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Monday, October 4, 2021

Advising loved ones to get vaccinated meets resistance

In the above cartoon, the angel is a little hard on the deceased. He was told convincing lies and he had no way to judge the merits of those lies. Journalists write good stories and talk show hosts are experts at pushing their personal agendas. The poor patient in the blue hospital gown was simply out of his league. He was no match for the purveyors of COVID-19 half truths and outright lies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an eye-opener. First, I am shocked at how little was in place to fight a global disease. It is not as if one could not see this coming. Heck, in just this century there have been at least three other pandemics. Pandemics are NOT rare. There have been about six pandemics in my lifetime alone. Our leaders let us down. Society's lack of cohesion prevented the launching of a strong, synchronized, educated response. A more unified response might have decimated the virus and minimized its ability to mutate.

COVID-19 appeared on the scene in late 2019 and by early 2020 I was wearing a mask when going to the grocery store. A newspaper reporter tweeted that if he saw me in a store wearing a mask, he would tell me  to "get the hell out." His tweet resulted in my first "Aha!" moment.

Journalists told me that masks cause respiratory infections, warned me that masks may "shutdown" my immune system, and the list of why journalists insisted that I should not wear a mask just grew. 

The numerous horror stories I was told about mask-wearing reflected the stories appearing in the media. One thing all these stories shared was a lack of scientific rigour. A year and a half later the scare stories aimed at mask use are hard to find except when one does some Google research. The news media has moved on leaving the truth in tatters.

I actually got an apology of sorts from one reporter. He took down the error-filled info on masks that he had posted online. He admitted my mask wearing was probably a good idea. He said, he and his wife now wore masks when outside the home. 

He blamed confusing information from medical authorities for causing him to make mistakes. I'd argue he should have associated with a better grade of medical authority. My authorities said wear a mask. Period. They did not waver on important points.

COVID-19 is a new viral disease. It is no surprise that there is a lot to be learned about this disease. The flip side of this is that there is often little solid to report. This fact does not stop journalists. Journalists are masters at packaging thin stories as completely fleshed out tales.

It is often too soon to point to a COVID-19 story and to be able to scream false with complete certainty. For an good example of what bad but creative journalism can accomplish, we must look back a few decades and examine the 1982 documentary, DPT: Vaccination Roulette, an incredibly flawed anti-vaxx report that won acclaim that led to a Peabody Award. DPT: Vaccination Roulette inspired changes in American law that are still being applied today. Bad science, in the right hands, can make for a damn persuasive story.

As a society, we insist on instant gratification. With certain news stories, the fast response is the wrong response. Journalists goad scientists for fast answers. Often the scientists comply. The scientists should be goading journalists to slow down, show some patience and wait for the release of peer reviewed and peer rated research. 

I cannot speak for you, but I have been mislead more times by the mainstream media than by Facebook. Do you recall when COVID-19 was said to be no worse than the annual flu? In the States, that was 700,000 death ago. The MSM has published so many myths about the virus that there are Internet pages devoted to dispelling these myths and they number in the dozens.

Which brings us to the dangers of being one's own researcher. Do you have a background in disease studies, do you have in-depth knowledge in virology, are you a math whiz? If you answer "no" to these questions, find someone to trust. Research the researchers; do not attempt to do the research. 
I read The Lancet, and reports from Harvard and other well respected university medical centres. I do not let journalists or on-air personalities set the agenda.

There were vaccines for fighting COVID-19 ready to roll by late last year. Hundreds of millions of doses were made available in the States and tens of millions of Americans said, "No thanks." Many died.

The Americans who died were not, for the most part, stupid. The angel in the cartoon is being too harsh. The anti-vaxxers have been mislead and the misleading information came from a wealth of trusted sources. 

The following is based on a post by Boston University. 

The university noted, when so much wrong information is readily available, convincing people to get vaccinated has proven to be a huge challenge. Many myths have taken hold such as the vaccines are too new, the vaccine itself will give me COVID, I’m immune because I had COVID, getting the shot is more dangerous than getting COVID and there are more. None are true.

MYTH: The COVID vaccines were not rigorously tested, which is why they originally had only emergency authorization approval and not full FDA approval.
Vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
The technology was studied for a decade. The main difference between emergency use versus full FDA approval is you only need two months of monitoring instead of six months. With more than six months of experience with these vaccines, we can say we have not seen anything that would make us believe the risks outweigh the benefit, the saving of lives. Note: historically, if patients developed side effects, these occurred in the first two months.

MYTH: The technology used to create the COVID vaccines is too new to be safe.
FACT: The technology used, called messenger RNA, or mRNA, is not new. Research on it began in the early 1990s, and two diseases that are very close to COVID—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)—helped bring the mRNA vaccine development to present day use.


MYTH: I already had COVID, therefore I don’t need the vaccine. I’m immune.
FACT: After people recover from a viral infection, the immune system retains some immunity. Studies have been unclear on how long this natural immunity lasts but most experts believe it will be anywhere from 90 days to six months, though it could be longer. In these cases, vaccination acts like a booster shot bringing the strength of the patient's immunity up to that achieved by the standard two-shot COVID vaccination regimen.


MYTH: Children do not need to be vaccinated because they do not become sick from COVID-19.
FACT: As a rule, children have much milder symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalized. But since children can become infected and transmit the virus while remaining
asymptomatic, they can serve as an insidious and ongoing source of disease transmission. Such children can infect older, at risk, family members such as grandfathers and grandmothers or pregnant friends and relatives.

Children have a role to play in society achieving “herd immunity.” This is the point of community immunity that stops the disease from continuing to spread. Now, with the Delta variant, an even higher percentage of the population must be vaccinated to reach “herd immunity.” It will be harder to get back to some normalcy if a large proportion of the population, the children, remain unvaccinated.

MYTH: I’m vaccinated. So I can drop all my COVID precautions, right?

Studies have shown that a person infected with the Delta variant of COVID has roughly 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than a person infected with the original strain. On the plus side, Delta is causing outbreaks mostly in unvaccinated people. But Delta is more easily spread, and we are quickly learning that it can lead to vaccine breakthrough infections and even be spread from one vaccinated person to another.

The vaccines are safe, and remarkably effective. But what precautions we decide to take depends on a lot of factors. For example, where you live. Are you in a place with high vaccination coverage, like Massachusetts, or a southern state with low vaccination coverage and a high case rate.

It also depends on what activity you are engaging in. Outside not in a crowd, that’s safe. You don’t need a mask, but inside in a crowd where you don’t know who is vaccinated or unvaccinated, then you may want to follow strict public health measures.

If you have children less than 12, you must be a little more cautious. In addition, if you have a compromised immune system (a pregnant woman, for instance), then you also need to take some extra precautions. And, of course, there is your level of comfort with risk.