An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE FIRST DOSES OF VACCINE against COVID-19 arrived in Canada on Sunday night, bringing a ray of hope. Vaccinations won’t be mandatory and that’s the way it should be but it means enough people must take it voluntarily to achieve herd immunity.
That won’t be easy; there’s no shortage of skeptics and procrastinators. As Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma says, “even the best vaccine is only effective if people trust it and take it.”
It comes down to a personal call based on risk versus reward. News that a few trial participants suffered severe allergic reactions — some others had mild symptoms — is the sort of thing that might increase people’s hesitancy to be vaccinated.
Absolute transparency is essential, and a warning has already been issued that people with a history of severe reactions shouldn’t receive Pfizer’s vaccine.
Much more knowledge and information will become available over time, and the slow roll-out of vaccinations due to supply issues and the need to wait a few weeks between the first and second shots might prove to be a blessing.
Or not. The long timeline might also work to entrench objections to the new vaccines if, for example, new side effects appear.
Here’s the challenge. About 70 per cent or more of Canadians need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity depending on the effectiveness of other measures. Right now, roughly a third are hesitant or against.
That leaves no room for play. To reach the tipping point, a massive and costly information campaign will be essential, starting now.
We have to clearly understand the side effects, and be willing to accept them as a risk that’s way better than catching the disease. As the experts are saying, it’s not the side effects that are the threat to succeeding with the vaccines, it’s misinformation about them.
In the end, as Dr. Sharma says, it will all come down to trust.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.