Summer will be a bummer if you're unvaccinated for Covid-19. Concerts, festivals and flying could soon be off-limits to people who refuse the jab.
The Government's announcement earlier this week that some hospitality venues will require a vaccine certificate for entry was a relief for people who want to mingle safely. It may also provide support for people with teenagers, like me.
In addition to many other minefields, parents must navigate the pandemic. It's not enough to tell Master 15 for the third time that he will not have a boozy 16th birthday party in my house next Thursday. Now, I must also decide how to handle his friends who have so far resisted being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Until recently, catching the virus has felt like a theoretical prospect, something that happens overseas, or in Auckland. That has not been true the past 18 months and it's certainly not true now.
Covid has spread its legs into the Waikato and is no doubt flirting with the Bay. Epidemiologist Michael Baker told RNZ earlier this week, "all New Zealanders should plan to encounter this virus in the next couple of months and act accordingly, and the number one thing, of course, is to get vaccinated".
Our family will be fully immunised within a month. Miss 17 works in a retirement village that has a no jab, no job policy. My chronic health condition means catching Covid-19 could have more serious consequences for me than for other people my age. I have already told my son his nights of hosting unvaccinated teenagers for sleepovers are numbered.
Yes, you can be vaccinated and still catch Covid-19. However, the risk of breakthrough infections is about one in 5000, according to a recent report in The New York Times. And data shows you are far more likely to catch and spread the virus if you're unvaccinated.
You are 29 times more likely to be hospitalised without the jab and 11 times more likely to die, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While teenagers are not in a high-risk group for sickness and death from Covid-19, they are potential super spreaders.
I dread turning away my son's friends at the front door. I would rather they get vaccinated. At least two sets of pro-vaccination parents I know are raising vaccine-hesitant sons. It's tough to convince a teenager to do anything.
The Government's vaccination mandate for people attending large events will help exasperated parents of teenage refuseniks. It's a carrot for folks who would deny the fact that catching and spreading Covid-19 is exponentially more dangerous than receiving what has been called the world's most studied vaccine.
Master 15 knows his mates are bombarded with misinformation. He showed me a video of an (alleged) American doctor who recited his medical credentials for two minutes before (falsely) warning followers the vaccine was high-risk. I told my son there are bad actors in every profession. I repeated what he should have already learned in class, that science is about discovery and consensus.
When the vast majority of the world's scientists tell us humans are causing global warming, we believe them, though scientists on the fringe still deny this fact. The consensus among scientists after decades of research on mRNA vaccines in general and on the Covid-19 vaccine in particular is that they are safe and effective.
I asked my friend, Dr Jeff Gardner, an emergency room physician in Utah, about potential future consequences of getting the vaccine. He treats Covid-19 patients daily and told me we don't know about downstream risks of catching the virus.
"If you get chickenpox as a kid, there's a good chance you'll get shingles as an adult from the virus lying dormant. And shingles can be debilitating.
"Covid can cause long haul symptoms [even in teens], especially heart and lung problems. What if it causes debilitating lung disease in 20 years from a dormant virus like shingles? We just don't know. So getting Covid is also an experiment, and one that is far riskier [than getting vaccinated] in both the short and long term."
Anti-vaxxers wrongly claim a conspiracy exists to conceal adverse vaccine reactions. Anyone can report what they believe to be a vaccine side effect to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database.
An anaesthesiologist in 2004 submitted a report to VAERS claiming the influenza vaccine turned him into the Incredible Hulk to alert officials to the need for caution in interpreting the data.
There are no easy answers for teenagers whose major rebellion this year includes pitching a tent in the anti-vax camp. Let's try everything: lessons about how to evaluate information at school; peer education; talking to your family doctor; vaccine certificates; mandates for workers in customer-facing roles such as retail and hospitality; and incentives.
I am a fan of bribery. I pay my teens to wash my car. If they were vaccine-hesitant, I would also pay them to get the shots.
I want my kids to believe in science, not in random YouTube videos. To find reputable sources of facts rather than be drip-fed disinformation by an influencer seeking to grow followers and make money peddling lies.
The uphill slog is tiring, but we have no choice. I don't want any member of my family to be the reason someone else doesn't come home to the people they love.