It's Not Us Vs. Them, Pandemic Edition

Early on in the Pandemic, it was all "we're in this together!" "two weeks to flatten the curve!" "We love our frontline workers!". That message of unity and positivity has declined. Shifting, instead, to "anti-vaxx" vs "pro-vaxx". Moreover, our government is infringing on our Charter Rights and Freedoms in order to manage the ongoing pandemic. Why is that?

I hope sharing my personal experience will explain why this situation is not black-and-white. And, that there is a lot of uncertainty and nuance which leaves room for differing opinions. Which is to say, I have some skepticism with the novel mRNA vaccines[1].

Anyway, I had fear in 2020. I thought some people were under-reacting. I thought those protesting mask mandates were petty. I was very wrong. But, this lead my to getting my first dose of Pfizer. While I did not have a serious adverse reaction, I did have an experience unlike prior vaccinations. Yes, I get vaccines. Being skeptical about the novel mRNA vaccines or the novel situations we find ourselves in does not mean one is anti-vaxx. If that has been your assumption over the last year you should ask yourself why.

Back to my experience. It was only a few years ago that I got my booster for tetanus. This vaccine has generally been in use since WWII. It is a typical vaccine, which introduces a dead or weakened bacteria into your system. And, I garden and have cuts on myself all the time (from skateboarding etc.). The risk benefit ratio is pretty easy on this. I had zero effects other then minor soreness at the site of injection for a couple days.

With Pfizer my whole arm muscle was sore and when used in some way the muscle would hurt and feel weak. Moreover, I experienced fatigue and struggled with cardio. Only recently, have I felt I have full-energy and health. I can't say that the jab caused this. Nor, can I say that catching SARS-CoV-2 wouldn't have been worse. But, it was enough that I had questions. Then there was the red marks, sorta like hives that appeared on my torso… anyway…

Shortly after the first dose, I stumbled on the dark horse podcast. It touched on the suppression of ivermectin. Which is still going on today. Look, if you want to read rolling stone magazine for your health and medical knowledge, so be it. But, it requires more personal work to glean out facts. Listening to podcasts is also not enough. Yet, many of these podcasts or people being labeled anti-vaxx provide sources and links to confirm what they are saying. I’ve seen more data and sources shared by supposed anti-vax people then by politically appointed health officials. The latter who very often waffle on what they say with little to no thorough explanation as to why.

This got me digging. And I love to dig. It’s one of the things that makes me good at my job. And it’s not hard. Is it an experimental vaccine? Read the official FDA emergency use authorization. How good is it at reducing mortality Versus a control group? Read the Pfizer preprint (beyond the abstract). Is ivermectin only for horses? Read pretty much anything other than journalism. Who is at risk of death from COVID 19? Look up the data for your region. If your region doesn’t provide age stratified death rates then ask them to. Until then, look it up for another region that does. Same goes for comorbidities and BMI. Search for official data for specific regions. Unfortunately the latter is harder to find which is also absurd.

Stop using journalism as the input for your personal determination of risk and fear. Yes, there will always be outlier cases that can stoke fear. Look at the data and make a risk-benefit analysis for yourself without the emotional toll that journalism evokes.

I’m also not anti-journalism. But, there is a wide range of quality being published. And, for me, it's becoming more difficult to weed out cruft from unbiased reporting. This is troubling, because we need good reporters to question our political leaders. Yet, everything today is put into boxes and labeled. It's left vs right, progressives vs racists, anti-vaxx vs pro-science. We are failing to look at things objectively and with nuance.

I'm concerned how people are turning on their neighbours over a novel vaccine. BCs pandemic plan aimed for more than 70% of the 18+ population vaccinated with dose 1. Why are we freaking out now that we’ve made it there (with two-doses no less!)? Are nurses quitting in droves? Does the immense forest fire smoke we’ve had all summer play a part? Was our health care system already struggling, and this past year pushed it over the edge? Is delta that much worse? Do masks make a difference[2]? And, for children? If you’re vaccinated aren’t you safe? Didn’t Bonnie Henry say mandates would be inequitable (!!)?

Mandates are a horrendously bad idea. More than that, our BC mandate is, in-fact, inequitable. Denmark's passport allowed for negative test results, natural immunity, or vaccine. Why is ours only vaccination? Why are those with medical exemptions not accounted for? Why don’t we recognize natural immunity? Why do we continue to punish small businesses while simultaneously propping up big corporations? Why do we think it’s ever acceptable for the state to mandate medical interventions? What even is a Covid-19 death? Could booster shots have their own risks?

Recently in Nova Scotia the Progressive Conservative party won in an apparent upset. A key issue there was the struggling health care system (well before Covid) and they dug into why. Approximately, 5% of Nova Scotians consume 70% of public health spending. Much of this spending and care is in relation to chronic illnesses: diabetes, heart disease, COPD, frailty, obesity, arthritis, etc.. The solution is to educate and provide programs to help people take their personal health into their own hands, reducing the burden on hospitals and workers.

The mortality rate of COVID-19 is significantly impacted by BMI and underlying health conditions. If the argument is to reduce pressure on our health care system, wouldn’t reducing preventable diseases have a greater impact than mandating a vaccine for a single virus? And, more impact without giving up your individual autonomy to the state? The Canadian Government recently released an analysis on excess mortality (outside of covid-19 deaths) and found that under-65 excess mortality exceeds under-65 Covid-19 deaths!

I share all this, in hopes that it paints a more nuanced picture of our shared reality. Perhaps things are more confusing and complex than simply forcing everyone to take a single approach to the virus? Maybe we should be open to a multimodal approach to managing this pandemic. Perhaps we shouldn’t adopt the divisive labels that the media prescribes to people? Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge? Fear and division themselves are threats to society. Contrary to the notion of chaos after crisis, people, when self-organized, are actually civil and effective.

Footnotes:

[1] Pfizer-BioNTech is NOT approved for use, rather authorized due to an emergency. The recent approval of COMIRNATY admits VAERS is not capable of properly assessing all risks of the vaccine and has ordered Pfizer to complete those studies themselves by 2025-2027. Hence, experiments are ongoing.

[2] Canada's prior Influenza Pandemic Plan specifically calls out wearing masks "of limited effectiveness and may provide a false sense of security." With no data on showing higher effectiveness with covid-19, why are masks lauded so much?

August 29, 2021