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Maxed Out: A COVID-19 vaccine protects everyone

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“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

- C. H. Spurgeon

Often attributed, in one form or another, to Mark Twain, modern (mis)communication technology has made that chestnut more true than ever. And anti-social media has turned it into both an art form and a lucrative moneymaker.

What was once dismissed as quackery—and found a very limited audience of gullible believers—now becomes an overnight sensation and a political movement by week’s end. Nowhere has this been more apparent than the ongoing saga of vaccine conspiracy myths and anti-vaxxer rhetoric leading to hesitancy on the part of a significant percentage of the population to get COVID-19 vaccine jabbed into their arms.

Despite overwhelming evidence the various vaccines are safe, that the risks posed by COVID-19 are more serious than the risks of vaccine side effects, that over 95 per cent of current cases strike the unvaccinated, that over 99 per cent of virus-related deaths happen to the unvaccinated, there remains doubt this, or any other country not controlled by autocratic governments, will successfully achieve herd immunity through vaccination.

C’mon, people. Are you just being stubborn to be stubborn? That behaviour should have been overcome before you measured you age in double digits.

So what’s your excuse?

“I’m pretty certain, I had COVID already so why bother? I’m already immune.”

Fact is, whatever “immunity” you may or may not have had is far weaker and shorter lived than what you’ll get from any of the approved vaccines. This has been true for most all vaccine-treatable diseases. File this excuse under lazy myths.

“No one knows what the side effects are.”

I believe we can safely hitch another popular excuse to this one. That’s, “The vaccines aren’t fully authorized.”

As of right now, over two billion people have received some form of COVID-19 vaccine worldwide. Over one billion have had two doses. Adverse side effects from vaccines almost always show themselves within two weeks and certainly within two months. There are no recorded, historic instances of vaccines having serious side effects that weren’t picked up in the first two months after application. That’s why approval, either full or emergency-authorized, was delayed until at least two months after clinical trials. 

The number of serious reactions to vaccines has been statistically miniscule.

In the interim period between clinical trials and authorization, hundreds of thousands of people died from COVID-19. This excuse is a classic example of a low probability/high impact trap where people are overly focused on events—serious side effects—that are highly unlikely while ignoring high probability outcomes, contracting COVID-19 because of concern over the safety of vaccines. It’s a common human frailty to fear undesired outcomes regardless of how unlikely they are to occur.

Given the large number of people vaccinated and the small number of people who have experienced serious side effects, the probability of getting into a serious accident the next time you get into your car or on your bike is considerably higher. All but the most agoraphobic take that risk without even thinking about it. 

“The risk of death from COVID-19 is tiny. Most people who get it just get sick.”

It’s hard to be objective about this excuse. Fact is, it just pisses me off. It is shortsighted, self-centred and just plain anti-social. It is popular with those folks who believe body count is the only metric of merit. Those are the same ones who don’t want to take any safety measures until enough people have been killed by, say, dangerous intersections, to warrant action.

Yeah, you may not be killed by the virus. But you may well spread it to someone who is. And even if that doesn’t happen, all the people who contract the virus from you and everyone else who hasn’t stepped up for a vaccine continues to put unnecessary pressure on our already inadequate healthcare sector. It continues to hamper the ability of people to get elective medical procedures or even make an appointment to see a doctor. It is taking a serious toll on medical professionals, both through death and burnout. It threatens the future viability of the system because of early attrition by nurses, doctors and support staff who decide there must be a better way to make a living.

With most jurisdictions opening up, people are crowding into bars, movies, restaurants, airplanes, concerts and other events we like to think of as normal. Within those crowds, unvaccinated people pose the largest threat. We can’t tell who they are and they don’t seem to care if they’re spreading the virus around.

There remain people who can’t get vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons. They are particularly vulnerable and their health is at the mercy, or lack thereof, of those who refuse to get vaccinated for “personal” reasons.

Finally, the virus isn’t going away. The more people who are not vaccinated, the more human Petri dishes it has in which to mutate, replicate, and become the hot new variant with more power to infect and more power to kill. By eschewing vaccination you make vaccines less effective for everyone and set up a feedback loop that will continue to lead political leaders to impose new rounds of restrictions, making any return to any semblance of normal a pipe dream.

“I have religious reasons for not getting vaccinated.”

Halleluiah, brothers and sisters. I have no reply to refute your faith. But let’s not be hypocritical, shall we? If you’re relying on your faith to keep you healthy, if you’re relying on the tenets of your faith to steer you away from vaccines, then at least have the decency to rely on your faith to cure you when you get ill. In other words, don’t even think of bothering such impure, secular beings as doctors. Don’t show your face at Emergency. Just pray for salvation and die at home, asking forgiveness from those you may have infected.

Like so many things, mulish attitudes change when the threat becomes a personal reality. U.S. conservative radio talking head Phil Valentine preached the gospel of foregoing vaccination. He too browbeat his listeners with the vapid argument of the chances of dying from COVID-19 were less than one percent. When he contracted COVID-19 in June, he announced he’d be back on air in a day or two.

As of Sunday he remains in critical condition and repentant, now a believer and pushing vaccination. Kind of reminds me of the gay bashers who finally see the light when their own kid comes out of the closet.

But, of course, many of his anti-vaccination listeners now hate him. Duh.