Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

News that the Astra Zeneca vaccine is not effective against the “South African” variant, came as a terrible blow. The first consignment had already arrived in the country amidst much pomp and circumstance, the President had lauded the work done in procuring the batch and eager medical teams had their sleeves rolled up in anticipation of receiving the first shot.

Unfortunately, everything came to a grinding halt when it became clear that the virus was one step ahead and that it had no intention of being curtailed by this vaccine. In fairness to the government, they could not have predicted this barrier, but dealt with it as best they could have. They informed the nation, paused the rollout and went back to the drawing board.

Which might make this the perfect time to challenge the conventional wisdom and approach to the vaccine roll-out. We have blindly accepted what we have we been told, in that the first recipients need to be the front-line workers. In line with this limited view, doctors, nurses, physiotherapist and first responders will be the first to receive the vaccine when we eventually find one what works against the South African variant. Whereas there is no doubt that they are worthy, they might not be the ones who need it most.

I believe that glasses-wearers should stand at the front of the line when it comes to receiving the vaccine. Not that we could find the line if we are compliant and wearing both a mask and spectacles at the same time. I have not had a visually clear moment since March 2020 and will never really know the number of people I have either failed to greet, greeted in error or handed my driver’s license to.  The suffering of those of us who are visionally impaired, is unquestionably the greatest and should qualify us to register and receive the vaccine before first responders.

Unless they happen to be nearsighted.

I argue further that a higher risk of mortality comes along with this suffering. It is not only the aged, the diabetics, the frail of heart or the obese who are at risk from the disease, but also spectacle wearers who now live in a constantly foggy and blurred world and who could quite easily shuffle off this mortal coil as we stumble and squint in front of an oncoming car, train or cyclist, as the case might be.

Mask blindness is no joke. It should be treated as one of the more serious co-morbidities.

I am told there are solutions, such as fancy cloths, sprays that promise all sorts of things and pieces of foam tied to the bridge of your nose. I have tried them all and still, within moments of donning the mask and my minus 5 and a half in each eye prescription goggles, I find myself either tripping into things or kissing someone else’s wife hello.

People have died for less.

The failure of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is hugely disappointing. What should have been the start of the immunisation programme, ended before it even began. It is discouraging for all of us. But more so for those of us who now have to live for an additional few months wondering what it is that we are not seeing.

  • Howard Feldman is a Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis


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