Rusti Lehay is a writer living in Alberta Avenue

Rusty Lehay: choosing not to get vaccinated

Rusti Lehay is a writer living in Alberta Avenue. Like 18 per cent of Alberta’s population, Lehay has chosen not to get any of the four available Covid vaccines. 

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, the race to develop a vaccine was estimated at 18 months to a year. Governments poured massive amounts of money to several companies. Moderna in the United States received $1 billion (and later received a $1.52 billion order for 100 million vaccines in the U.S.) Pfizer in Germany received $350 million, and AstraZeneca in the UK received $1.45 billion of government funding. China, Russia, and Cuba all worked to develop their own vaccines. Due to the extraordinary funding and co-operation between governments and pharmaceutical companies, by the fall of 2020 the vaccines were developed and ready for testing. By December of 2020, nine months after the pandemic began, the first Covid vaccine was available to the public. 

Even before the vaccine was released, there was the perception that the vaccine would be made very quickly. There was a strong thread of public sentiment that the Covid vaccine was possibly dangerous. 

Lehay clarified her view about Covid vaccines. “I dislike the term anti-vaxxer because I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I research, I make choices. And there isn’t enough information for me to make a confident choice.” 

Vaccine hesitancy and refusal has always been present in around 10 per cent in western nations. Ninety per cent vaccine coverage has been enough to protect the population from the collection of childhood illnesses that used to take the lives of one out of five children. 

Lehay’s hesitancy around vaccines did not change much between older, commonly used vaccines and the Covid vaccines. She did not vaccinate her child (who is now an adult) until he requested to be vaccinated. “I don’t believe in vaccinating babies when they’re so young and fragile and fresh to the world. And when they’re older, I don’t believe in doing it all at once. I think that’s really an assault on the system.”

She explained the distinction between people who have vaccine hesitancy and those who are vaccine refusers. She said, “For those with vaccine hesitancy, they question how quickly the vaccine was made and how the new technology will affect people long term.”

She explained the distinction between people who have vaccine hesitancy and those who are vaccine refusers. She said, “For those with vaccine hesitancy, they question how quickly the vaccine was made and how the new technology will affect people long term.”

Any argument to persuade her to get a Covid vaccine “would have to be pretty convincing.” She said, “Nobody knows what the long-term effects are. And nobody can tell me what the long-term effects are, because of how long it’s been in circulation for.”

Lehay does have friends who would be considered vaccine refusers. “They say things like, ‘I’ll take a bullet before I take a vaccine.’ When you ask them the reasons, they have some pretty compelling arguments.” 

For Lehay herself, she said, “I will remain on the cautious side.”

She clarified, “I’m by nature a cautious person. When I am cooking, if I walk away from the kitchen when I’ve got a pot on, I’ll put the timer on to remind myself to come back because I’d rather prevent an accident. I’d rather leave 15 minutes earlier than what Google says just in case There’s red lights or traffic accidents. It’s just part of my nature and always has been.”

Lehay explained her lifestyle allows her to not get the Covid vaccine. She is self-employed, works from home, and said, “I have the luxury of living on my own. Pretty much I see my nephew, my sister, and my son, and very rarely have to go out. My nephew does the grocery shopping. I don’t go out much. I have an isolated life and I like quiet and cocooning in my home.”

While many people’s employment opportunities have been impacted by either their ability to get or avoid getting the vaccine, Lehay’s work as a knowledge worker has not been negatively affected. “I think I’m even working harder than I was before. I’ve got more clients than I had before. It hasn’t really hasn’t changed my life.”

While Lehay’s parents are no longer alive, she didn’t think having older, more vulnerable people in her life would change her mind either. “My mother was a very strongly opinionated person. She went with a broken elbow for days, not going to the doctor. When she played organ at the church, and she lifted her arm up to the keyboard to play and lifted her arm back down. The pastor came over and said, ‘What’s wrong, Mary?’ She replied, ‘Oh, I just hurt my elbow a bit.’” 

Lehay said, “I imagine that she’d be on the side of ‘I’m not taking any needles.’ She was the one that stopped vaccinations to her children. She refused thalidomide [an anti-nausea drug prescribed to pregnant women that caused birth defects]. I could have been a thalidomide baby because they were pushing that when she was pregnant with me.”

While Lehay was a prolific traveller in the days before the pandemic, even the thought of having to curtail her travel did not worry her. “As long as I can fill up my car with gas, there’s a lot of Alberta I haven’t explored yet. There’s a lot of canoeing. I can be out in the middle of nowhere and get myself a kayak that I can load and unload by myself.” 

She said, “I am grateful that the people that are really important to me are not demanding one way or the other. And that we have a mutual respect for each other. I know, I’m fortunate to have that.”

Lehay discussed the schisms the pandemic has created. “It makes me sad for the families that this is tearing apart; for the friendships that are being lost. For the rifts that will cause, the biggest fear I have is not of Covid itself but of the class-to-class society.” 

She was worried about the social outcomes for people who are hesitant to take the vaccine. “I am really anxious about how this might create a two class society; the people that are going to have the vaccine and people that are uncomfortable with the vaccine. I don’t view it as a for or against, but as everybody has a right to security and freedom. Let’s say that security and freedom are along the same axis line. Some people who want the vaccine will view themselves as being free to take it and, and be less of a security. But there’ll be some people that don’t want to take the vaccine because they want to be secure in the research. So securing the freedom can be for both.”

She continued, “Like everything in life, I question when the pendulum doesn’t stop in the middle ground somewhere and when it swings wildly to one end and the other end. This disparity that we have with everything—I think is dangerous. It’s dangerous to make decisions for the masses. It’s dangerous to let medicine and politics dictate to each other. It’s dangerous for people to judge each other.” 

Lehay ascribed the vaccine resistance to a resistance to being controlled. She said there is a feeling that fear-mongering is being used to control people. “Mass fear being put out about how ‘you’ve all got to do this’. Mass control that makes people resentful. Resentment is dangerous to ourselves. Resentment is a very dangerous emotion to get caught in.”

Share This Story

Leave a Comment