There is a lot of discussion about the new COVID vaccines which have been approved for use in the UK and is nearing approval in the US. In Canada we are a bit behind but there is a good chance approval and roll out will be in the early New Year.
This is splendid news and I suspect there will be lineups around the block to get the jab. I will be happy to take my place at the back of the lineup and I may not take the jab at all. I am not at all an anti-vaxer. But I am not all that excited by new medical tech at its introduction. I never get the yearly flu shot. Not because I am worried it will hurt me, rather because I am not particularly concerned about getting the flu.
As with all things COVID I am convinced that individuals are best placed to assess their personal risk and take whatever measures seem reasonable. For example, if I had a job where I was interacting with the public, I would weigh the likely minimal risk posed by the COVID vaccine against a significantly greater than zero chance of getting COVID. If I had an underlying co-morbidity the calculation would change again. Something which inclines me towards the vaccine is my age. And I certainly consider my age with my current regime of assorted vitamins, hand washing, social distancing, staying at home and exercise.
The politics of the vaccine are, unfortunately, shaping up like the politics of mask mandates and lockdowns. There seems to be a drive towards some form of compulsion. Worse, this drive seems to the powered by the Karen left. The same sort of people who demanded mask “mandates” and are pumping for more and tighter “lockdowns”. The people who are very, very scared of COVID. Well past the point of taking it seriously themselves, they demand that you take it seriously too. Which means that you have to do what you are told or be fined or imprisoned or excluded.
If COVID was Ebola or SARS or even the “Spanish” influenza of 1918, the Karen brigade might have a point which overrides individual choice. But COVID, while a nasty virus, is survived by 99.9 percent of the people who contract it. And we have a pretty solid idea of exactly who is at greatest risk of death, the extremely elderly and people with assorted co-morbidities. From a personal risk assessment perspective, I have virtually no contact with either group so put none at risk.
There is every chance that COVID will follow the seasonal track of other respiratory viruses and the hospitalizations and deaths will taper off in the Spring and Summer. We are in for a nasty three or four months and I certainly hope that such vaccine as is available in the New Year is used wisely to keep frontline workers and the most at risk safe as we ride it out.
(Back of the envelope: there are about 350,000 Canadians in LTC, call it 50,000 workers to care these people. Over a million people work in health care but the number of “frontline” workers who are likely to be exposed to COVID is a fraction of that. We might also want to target older people in First Nations communities early. If our allocation of the Moderna vaccine is 2 million doses we should be able to vaccinate those target groups.)
Taking reasonable precautions makes a lot of sense. However, the various compulsory business closures and cancellations are making less and less sense. A capacity limit in a store or bar is intuitively reasonable – though, apparently, there is not a great deal of evidence of spread in small retail stores or bars. Social distance and avoiding unnecessary travel are also reasonable precautions. But these measures need to be voluntary if they are going to be successful and if there is not to be wide spread dissent.
Governments around the world are losing the trust of a large fraction of their populations as they attempt to impose restrictions. Not majorities by any means, rather a substantial minority whose lives are being wrecked by unemployment, business loss and the loss of any sort of social ties. What was tolerable for a few weeks back in March is becoming intolerable eight months in.
A COVID vaccine offers the possibility that the lockdowns and business closures can be relaxed without hospitalizations and deaths spiraling out of control. Combined with better treatment options for those who get the virus and a good, hot summer, COVID may well be over as a killing disease by next Fall, just when the bulk of the vaccine is expected to arrive.