This week the very first Covid-19 vaccination was administered to a 9o year old in the UK. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was created in record time and offers a real sense of hope of being able to defeat a virus that has held the world to ransom for most of this year.

It is absolutely incredible to actually be in a place where a vaccine is a reality and it is a testament to the wonders of science and human invention and capability. Science and rational thought have taken a battering in the past ten months and unfounded and insane conspiracy theories, as well as direct action in the face of scientific advice, has led to hundreds of thousands of needless deaths throughout the world. We were not immune to it in Godzone as well.

In the main, in New Zealand, we have been blessed by solid science informing best social practice to stem a disease that could well have run rampant through our communities. Next year, the 1.5 million doses purchased by the government from Pfizer/BioNTech will be administered to 750,ooo Kiwis (each person will be given an initial dose and a follow up booster shot). While that should be cause for huge relief and celebration it seems we are again spending far too much precious time and energy sating the fears and irrational, uniformed thoughts of the keyboard warriors on social media, who see the vaccine as either a form of unneeded governmental control of bad science.

Now, to pause. When I think of all of the incredible and awesome (in the actual definition of the word) events, actions, mistakes, and failures of the past year I am left with the utterly astonishing way that the majority of New Zealanders came together as we never have before. In March when we were directed to prepare for an initial four weeks of level 4 lockdown, the overarching sense was to protect those of us who were the most vulnerable to Covid-19 – the elderly and those with medical conditions that made them prone to the worst effects of the disease. That sense of selflessness was not only inspiring, it was right and it was real. One only need look at other countries where a ‘me-first’ philosophy generated the terrible snowball effect of Coronavirus and a growing death toll.

The vaccine will not be compulsory in New Zealand, and I doubt that will change. But those who choose to be scientifically un-informed and then decide not to accept vaccination will not only keep Covid-19 alive, they will be acting against their very own self interest. There will be no overseas travel for the un-vaccinated when borders free up, rightly so. As society slowly opens up I can see the only restrictions being placed on those who actively decide to be Covid-19 vulnerable.

Freedom isn’t worth a thing if it isn’t buttressed by the responsibilities that come with it. We’ve all seen the rallies and marches of people demanding their right not to wear a mask, or adhere to lockdowns, or socially distance. I just see that as people exercising their right to advertise their ignorance and selfishness.

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response has led the world, not only because of our isolation and the fact that we are a nation of islands, but because we generally believe in each other and doing what we can to help each other. This year we have done that in spades and it’s vital we do not lose sense of that in the months to come.