Taking the Vaccine is now a National Imperative

For the last 18 months, we have been battling an invisible enemy without respite.

In stealth, the enemy travels across borders incognito, hiding in plain sight, stealing a ride into our very midst.

The troops it marshals for its destructive aims are none other than us ourselves. It recruits anyone regardless of passport, age or occupation — and whether vaccinated or unvaccinated — to be its unwittingly secret agents, its unwilling accomplices and its involuntary soldiers.

The invisible enemy defies capture. Instead, it forces us to take captive our innocents, to serve as prisoners-of-war in its stead. To ringfence the contagion, close contacts of infected persons are identified and sequestered. I have myself had to serve a mandatory quarantine order. The isolation was an ordeal. I never want to do it again nor do I wish it on anyone.

Besides damaging our physical health, the enemy also wreaks havoc by disrupting our economy and damaging our social relations.

The enemy deploys the most effective weapon of destruction tested by all histories of nations: Divide and Conquer. We are seeing people turning against each other, becoming fragmented shards provoked to blame, name and shame.

In the struggle to cope with the disruptions and economic fallouts, there is every temptation to cut corners and to steal a march. Some will remain resolute and impassive, but some will falter and fall. Those who have acted irresponsibly must face the consequences, but in our haste to blame others for recklessness, let us not forget who the real culprit is and how devious the culprit is. For the enemy has up the ante by evolving into something more contagious than before.

Let’s face it — we are at war. Tough times require tough responses and decisive action.

After 18 months of rolling border closures and lockdowns, our economy is battered and our lives are tattered. Shutting our gates, hunkering down and remaining isolated, is not sustainable. The enemy is cunning and determined to stick around.

After 18 months of battle, it is clear that a successful national vaccination programme is the best hope to exit the pandemic. It is also clear that there is a limit to our endurance.

No one has guaranteed that vaccines are 100% safe. But what are the alternatives? What are we up against? Is time on our side?

For every argument, there will be a counter-argument. For every set of data, there will be a set of alternative data. There is a time and place for healthy scepticism, reasonable debate and careful evaluation. But there must come a time to make a personal decision — to take up the personal risk of making such a decision — and to take decisive action.

As I see it, taking the vaccine is now a national imperative. Once the nation is well-vaccinated, we can get on the road to restoring what the pandemic has taken away from us. Helping others will always involve personal risks and detriments. But we need to unite our efforts to save our country, our economy and our future from the destructive effects of the pandemic.

To those who have volunteered to be vaccinated, I say thank you for your sacrifice and the risk you took, for sake of others and for loved ones.

In this pandemic which affects us all, there is a big picture to consider. In the big picture, so long as the nation is insufficiently vaccinated, our borders will never be fully opened, our economy will be hampered, and people’s lives and livelihoods will remain in limbo.

To those eligible for vaccination but are hesitant to take the vaccine, do consider joining the vaccination drive. In my humble opinion, time is not on our side.

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss

A lawyer practising in Singapore for more than 30 years.