I was recently asked by someone who is vaccine-hesitant,
“May I ask why you need a vaccine for something with a survival rate of approximately 95% for people our age?” and I took a lot of care writing up my answer, so I thought I would share it with you. Here are 9 reasons we need a vaccine for Covid-19 despite the fact that the overwhelming majority will survive:
1. Overwhelming the health care system.
I live in the Interior of British Columbia. Our health authority is called Interior Health. Interior Health is at 98% capacity right now. Two days ago, it was 95%. Many BC hospitals have gone above capacity, and we are doing better than a lot of places in the world. In a couple of days, if our trajectory remains the same, our hospitals in the Okanagan will be over capacity. What will happen if you have a stroke and there are no beds available? Sure, most of those covid patients will survive, but will you survive your stroke without attention from a doctor? Now, think about all the other people who could need emergency attention while there is none to give. Car accident victims, heart attacks, anaphylactic shock victims, overdoses, the inevitable idiot in Faulder who stuck his finger in an electric socket. If there are no beds available, and all the doctors, nurses, EMTs and surgeons are busy already treating very sick people, then people are going to die from other things. The problem with covid is not the fatality rate. It’s never been the fatality rate. It’s the extreme contagiousness that leads to an overwhelming of the healthcare system. This has already happened in places like New York, LA and India. Covid patients are currently dying because they can’t get medical attention when they would have otherwise survived. A vaccine greatly reduces transmission, infection, and in those who might still become infected, it reduces the severity, which means fewer people end up in hospital.
2. Long-term effects.
Even in younger age groups, long term effects and side-effects from covid include stroke, seizures and Guillain-Barre syndrome (temporary paralysis), “covid toes” which is a blackening of the feet, a complete loss of smell and taste which is not like a cold when you have the sniffles and you can’t smell or taste, it’s a complete loss of the ability to smell or taste anything. There’s also permanent and severe asthma, severe heart damage, and one of the most common is blood clots, especially if you’ve had one before. If you are admitted to the ICU for Covid, your odds of getting a blood clot from the virus are 1 in 4.
Each infection is a chance for the virus to mutate. Each mutation means it can become more fatal. Each mutation can potentially be a mutation that is resistant to the vaccine and if that happens, we find ourselves right back where we started.
4. Covid sucks. Hard.
Even if you don’t die, getting covid is consistently reported as one of the worst things you can experience. Even amongst younger age groups. Getting put on a ventilator is among one of the worst traumas the human body can face. Have you ever seen how they get it down your throat? With a tool that looks like a pickaxe. You can’t talk, eat, drink or even just swallow normally while you’re on a ventilator and it is literally a tube going from your mouth to your lungs. Covid patients sometimes need to be on the ventilator for 2-3 weeks, some even longer and longer-term ventilator patients have to have a tracheostomy which is the process of cutting a hole in your neck to connect the ventilator. This is the only way the covid patient can breathe. We have 52 total ventilators in the entire Interior. If more than 52 people need one, what do you think happens?
5. You can die from covid without even knowing you had it.
There have been multiple cases of people who are fit, in their 30s, 40s and fifties, with zero pre-existing conditions who have discovered they had Covid when their doctors found a blood clot. My podcast co-host, Janice, has two separate people in her life who this happened to. Blood clots are now occurring in as much as 40% of all people who test positive for covid, even when they have no other symptoms. It’s so common that some doctors are considering putting covid patients on blood thinners before they even show signs of any clotting.
6. 1% of 8 billion people is 80 million people.
The overall survival rate for covid-19 is unknown, but if we go with the lowest estimate, which is 1%, we end up with 80 million deaths.
The holocaust: ~6 million deaths.
World War 2: 75 million deaths.
2004 Asian Tsunami: 230,000 deaths.
Hurricane Katrina: 1833 deaths.
If you have cared about any of these events in our history and been saddened by the death toll, I have to ask why you don’t seem to care about the potential of the worst death toll in our lifetimes?
7. The financial burden.
Let’s just take into consideration our little corner of the universe: The BC interior. Yesterday, the reports coming from Interior Health said our hospitals were at 98% capacity. I imagine today we will be nearing 99%. We’re already using surge beds, which are limited because they need to be staffed and we don’t have extra health care staff sitting on the bench waiting to be called into the game.
So, what do you think this is costing us?
What about the cost of unemployment insurance, sick days and the CERB? What about the cost of the one-time benefit we got from the BC government? What about the cost of the many closures of places like Whistler/Blackcomb. The financial burden we are putting on the tourism industry, on the restaurant industry, gyms, massage therapists, and on and on.
As long as this pandemic goes on, the cost rises and the more likely it is that we don’t get out of this financial mess. But we can’t just open everything up and live like normal, or we face overwhelming our healthcare system more, running up more costs.
The only way out of this is herd immunity, which, unfortunately, we have discovered cannot be reached through mass exposure. The only way to herd immunity is via a vaccine. And that only works if the vast majority of us get vaccinated.
8. The emotional toll.
I have spent the last year making difficult decisions. I’ve spent the last year telling my kids no to things I would normally and enthusiastically say yes to. Most recently, I agonized over my decision to keep my son out of baseball this year. This was heartbreaking for so many reasons. I love watching him play, it’s great exercise, he gets outside and away from Minecraft for a while, he loves stealing bases and that look on his face when he does is everything to me. I also miss the social aspect, connecting with other parents, some of whom are friends we haven’t seen in a year.
I have had to argue with our teenager about seeing her boyfriend. We have put a strain on our relationship with her mother because we had differing views on how to keep her safe. We have had to turn into helicopter parents to make sure both of our kids are following our rules for masks, social distancing and sanitizing.
My niece is two. This is all she’s known. She’s afraid of people because she’s not been allowed to be around them her whole life. What long-term effects will this have on her?
We’ve been on a rollercoaster with our mental health, with really low lows and we have it relatively good compared to the rest of the world. People have been emotionally destroyed due to this pandemic. Maybe it’s because they’ve lost a loved one, gotten sick themselves or watched someone else suffer through the illness. It could be because they had to close their business or were laid off. It could be the result of lockdowns, social distancing and severe and unending loneliness.
We can’t end any of that until we are in a position where getting back to normal means our healthcare system doesn’t get overwhelmed. We cannot risk our healthcare system becoming overwhelmed because then everyone with a treatable condition, covid or not, is at extreme risk of dying. We can’t risk it because each new case that is hospitalized is a risk to our already limited supply of doctors and nurses. Again, the only way to end the lockdowns, to end the masks and the social distancing and the extreme loneliness is to reach herd immunity. And the only way to do that is with a vaccine.
9. We need to protect the most vulnerable.
You are in a wider community that has numerous people in it who are in high-risk groups for dying from covid. Some of whom cannot choose to get vaccinated. Maybe you know someone with asthma. Perhaps you know someone who has had previous blood clots. One of the highest risk groups are plus-sized people, and most of us know and care about several of these people. I know a family with a little girl who has down syndrome. If she gets covid, she almost certainly will get very ill and is at high risk to die from it. She is relying on the people around her to get vaccinated so that she doesn’t need to worry about that. My son also cannot get vaccinated and all these new variants are infecting kids at higher rates, even causing symptoms and requiring them to need hospitalization. Even though I think my son would survive it, I cannot run the risk of my child in hospital by himself, potentially being put on a ventilator because other people could only think about themselves. Getting vaccinated does not eliminate the risks of infection. It doesn’t eliminate the risks of transmission and it doesn’t eliminate the risks of showing symptoms or needing hospitalization or even of dying from the disease, but it greatly reduces all of those things and people like the girl with down synrome and my son are relying on you to do you part to reduce the odds that they get sick from this.
Getting vaccinated is not a personal choice. It’s a choice that affects us all. This isn’t the same as a choice to drink wine or a choice to go skydiving – these are actions that only affect you. Your refusal to get the vaccine affects us all. It increases the odds that someone you love might get covid. It increases your odds that you might get it.
Have you ever seen a reindeer cyclone? It looks like this:
When danger is near, reindeer encircle their young and vulnerable like this and move constantly in a circle so that the danger has to chase a moving target. Of course, the predator can still get one of the reindeer, but he’s going to have a much harder time because they are all moving. Further, he’s even more unlikely to get the most vulnerable reindeer, who are at the center of the tornado.
This is how the vaccine works. We encircle our most vulnerable by developing herd immunity. We do it to protect the most vulnerable because the reduced chances of covid hitting any one of us ensures that the little girl at high risk, who cannot get vaccinated, doesn’t catch it.
In other words, this is simply not about you. It is about us.
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