Why I support the government’s “RETURN TO PLAY – It’s in your hands” campaign

By Marlene le Roux

On Wednesday, 8 September, the South African government launched the “Return to Play – It’s in Your Hands” campaign, aimed at ramping up vaccination programmes to reach a required target of herd immunity so that sports and entertainment venues can be opened. Through the campaign, communities will be educated on the benefits of vaccines in addition to dispelling myths and the spread of fake and untrue conspiracy theories about the shots.

As Artscape CEO I would like to tell you my story and why I as an individual and representing the cultural institution would like to underscore the campaign and the call to vaccination.

More than 5 decades ago, I was not afforded the right to receive a polio vaccination due to racism and Apartheid. I contracted polio at the age of just three months old rendering me a person with a disability. While I have not allowed my disability to be a stumbling block, many across the world affected by polio could not rise above their disability due to a host of socio-economic conditions.  In 1988 the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which at that stage saw roughly 350,000 children a year were paralysed by the virus. As a person living with polio I have cause to celebrate the launch of that campaign and efficacy of that vaccine drive as the disease has practically been eradicated from the planet – through vaccination! Just last year, in August the African continent was declared polio free.

2020 and throughout 2021 has seen the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world, causing severe illness and the deaths of millions. Finally we now have medical intervention through respective COVID vaccines that can assist in managing the disease particularly in relation to severe illness and deaths due to COVID complications.

Thus as a person who, 50 years ago, could not receive a vaccine which even then started to save the lives of those inflicted with polio, I implore all of you to heed the ethos of the Return to Play – It’s in Your Hands” campaign and get vaccinated! It is the responsible thing to do. You and I are the principal conduits that would have given impetus for equal cause to celebration by future generations as hopefully COVID19 and its devastating effects are eradicated from the planet. Not only are you protecting yourself but your loved ones too!

One of the industries severely affected and hardest hit by COVID, is the performing arts. As alluded to by Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the launch of the Return to Play – It’s in Your Hands” campaign, successful vaccination would be the conduit that would see a return of fans to sport and music concerts and patrons to theatre and other entertainment events. This is emphasised by the Deputy President David Mabuza, when he says: “If we are to revive our vibrant and creative industries, return to theatres and stadiums to play and enjoy sport and entertainment, it is important that our vaccination programme is accelerated to reach as many people as possible.” I can only but echo their sentiments and implore you to get vaccinated.