Please get vaccinated ASAP

It was hard not to get emotional on July 30 during the opening ceremony of the first Toronto Blue Jays game in Canada in 670 days.

As I stood in the Rogers Centre applauding frontline health care heroes and welcoming back the Jays, it really did feel like a return to pre-pandemic times (masks and limited capacity aside).

I couldn’t help but think of all the sacrifices made over the previous 17 months to get us to that point – first and foremost by those aforementioned health care workers and their families, but also by regular folks who did their best to follow all the health protocols because they knew it was the right thing to do.

For me, that game, that experience, will forever be remembered as the first real return to “normal.” But it wasn’t long after returning home that I was reminded we are not yet in the clear.

Health care officials across the province and country are warning that a potential fourth wave is coming, largely due to the Delta variant.

Also playing a major role in a potential fourth wave are the unvaccinated themselves and a provincial government unwilling to introduce vaccine passports (vaccine appointments doubled in Quebec immediately after passports were introduced there) as well as mandatory vaccines for those in the health care and education sectors.

And then there’s the garbage coming from self-appointed “freedom fighters” and “experts” who, when taking a break from discussing how the Earth is flat and the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. was somehow not caused by Trump and his supporters, are spreading misinformation like wildfire on social media under the guise of “concerns” about COVID-19 vaccines.

Ironically, the same crowd that downplayed COVID-19 because it “only” affected about three per cent of Canadians and “only” killed about 0.07% is now somehow extremely concerned about their 0.018% chance of having an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine – or worse, their 0.006% chance of having a serious side effect.

There is no longer a debate: the vaccines are safe and effective. The latest data shows about 90 per cent of new COVID-19 cases across Canada are among those who are unvaccinated. And fully vaccinated people are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than the unvaccinated.

“But these mRNA vaccines are so new there’s no way to know the long-term effects,” say those in the “I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but” crowd (which seems to spread misinformation as often as the anti-vaxxers from whom they try so hard to separate themselves).

Those of us not getting our information from Fox News (or worse) and from crackpots on social media know the COVID-19 vaccines are the culmination of decades of scientific mRNA research.

For the record: the vaccines don’t contain microchips, they don’t make your skin magnetic, they won’t affect a woman’s fertility, they can’t alter your DNA, they don’t make you susceptible to other illnesses, they aren’t responsible for creating variants, they’re safe for most people with pre-existing health conditions, they should still be taken even if you’ve already had COVID-19, and getting one does not mean you can ignore public health protocols.

“But wait, Health Canada just updated the label on the Pfizer vaccine to include Bell’s palsy as a possible side effect.”

Yes, 311 patients in Canada reported a case of Bell’s palsy after getting a COVID-19 shot (206 Pfizer, 67 Moderna, 37 AstraZeneca and one unknown), but there is no definitive evidence of causation. Considering over 50 million doses have been administered in this country, that works out to about one Bell’s palsy case out of every 160,000 vaccines administered. In general, Bell’s palsy affects about one in 60 in their lifetime.

“But what about the people with serious health conditions that can’t get the vaccine?” I truly do sympathize with these people, but really, they’re few and far between.

Much like some seemingly healthy people had a “medical exemption” allowing them not to wear a mask, we suspect some may falsely claim they have a medical reason for not getting the vaccine. It’s crazy.

Imagine how COVID-19 patients dying in hospital beds in countries with very limited access to vaccines must feel watching Canadians refusing a life-saving vaccine they can get at a pharmacy around the corner from their home.

The vaccinated are being told repeatedly to be patient and non-confrontational with the “vaccine hesitant,” but quite frankly, after 17 months, some of us are tired of doing the heavy lifting for those who confuse inconvenience for oppression and insist on their “rights” without acknowledging their responsibilities.

Ironically, as we witnessed earlier in the pandemic, those who are most outspoken about ending lockdowns and mask mandates are also those unwilling to take the simple, proven steps to make that happen.

I’m not sure how or when a global pandemic and public health threat – a serious life-and-death issue for many – became politicized, but it’s well past time to put an end to it.

Unless you have a legitimate health reason, every able Canadian should be getting vaccinated – if not for themselves, then for those among us unable to get it (young children, for example) or for those exhausted health care workers who have seen a lifetime’s worth of death over the last 17 months.

“Doing your own research” and hearing something “scary” on Facebook, YouTube, sketchy websites or from your crazy uncle are not good enough excuses to avoid vaccination. They never were.

Please get vaccinated. It’s not too late.