SEVERAL decades back, I remember a conversation with a friend who is an atheist. He said that religious faith for him was too weak as a foundation on which to base his life – he preferred facts to lean on. I pointed out that all of us conduct our daily lives based on faith – we have faith that the food we eat isn’t poisoned, we have faith the guy in the other car won’t jump the red light and hammer into us, we have faith that the roof of the house in which we live won’t crumble some night and bury us.
 The most recent act of faith many of us were happy to make was to roll up our sleeve and have a substance injected into our arm so that (we hope) it will protect us from Covid-19.
 “That’s not faith, that’s me following the science,” you may be tempted to retort. Well now. Do you understand how vaccination works? Do you know for sure that the injection you got wasn’t in some way corrupted? In fact, have you even a clue what was in that syringe?
 The Western world at present is divided into two camps. The first, overwhelmingly larger camp, is the one that wants a vaccine, the quicker the better. The second, relatively tiny (I’ll come back to how tiny), believes that the whole Covid-19 pandemic is a front for something else, and they refuse to take the vaccine, sometimes believing it will harm them.
 And it’s not just people who vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party that have this attitude. In February of this year, The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) in the South established that 130,800 people believed the whole Covid thing is part of a conspiracy. Some believe Bill Gates is somehow involved in this global con-trick.
 None of this has been helped by sometimes conflicting official advice on what needs to be done. Many of us thought it’d be all over by last autumn. It wasn’t. People were given the okay to have a happy Christmas. That resulted in a second deadly wave of the virus.  The AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out was paused when it was found in some cases to cause serious blood-clotting. At first people were told that wearing a face-mask didn’t do anything to stop the spread of the virus; now they’re told they do help. And people who claimed the virus had escaped initially from a lab in China were dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Now the World Health Organisation director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebrevesus, says that can’t be ruled out.
 No, Virginia, I’m not saying the conspiracy theorists are right.  I’m saying there are more of them than we might like to think, and I’m saying our understanding of the virus is far from complete. I’m also saying that the CEOs of the companies who make face-masks and hand-gel, not to mention vaccines, are often developing swollen bank accounts out of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, Oxfam issued a report showing that the top 1,000 billionaires lost about 30 per cent of their wealth when the world’s economy stalled due to lock-down in March last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, by November of last year, they’d made it all back. And as for Mr Amazon, Jeff Bezos, he could have given each one of Amazon’s 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus, and he’d still be as wealthy as he was at the start of the pandemic.
 We know that governments can lie to us – experience teaches that. It’s just that we have faith in doctors, we have faith in governments, we tend to do what Seán or Síle Citizen down the road is doing, and do what we’re told. Most of the time that’s a good decision; but occasionally it’s not. Unforunately, most of us  don’t have the time or energy or expertise to sift through and separate lies from truth.
 There used to be an old joke – How do you get 100 Canadians out of a swimming pool? You blow the whistle and say. “Please leave the pool.”  That’s most of us, too. Rightly or wrongly, we put our faith and trust in doctors and science, and hope to God they’re right. But don’t let’s look down our noses at that 130,000. We’ve had too many examples of government lies and medical cock-ups in the past  to now think all the vaccine refuseniks must be crack-pots.