Has Covid-19 shaken your faith in science?

What do we make of the deluge of statistics and science, and pseudo-statistics and pseudo-science coming from all sources?

Maurice TougasSo-o-o-o-o … what’s new?

Well, the Stanley Cup playoffs have begun, so there’s that.

I’m very excited, up until the Edmonton Oilers are eliminated.

After that, my interest in hockey falls to near zero, except for a hockey pool I entered. When researching which teams to choose, I was surprised to learn that the Tampa Bay – I want to say Thunder? Pelicans? – are the defending champions. Who knew?

But after that, well, what else is there?

Oh, I know … COVID-19!

Wait, wait! Don’t stop reading yet! I had an epiphany about COVID the other day that I want to share with you.

Here it is: nobody knows nothin’.

Sorry, my epiphanies have very poor English.

It’s all so confusing. What to make of the deluge of statistics and science, and pseudo-statistics and pseudo-science coming from all sources?

Let’s start with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first miracle on the market. Unfortunately, AZ (as I will call it) has been associated with blood clots, sometimes fatal.

However, this is the vaccine that got Britain out of the COVID lockdown; more than 22 million first doses of AZ have been administered in Britain, with about 200 cases of clotting reported.

Here, we’ve jabbed 700,000 people with AZ, with seven blood clots reported and two deaths. Since COVID has killed more than 25,000 Canadians and the virus has almost brought Canada to its knees, the odds favour AstraZeneca pretty heavily.

But wait!

Ontario has suspended the use of AstraZeneca. So while experts tell us “take any vaccine you can,” the government of Ontario has added “except this one.” So those 700,000 Canadians who did their duty and got their first shot are in limbo. This is like if you had a fire in your house, and you decided not to use your fire extinguisher and wait instead for the fire department to show up.

So with AZ fears being ramped up, often by the governments of Canadian provinces, what about mixing and matching vaccines, as some governments have suggested?

A study out of Spain indicates mixing AZ with Pfizer resulted in very few adverse reactions, so that’s good.

But wait!

Sir John Bell, University of Oxford regius professor of medicine and one of the brains behind AZ (and a native of Edmonton), said Oxford has been testing mixing-and-matching vaccines. The results aren’t good, with initial findings showing severe side-effect outcomes.

“Our experience to date,” Bell said in a delightfully blunt interview on CTV, “is that it produces pretty severe reactogenicity, so severe that we don’t think that’s going to be viable, and by that I mean you get your second dose if you flip it over, you’ll get really sick, so I would not advise that.”

Then there’s the rate of vaccination. As I write this, Canada has done pretty well in getting one dose in most arms – 48 per cent, on par with the U.S. With American vaccination rates levelling off (authorities there are forced to offer prizes to convince people to get the shot), we’re on track to overtake the Americans! Hurray for our side!

But wait!

Our fully vaccinated number is a pathetic four per cent. Compare that to 38 per cent in the U.S. and the U.K.’s 31 per cent.

Isn’t this typically Canadian? We do something half-assed, then look at the rest of the world and shrug and say, “Not bad. Better than Germany.”

And finally, there’s the federal response.

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued preliminary guidelines detailing what Canadians can expect to do this summer and fall with fewer pandemic restrictions, all dependent on whether we meet arbitrary vaccine targets. And that target is … 75 per cent for one dose, 20 per cent for a second. So if we get to those lofty numbers, we can go camping and hiking and have gatherings on patios – but none of that fun stuff like festivals, movies and indoor dining.

By fall – yes, fall – if 75 per cent of those eligible for a vaccine have been fully vaccinated, expect to be able to “gather indoors with people outside your household, participate in indoor sports, and attend family gatherings.” Wheee!

But wait!

The U.S. is at 47 per cent partially vaccinated, 38 per cent fully, and monster truck rallies are back.

In the U.K, the numbers are 55 per cent and 31 per cent, and the pubs are packed again.

But our federal government roadmap wants 75 per cent partial and 20 per cent fully vaccinated just to be allowed to get together for a weenie roast.

Thankfully, federal government roadmaps aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Every province is different, and areas inside provinces are different. Nova Scotia, for example, has given up on the idea of indoor schooling for the rest of the year. Any provincial government that enforced the federal guidelines would have a revolution on its hands.

Here’s a thought: If we can get up to 50 per cent receiving one dose and 20 per cent with two doses by July 1, we can kick off summer with a great Canada Day fireworks show.

Oh, I’m sorry … is that too bold for Canada?

Maurice Tougas’s wry sense of humour has been amusing readers for years. He was twice named best columnist in Canada by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association and was a finalist for the Golden Quill award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. He served one term as a Liberal MLA in the Alberta legislature. For interview requests, click here.


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