Interior Health nurses were administering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aides in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. In Salmon Arm on March 11, guests, staff and support personnel at the Salvation Army's Lighthouse Shelter at McGuire Lake were vaccinated. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)

The Editor’s Desk: Show me the vaccine

What, me worried about the COVID-19 vaccine? Not in the slightest

There’s a fair bit of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy out there, much of it centred around the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots linked to the vaccine. Indeed, the number one question I’ve been getting about the Community Vaccine Clinic scheduled for Ashcroft starting on April 26 is “What type of vaccine will they be using?”

The answer, as of the time of writing, is either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (subject to supplies). However, if an itinerant vaccine peddler were to arrive in Ashcroft tomorrow, trundling his cart down the road and shouting “Roll up, roll up! Get your AstraZeneca vaccine here! Nice, fresh AstraZeneca vaccines available!” I’d be the first in line with my sleeve rolled up.

“But the risk!” I hear some people cry.”Blood clots! Serious stuff! Possible death!” To which I would reply that, having considered the (minuscule) risk of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine versus the (overwhelming) benefits of not getting COVID-19, my decision stands.

I took the birth control pill daily for three decades, and the risk of developing blood clots while doing so was about one in 1,600. The chance of developing a blood clot after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine is about one in 250,000, according to Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser; about the same odds as an airplane hitting your house.

In fact, I would go so far as to wager that I’m in more danger of getting hit and killed by a distracted driver while on my way to get the vaccine than I am from the vaccine itself. Statistics show that each year in B.C. 78 people are killed in accidents involving distracted driving, 31 of them in the Southern Interior, and far more people than that are injured by distracted driving. I’m not a betting person, but looking at the relative risks of taking my chances with the vaccine as opposed to taking my chances that I won’t get hit by a driver sending a text, I know which set of odds looks better.

I suspect that some of the people who are vaccine hesitant in general have, on occasion, chosen to read or send texts while driving, or pick up the phone to take that call while behind the wheel, which just goes to show that as a species, we’re not very good at risk assessment. As one commentator recently put it, far more people who swim in the ocean are afraid of a shark attack than they are of drowning, even though deaths from the latter far outweigh the former.

The truth is that any medication comes with potential side effects, some of them fatal in very rare instances. This is spelled out in excruciating detail during those TV ads for prescription medications with which American network television is littered. You know the ones: they depict happy, carefree people walking on the beach, shopping, having coffee with friends, and playing with their grandchildren while a narrator describes many of the potential side effects of the drug being touted, up to and including death.

The same can be said for any medication, including “herbal” or “natural” remedies. Look up the potential side effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), millions of which are consumed every day. If you’re on a daily prescription medication, look that up online and see what is said about it. Popular natural medications such as echinacea and St. John’s Wort come with warnings about side effects. The list goes on, but people still choose to take these and other medications because the benefits outweigh the potential costs by orders of magnitude.

Since the AstraZeneca peddler seems to havepassed Ashcroft by, I’ll have to wait until my appointment at the vaccine clinic on April 27 to get my first jab. Am I worried? Yes; I’m worried I might be so happy, I’ll try to give someone a hug. As soon as more people have had their vaccine, I’ll be able to do just that, and I can’t wait.

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