When my car breaks down, I go to a mechanic. If my hair gets too long for my liking, I go to a barber. If my elbow hurts when I bend it, I go to a doctor. You get the idea, right? I mean, I’ve tried fixing my own car, cutting my own hair, and diagnosing my aching elbow and I’ve achieved some moderate success with each, but nothing as long-term or as convincing as those who do those things by trade and experience. I admit, even moderate self-success feels exhilarating and one positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the global rediscovery of self-care and sustainment opportunities, but there are still some times when we don’t quite have all of the right information or tools to do it like the pros.
So, what makes that logic so hard to accept when it comes to COVID-19? Why is there a contingency of people protesting the use of masks, which science tells us will help reduce the spread of the virus? What makes people post antiquated articles from “experts” who when you dig a little bit into their biography, haven’t worked in the medical or scientific industry in almost a decade or have left one of the leading industries under terms that may require further consideration, but are pushing unfounded theories of mass genetic altering vaccines or global political conspiracy? Even further, you can also find people spreading fear through dated pandemic articles when information was just emerging, or quoting information out of context in some deep desire to provide an ill-informed point that just might challenge general common sense. The reasons for this may range from a variety of social behaviours, some more serious than others, and beyond the scope of this reflection. What is within its scope in summary, is consideration for factual information from the medical and scientific community, supported by real-life experiences.
So, let me get a few foundational facts out of the way, supported by our global professional communities. COVID-19 is a real infectious coronavirus disease. The virus is transmitted through some form of direct contact from the respiratory droplets of an infected human to another human and crowds tend to be one of the perfect environments for spreading it. The virus can be spread by someone who is not showing any symptoms (i.e., asymptomatic-no symptoms at all, or pre-symptomatic-hasn’t developed symptoms yet). The virus that causes COVID-19 is not the same virus that causes the flu, which is why a different vaccine is required. I believe these facts based on evidence over the course of the past year or so as it is validated through multiple credible sources that are available to all, including the idea that vaccines would help the world overcome this pandemic.
The initial compliment of vaccines for COVID-19 have required two doses spread over some pre-determined period of time. After the first dose, each provides a varying level of Vaccine Efficacy which according to Shelly McNeil, MD from the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax Nova Scotia is the “% reduction in disease incidence in a vaccinated group compared to an unvaccinated group under optimal conditions.” McNeil also points out that Vaccine Effectiveness is the “ability of (a) vaccine to prevent outcomes of interest in the real world.” These are important definitions as the vaccine transitions from a very ideal and controlled environment to the one we live in every day. When that happens a variety of other elements get introduced that could impact the overall results. Vaccines generally help by reducing the symptom impacts and preventing hospitalization and/or preventing death. If a vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95% that means it is still possible to contract COVID-19, but the likelihood of severe impact will be greatly reduced.
A current trend among non-medical experts who seem to leverage medical data only when it best serves their point of view has been fixated on published data that some people are contracting COVID-19 two weeks after their first vaccine dose and are using that as a jumping board to spread further misinformation about the vaccine’s value or intent. In fairness, I can’t find anywhere in the vaccine documentation that you’re fully protected with one dose in a two-dose vaccine. What I do find is recommendations that after your first dose you should still observe social distancing, wear your mask, and wash your hands. On May 25, 2021, The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention advised that “People are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second shot in a 2-dose series, like Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-shot vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine,” and continue with, “You are not fully vaccinated if it has been less than 2 weeks since your 1-dose shot, it has been less than 2 weeks since your second shot of a 2-dose vaccine, or you still need to get your second dose of a 2-dose vaccine.” So, it seems that those who are trying to disprove the effectiveness of the vaccine, by pointing out that people can still contract COVID-19 after their first dose, are actually supporting the scientific and medical community data that suggests that is indeed a possibility, but they often leave out that it also supports the reduction of symptoms, hospitalization, and death.
The other really important fact overlooked by some of those still struggling to accept COVID-19 as a real global pandemic is how hospitalization impacts and strains medical services in terms of capacity capability, reduction in secondary medical care, and the imposition of life and death choices. The influx of COVID-19 patients specifically the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) has pushed the hospitals to the brink of capacity and care. On March 23, 2021 CBC reported that from December 2020 through to March, 509 COVID-19 patients had been transferred to another ICU unit in Ontario because of capacity issues. Along with the health care aspects of that transition is an associated financial, mental, and physical cost of the patient, their family, and all of the health care providers. As hospital ICUs get filled, medical staff are forced to shift their focus away from other medical services, impacting other treatable conditions for Heart & Stroke, Cancer, and more. In March 2021, CTV reported that, “at least 353,913 surgeries, procedures and specialist consultations were postponed across Canada due to COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic.” Imagine the impact of that over the course of the full pandemic, and globally. This further spills into ethical decision-making based on prioritization. A recent personal family experience had paramedics asking the question of an 87-year-old man suspected of having a heart-attack if he wanted to go to the hospital. Think about that for a moment in our sophisticated modern world. A man, who was in medical distress being asked to make a decision if he wanted to go to the hospital as paramedics evaluated the pandemic environment and impact on hospital resources. I cannot find any data to support any such similar type of impacts caused by the flu or the flu being a cause to prioritize patients going to the hospital or not, in a life-or-death moment of decision-making or impacting hospital resources and surgeries in the way COVID-19 has.
All these facts aside, it’s important to acknowledge that in Canada, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication,” – The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2(b). It is indeed a valuable right and a right that deserves great responsibility and care in all circumstances, especially when dealing with the well-being of humanity. I hope that right finds in each of us reasonability, collaboration, and compassion for one another.
- Shelly McNeil, Overview of Vaccine Efficacy and Vaccine Effectiveness
- COVID-19 Vaccines that Require 2 Shots | CDC
- Hundreds of ICU patients transferred between Ontario hospitals as COVID-19 admissions rise | CBC News
- Nearly 354K surgeries, procedures, consultations postponed due to COVID-19, report says | CTV News
- The Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Department of Justice.
This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page. For sports content, please consider The Coach's Call YouTube Podcast.