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Opinion: So many reasons to get the shot

I was asked recently why I keep advocating for people to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. After all, “the vaccine hasn’t been approved,” the questioner pointed out. An interesting choice of semantics that.
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There are plenty of selfish and unselfish reasons to get vaccinated, Todd Whitcombe writes.

I was asked recently why I keep advocating for people to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. After all, “the vaccine hasn’t been approved,” the questioner pointed out.

An interesting choice of semantics that. It has been “authorized” under the legislation allowing Health Canada to approve medicine for emergency purposes. So for all intents and purposes, the vaccines we have are approved for use against the virus.

There are doctors who question the ethics of using an unproven vaccine. True. There are also doctors who advocate for the use of acupuncture. And doctors who smoke cigarettes. And doctors who likely believe in Santa Claus (or should!) 

The category “medical doctor” is a big class of individuals who have a wide variety of opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Given the size of the pool of individuals, it would be surprising to not find some who disagree with the present health strategy. After all, you can find pretty much any opinion about anything if you look hard enough.

But the question shouldn’t be whether or not doctors agree or disagree on the use of the vaccines. It should be what does the data indicate about the efficacy of the vaccines. Personal opinions aside, the numbers tell the tale. 

Countries, such as Canada, where vaccination is reasonably widespread have seen a steady decline in case numbers. Has the number gone to zero? No. Nor is it likely to ever get to zero cases.

This is due to there always being some people who either can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, object to vaccinations on religious grounds, or simple refuse to be vaccinated because of personal concerns about the drugs.

All of those objections are fair enough but these individuals are then banking on the rest of the population to protect them by achieving a sufficiently high enough vaccination rate to dampen the disease down to manageable levels. They would like everyone else to do the work for them.

Personally, I don’t mind. I will take a shot in the arm which was, at best, a minor inconvenience if it ensures that I and the people I interact with are relatively safe from the virus. Judging by the fact that Canada is one of the most vaccinated and fully vaccinated countries in the world, I would say most Canadians feel it is their responsibility to ensure they and their fellow Canadians are safe.

But there are other reasons why I have continued to write about the need for full vaccination. The first is the numbers themselves. We know coronaviruses can be very contagious and deadly. Ironically, if the disease was any more deadly, it wouldn’t have become a pandemic as it would have effectively burnt itself out.

However, 18 months into this pandemic and it would appear the disease kills about two per cent of the population it infects. In Canada, as of last weekend, that translates to 26,669 people dead and 1,401,714 recovered.

If the disease was to run rampant through the entire Canadian population with no controls or vaccines – that is, if everyone in Canada became infected with COVID-19 – then we would see a death toll just over 700,000. That would be like wiping out the entire population of New Brunswick with the exception of Saint John.

That is not something I can countenance. Getting vaccinated saves lives and, with any luck, it will keep the death toll where it is at.

Of course, I am not naïve enough to think everyone will get vaccinated so the threat of another wave of the disease will keep impacting our daily lives. Particularly as the virus mutates over time. This is a natural feature of all viral vectors. They evolve through a series of mutations which, to some extent, are a consequence of suppression of the disease. The hardy strains are the ones which become dominant and so we have the “delta” strain gaining ground.

But the other reason I keep writing about the need for vaccination came as a question from a student. One of his friends had said they were not going to get vaccinated because the whole thing is a hoax. My student wanted to know if I thought COVID-19 was a hoax.

No. It is not a hoax. It is a very real disease killing people. 4,305,967 people worldwide have lost their lives to the virus. Actually, like every other pandemic in history, that number is probably the lower limit as people have died from the disease without the death being attributed to COVID-19.

The usual retort to such a statement is “Well, I don’t know anyone who has died from COVID-19” but to that I would answer “just wait.”

Without widespread vaccination, I am sure we will all know someone who has died. So please get vaccinated – if not for yourself, for those you hold dear.