Emily (46), Performance Development Director. Wellington, NZ.

The onset of lockdowns coincided precisely with my husband concluding a contract, thrusting us into a state of financial uncertainty as he searched for new employment. Our income halted abruptly, casting a shadow over our family's stability.

Amid this upheaval, my daughter's birthday approached, yet the stringent restrictions left us unable to procure even the simplest of gifts, with only essentials like food and alcohol deemed purchasable. Similarly, our efforts to maintain some semblance of normalcy and activity were hampered by our inability to replace my son's worn-out running shoes, curtailing our family walks.

The atmosphere was further poisoned by a pervasive fear, fuelled by government and media narratives, which turned our once cohesive community inward. Minor transgressions, such as sitting on a park bench or taking a dog for an off-leash walk, became the basis for neighbourly disputes, fracturing the community spirit and creating unnecessary tension.

As vaccine mandates were introduced, contrary to prior assurances, we found ourselves cornered with no time to deliberate a course of action. My apprehension towards the long-term effects of the vaccine, still under-researched at the time, led me to postpone vaccinating our children. However, the deeper I delved into emerging studies and reports, the clearer it became that the risks outweighed the benefits, prompting me to protect my children from potential harm.

This decision, however, had immediate consequences. Our teenagers were excluded from various social and recreational activities, from Scouts and sports to the simple joys of visiting the library or a café. Navigating the social labyrinth of revealing their vaccination status to peers brought an additional layer of stress.

My own regret over receiving the vaccine only deepened with time, especially as I witnessed its adverse effects firsthand. Initially, I had accepted the vaccine to continue teaching drama, but as mandates intensified, I faced moral and professional dilemmas that ultimately led me to relinquish my teaching and dance class instructor roles rather than comply with vaccine pass checks.

The vaccine's impact extended beyond my career to my health, with a single dose causing significant disruptions and necessitating medical interventions. The emotional toll was compounded by the vaccine mandates fracturing our family, especially as those in the medical and professional sports fields faced early pressure to get vaccinated, creating a rift as they struggled to accept the potential implications of their choices.

Tragically, the repercussions of these mandates touched even the youngest among us. Among six pregnant relatives, those who were vaccinated experienced heartbreaking outcomes, including respiratory issues in their newborns and a miscarriage. In contrast, the sole unvaccinated mother gave birth to a healthy child, underscoring my concerns about the vaccine's long-term effects on our children's health.

This period was marked by a profound sense of loss, not just of income or normalcy, but of community trust and bodily autonomy, leaving deep scars on our collective and personal wellbeing.

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