watch and hear”, and that channel is more often lacking important details than not!

The consequences of lockdowns manifest themselves in a variety of psychological outcomes, such as anxiety, worry, disinterest, depression, and general health weakening to name just a few. Most of these psychological conditions, as a matter of retaining one’s own sanity, are likely to produce or promote a plethora of sensationalistic information feeds without checking its veracity or are susceptible to being affected by such sensationalistic information, frequently to their own demise or damage. We are, as a result, faced with copious amounts of misinformation and disinformation seemingly designed to “scare” people off Covid vaccination even if some of this misinformation may be true but does not apply, half-true or a total fabrication. The negative consequences of Covid lockdowns also include economic downturn and job losses or income losses and, hence, concerns towards food, housing, and employment security. 

The negative consequences of lockdowns further include information overload that can be perplexing, causing panic and anxiety. With abundant time on people’s hands due to lockdowns communication with others becomes very important and so, this time around, Covid-19 lockdowns are manufacturing their own source of panic and anxiety. Pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination movements have taken over our lives, it seems, to the point of despair. Mistrust in medical and scientific profession is often promoted on the streets when it comes to Covid-19 and yet the pure truth is that we trust the same professionals with all our other health problems. The incessant bombardments with misinformation or disinformation are creating fear. On the one hand, the country’s official information that comes from our government and highly regarded professionals steers us in the direction of vaccination. Vaccination has become the condition that will dictate our future degree of freedoms as a community and as individuals. And, indeed, having known closely some people who had contracted Covid-19, some of whom pulled through after terrible hospital treatment schedules and some of whom had died with or from Covid-19, there is no doubt in my mind that the official information we are receiving is sound and beneficial.   

On the other hand, we also receive, at the same time, bombardments of information (most often misinformation or disinformation) from the so-called anti-vaxxers. The anti-vaccine movement is not a new phenomenon and has occurred in most of the infectious disease outbreaks in past, however, due to the internet and social media, their message these days appears to be spreading faster than ever before. While there are credible exceptions to this stance from credible professionals around the world, these movements tend to present the Covid-19 vaccine as more harmful than the disease itself by linking vaccines with other illnesses (e.g., in 1998, the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine was linked with autism) and sure death. The COVID-19 anti-vaccine movement appears to be fuelled by conspiracy theories, false beliefs, a lack of confidence among stakeholders, and a presumed lack of transparency (e.g, efficacy, and safety) in the vaccine approval process. In addition, many people appear to harbour low-risk perceptions of COVID-19 infection due to relatively good recovery rates. And, regretfully, while there are credible professionals on the anti-vaccine platform, their often solidly professional message gets distorted in its promulgation process, rendering it more dangerous than any lie can ever be.  

While I personally do not mind receiving information from anti-vaccine movement members, I do become irritated by the sheer volume I receive and am saddened and angry that members of this movement do not seem to correct with their followers any information they sent, which has been proven to be false or wrong. Hence, leaving lies to float freely in the air!

The COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures such as lockdowns have increased the prevalence of mental health issues through the disruption of mental health services. The anti-vaccine movement may further prolong the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and may increase mortality or morbidity, resulting in an exacerbation of health inequalities and flaring the economic and social disparities. This may lead to not only an increase in the burden of COVID-19 infection but also mental health issues in generally but particularly so within the ethnic communities.

Being a well-educated and highly experienced Psychologist, and a proud member of the Australian Croatian community, I often find myself wondering about our immediate and long-term future in these Covid-19 lockdown months, about our well-being. I also feel compelled to write this article in the hope that people feel the safest after having spoken to their doctor about Covid-19 vaccination. Covid-19 is too serious an illness to leave its possible terrible effects on us to unreliable information.

It is a given that we all have a right to our own opinions and others can agree or disagree with them. Some may choose to forgo the shot and claim they are making a personal decision. But the continued spread of Covid-19 affects us all. And the truth is, the virus doesn’t care about so-called individual rights and freedoms. It simply infects whatever host it can find, Labour or Liberal politicians, young or old, disabled, immuno-compromised, and anti-vaxxers alike. If anything, remaining unvaccinated by choice – and not because of lack of access or contraindicated health conditions – sounds more to me like shirking an individual responsibility than exercising an individual right. Ina Vukic     

Croatia: For Eternal Glory

Simultaneous worldwide prayers by Croats 11 April 2020
Top left: Father Ike Manduric
Photo: Screenshot

The Easter story is the story of hope. Easter Sunday is one of the most festive events among Christians worldwide. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s resurrection. The knowledge and sight of Jesus’ crucifixion more than 2000 years ago initially brought a sudden halt to so much hope and promise in the lives of his living, ardent followers. And the resurrection of Jesus has instilled in his followers, to this day, a story of overcoming darkness and despair, and finding new life and hope.

Easter invites all of us to believe in the transforming power of love.

At a time in our world where fear is a natural response, the Easter season encourages us to look towards love and life. We look for the generous and life-giving response of our health care and community service workers who continue to care for others; who continue to place their own life at risk so that the destruction sowed worldwide by Covid-19 coronavirus may be eradicated. We look at ourselves, we look at our neighbours, we look at our community and we give and expect sacrifice by adhering to strict rules of social isolation and limited movements. We look to the generosity of neighbours, as people help one another with shopping, phone calls and staying in touch. We look to the willingness of our community leaders working together to realise better outcomes for us all. To nourish our souls, we look at our religious institutions and church leaders to provide us and join us in prayer and celebration and the joy of Easter, even if at a distance via video or audio technology.

It is at times of disaster and fear of losing our lives, our loved ones’ lives, that our needs to belong, which are constantly present in all of us as human beings, become highly acute. And while there are multitudes of examples how people have come together despite the Covid-19 restrictions, one that caught my attention, naturally, are the events of simultaneous coming together online in prayer of thousands of Croats living across the world and all the continents. On Saturday 4th April 2020 Croats across the world gathered together in simultaneous rosary for healing, fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and restoring faith on the youtube channel “For Eternal Glory“, initiated by Father Ike Manduric from Croatia, one of the most prominent Jesuit priests in Croatia well known for his spiritual guidance and deeds of goodness for the people. The Rosary was led by Father Ike Manduric then and also on last Saturday 11 April 2020 and it is to be continued.

This is how Father Manduric announced on 2 April 2020 the worldwide simultaneous prayer of the Rosary:

“Dear emigrated Croatians! Dear Croats in the Homeland, My people – separated!

These days, when even those who live side by side cannot spend time together, all of us Croats yearn for one another. And then, how much is the longing of those who had to part from their homeland, and how much is the Homeland’s longing for those who had to leave it? This is a time of yearning to meet, so our thoughts fly to you.

Where are you, how are your hearts, do you think of us? How is your faith, hope, love, wisdom? Have the seductions and difficulties of the world pressed upon you? Do you think of the Homeland? Do you manage to raise your children, preserve the language and religion, instil in them humanity, the Croatian soul? Are you scared?

And we know that you equally touch in thoughts the land you left behind, or your fathers and grandparents. Separated, but together in the soul… Wherever we are, we are all burdened by same worries, and especially these days we see and feel how fragile we are. In particular, we, as a small nation, must today be comforted by one another, in prayer, with our God, and by the robes of the Virgin Mary, whom we have carried in our hearts across the oceans and continents, with the love and prayers we have learned in the homeland.

The big pandemic is ravaging the world, shaking all the world’s powerful, all systems are tottering, and every human fragility is showing. In addition to this anguish, our main city of all Croats was badly damaged (in earthquakes), churches were badly damaged, the Cathedral damaged, apartments destroyed. With all the anguish and pain that we feel as we remain attached to our Homeland, these present ones must hurl us together to gather around the Mother of Heaven, for, though we are separated, we are one people and we are one. Let’s be together with her, all of us Croats from every continent, priests and people of God. And let us pour out all the crying of our souls. Thanks to the power of grace that dear God has bestowed upon our people, we ask that our people be elevated and thoroughly renewed through this crisis:

  • for faith, to remain true to God and our Catholic Church
  • to end the pandemic and rebuild Zagreb
  • for our diaspora, to preserve its identity and its values
  • for the future of all Croatian people and their offspring
  • and for each of us with all our needs.

I invite you, dear Croats from all over the world, all those whom I have met across Canada, America, Australia and Europe, and all those whom I have not, and I equally love you all: Let’s gather together and perhaps for the first time all together and at the same time pray the rosary, all Croats of the world, for God’s grace and salvation, for all the world as well as for all the difficulties that have afflicted our Croatia – from earthquakes to coronavirus and all the current crosses of this generation.”

If you the reader of this post, your family or friends wish to join in this rosary it is organised via Youtube channel “Za vječnu slavu” (For Eternal Glory) every Saturday, 14.00 hrs Zagreb/Croatia time.

Father Ike Manduric and Ina Vukic – 2019
Photo: Ina Vukic

 

Happy and blessed Easter to all! Ina Vukic

 

 

On Saint Benedict Day In 2020

St Benedict of Norcia

Today, 21st March marks the day when in 547 AD Saint Benedict of Norcia, patron Saint of Europe, died.

Today, 21 March 2020 is the day that marks a need for exceptional courage and humanity due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) devastation throughout the World. With the frightening onslaught of the coronavirus affecting multiple facets of people’s lives, one can easily fall into a tailspin of anxious thoughts and seemingly insurmountable fears. With so much suffering and discord dominating the headlines – and even our personal lives – we may miss all the good things happening around us. So, make an effort to find positive things around you, make an effort to make life easier for those you love and stay connected – virtually or in person; in personal contacts use caution – do not abandon!

St. Benedict used the family structure as the basis for his Rule for his monasteries. The community life of a monastery imitates the primary unit of society, a family.  Vice versa, the family can use the Rule as for guidelines for structure in daily life and prayer.

Founder of a monastery at Monte Cassino, between Rome and Naples, in the sixth century, St Benedict intended his Rule to be a practical guide to Christian monastic life. Based on the key precepts of humility, obedience and love, its aim is to create a harmonious and efficient religious community in which individuals can make progress in the Christian virtues and gain eternal life. Here, Benedict sets out ideal monastery routines and regulations, from the qualities of a good abbot, the twelve steps to humility and the value of silence to such everyday matters as kitchen duties, care of the sick and the suitable punishment for lateness at mealtimes. Benedict’s legacy is still strong – his Rule remains a source of inspiration and a key work in the history of the Christian church.

The Rule of St. Benedict is a timeless document – in so many ways as fresh and relevant as it was when it was written almost fifteen hundred years ago. Although written for monastics, many of the issues addressed in the Rule can be applied to life in the world outside the monastic community. The qualities which make up a valued life – humility, patience, simplicity, solitude, caring for others, and living in community – concern everyone. These specifics of the Rule, and the framework it provides, have great meaning for people who are seeking to live out their faith in the world today.

Many say that prayers will not stop the Coronavirus and they may be right but we must humble ourselves and remember what every faith tradition reveals: that God is present among the most vulnerable among us, and that if we act now to protect those at the bottom we have the greatest chance of protecting us all.

On that note here is a St. Benedict prayer:

“O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength.

Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honour all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To relieve the poor. To clothe the naked. To help in trouble. To console the sorrowing.

Not to give way to anger. Not to foster a desire for revenge. Not to entertain deceit in the heart. Not to make a false peace. Not to forsake charity. To speak the truth with heart and tongue. Not to return evil for evil. To do no injury: yea, even to bear patiently any injury done to me. Not to curse those who curse me, but rather to bless them. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.

Not to be proud. Not to be lazy. Not to be slothful. Not to be a murmurer. Not to be a detractor.

To guard my tongue against wicked speech. To avoid much speaking. To avoid idle talk. To read only what is good to read. To look at only what is good to see. To pray often. To obey my superiors in all things rightful. Not to desire to be thought holy, but to seek holiness.

To fulfill the commandments of God by good works. To hate no one. Not to be jealous or envious of anyone. Not to love strife. Not to love pride. To honour the aged. To pray for my enemies. To make peace after a quarrel, before the setting of the sun. Never to despair of your mercy, O God of Mercy. Amen.”

To Saint Benedict I now plead and pray: Dear St Benedict please recommend my Friend Marko Franovic, an Australian Croat – a dedicated benefactor to multitudes in need in Croatia, in Australia and worldwide – to Jesus, who during His ministry on Earth showed His power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Be present, dear Jesus, now to people who need Your loving touch because of COVID-19. May they feel Your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses. May Your miracle of healing touch my friend Marko.

Ina Vukic

 

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