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A battle of ideas surround Covid-19. Vaccine mandates offer hope for us all

First of all, I just want to say thanks.

Thanks to all of you who have been – or will be – fully vaccinated. Thanks to healthcare workers of all types who have worked relentlessly for the past year saving the lives of strangers. Thanks to the scientists and researchers in Canada and abroad for literally inventing a cure for a novel virus within months. At any other period in history, this would have been simply unthinkable.

Photo: @fusion_medical_animation

Winning the battle of ideas

The vast majority of those of us who live in Canada have gotten the jab twice now. As I write, we are at 74% of the eligible population is fully immunized. Nice.

This is a signal that the “war of ideas” surrounding Covid-19 is almost over, in Canada at least. The same cannot be said about our the USA, which is seemingly turning into a virus factory at this point. I’m just waiting for a Florida variant any day now.

This battle of ideas can be characterized by 2 opposing sides. With covid-denialists and anti-vaxxers on the one hand, and the rest of us who respect the institution and practice of science on the other, we have largely won the battle of ideas. Over 3/4 of the population have taken the pro-science side.

This is not to paint vaccine-hesitant folks with the same brush as the aforementioned anti-science zealots. Slowly, as millions of more doses of vaccine are given around the world, the vaccine-hesitant are coming to understand the not only are the vaccines safe, but they work. Some need a little more persuading but vaccine hesitancy has become an almost untenable position at this point. They will get there

Across Canada, the under 40 age group is the next arena of battle in this war of ideas. 62% of those aged 30-39 are fully immunized. The number drops to 55% for 28-29. Sure they were the last in line, but we can’t forget many of them are no doubt influenced by people like Joe Rogan. 

You don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe

Rogan has an immense platform on Spotify with the biggest podcast on the audience. It’s a damn shame too because he uses his reach recklessly and he is embarrassingly wrong on many things. So much so that recently the scientist of a study that Rogan himself cited, had to come in and clear the air and explain to the world how Rogan had got it so wrong.

Recently I had a co-worker tell me that because he was so young, he simply didn’t need the vaccine because he was “low-risk” (as if he really knew the risk involved). He also said that the vaccine was pointless because it didn’t stop the transmission of the virus. 

Guess what my co-worker’s favourite podcast is? Yep, the Joe Rogan Experience. Both of these points were transmitted straight from Spotify to this guy’s brain. Millions of other brains too, I would guess. Talk about a super-spreading event (of misinformation).

As anyone could have reasonably guessed, these points are both flat out wrong. Yet they persist in the minds of many young people. Luckily, newer studies have been done to measure vaccine efficacy against the delta variant. Despite the barrage of media reports of breakthrough cases – which do happen – the vaccines still hold up.

On the issue of transmission, many cases (a positive PCR test) are prevented by the vaccines in the first place, thus preventing further transmission. This is simple vaccine efficacy. Also, the amount of virus present in your system (viral load) is much lower than if you are unvaccinated:

The vaccine made by Pfizer in New York City and BioNTech in Mainz, Germany, was 92% effective at keeping people from developing a high viral load — a high concentration of the virus in their test samples — 14 days after the second dose. But the vaccine’s effectiveness fell to 90%, 85% and 78% after 30, 60 and 90 days, respectively.

The vaccine developed by Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Cambridge, UK, was 69% effective against a high viral load 14 days after the second dose, falling to 61% by 90 days.

The drop in effectiveness shouldn’t be cause for alarm, says Sarah Walker

Nature: COVID vaccines protect against Delta, but their effectiveness wanes

It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s very good all things considered. This is a huge step in protecting the elderly and immunocompromised who are much more likely to experience breakthrough cases.

Vaccine mandates

Canada is currently entering its fourth wave of Covid-19, this time with many of us fully vaccinated. So far, provinces have differed wildly on strategies of moving towards “back to normal.” 

The Albertan strategy has been the most reckless, seemly trying to open everything all at once. They even tried to end mandatory quarantine for covid-positive people if you can believe it. Unsurprisingly, they had to backtrack due to a higher case count than expected.

Funny enough, Erin O’Toole, current leader of the official opposition has recently backed the Albertan premier and his cronies in public health. There has been much condemnation of Jason Kenny’s Covid-19 leadership from various scientists and public health officials from across the political spectrum. Despite this, O’Toole characterized Kenny’s Covid-19 response as being handled “far better than the federal governments has.” Yikes.

British Columbia, on the other hand, has chosen a vaccine passport approach – one of the first in the country. Many non-essential services will simply not be available to the unvaccinated. This is most likely the province’s final push to get the last remaining few vaccinated and get stronger herd immunity.

It seems to have proven successful too. This final push to get as many people vaccinated as possible almost doubled the new registrations and bookings during the first 2 days since the announcement.

The vaccine passport has been the subject of debate during the course of the pandemic. I was skeptical of both the need for it and whether it was a legitimate curtailment of individual freedoms at first. But I do think it is legitimate, and many Canadians seem to agree.

Using the power of the state to prevent people from causing harm or significant risk causing harm to others isn’t a controversial opinion. This is what the government is doing: preventing harm.

Is this heavy-handed? Yes, but it is justified because it prevents people from harming others or putting them at significant risk. We are still in a pandemic after all. Is it tyranny? No. The real tyrants are the tiny minority who insist on their “right” to infect others or put others at risk.

There is also a collective component to the vaccine passport that will be anathema to any hardcore libertarian individualists. The simple fact is that the more people vaccinated, the better it is for everyone. This is due to a stronger herd immunity. 50% vaccinated is not great. 80% is much better. 90-100% vaccinated could eliminate this virus entirely, in the same way we eliminated measles. This is the best possible outcome and one we should strive for!

In other settings, it is simply a no-brainer. Here I would include places such as long-term care homes or hospitals. If you are an anti-vaxxer, why are in in a field so reliant on science and medicine in the first place?

Remember that the current vaccine passport system is an alternative to previous lockdowns or restrictions. It is the opposite of a lockdown – lockdowns shut down society, the vaccine passport is an attempt to reopen society and get back to normal. The tiny minority of anti-vaxxers are the ones keeping this pandemic going; it is time for them to get out of the way. I’ll be thinking about them while I’m at the bar, enjoying a drink.

3 responses to “A battle of ideas surround Covid-19. Vaccine mandates offer hope for us all”

  1. […] It is much harder to accept that maybe, no one really is in control. The pandemic requires a collective effort to beat this virus. It is also true that many of these theories align with Conservativism all too […]

  2. […] in every country they have been made available to the masses. Vaccine mandates are working and are the key to ending this […]

  3. […] Like any public health measure to counter the spread of Covid-19, rapid antigen tests are not the be-all-end-all. These tests alone will not end the pandemic, but they have a significant role to play as “red light tests” (explained below) alongside vaccines and mandates. […]

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