Does the vaccine actually work? Details in the data

A large number of us will get the Omicron variant of COVID-19 over the next six months. What matters now is who gets it, and when. The vaccines’ roles in all of this are important to understand.

Here I sit, with two doses of Moderna and a booster dose of Pfizer in me (and no improved Internet signal – yes that’s a joke), and I have to ask, is vaccination the answer? First, we need to understand the problem we are trying to avoid and whether the vaccine is helping minimize the problem or not. For a long time there was no data, but now it exists, and everyone needs to know about it.

When the pandemic started, we got vaccinated because we thought it was the right thing to do for ourselves, our families, and the broader community. They implored us to help flatten the curve. We thought it would let us get back to “normal” faster if we vaccinated and stayed at home. I thought that meant that the vaccinated would have less of a chance of getting COVID or transmitting it, but we really hadn’t been shown the proof. It’s no wonder that anti-vaxxers and freedom uniters are feeling duped, but there is more to the story that they need to know.

Politicians want your vote; and it feels like they will say whatever they think they have to say to get it. Gone are the days of politicians running on a platform that might be bitter medicine to swallow, but is right for the country.

“Flatten the curve” for the general population number of cases is the federal government and corporate messaging, because they run the machine. Economically, we can’t “afford” to have a large portion of the labour force off sick or else we’d have more than just shortages of toilet paper. Heaven forbid our GDP would drop, and corporations wouldn’t make as stellar a growth as they’d like (even though many have paid executive bonuses out of government COVID relief funds).

Provincially, they still need to keep the corporate cogs spinning, but politicians have to be much more concerned about buckling the provincially-funded health-care system. We are now “blunting the wave” to avoid the healthcare system from imploding, and this is the messaging that the vaccine-hesitant need to hear along with the data that exists to back it up.

We now have proof that vaccinations reduce our chances of catching COVID. Take the data from Science Table (the COVID-19 advisory for Ontario) at that shows that people are 1.6 times more likely to catch COVID if they are unvaccinated. To be clear, I’m not worried about catching it myself, but I surely don’t want to pass it on to aging parents or immuno-compromised friends who could die from it.

Since Omicron is so catchy, and many more people will likely catch it, let’s look at the data showing that vaccination reduces symptoms of the illness, and reduces the need for hospitalization and ICU beds. From the same website, unvaccinated people are 4.75 times more likely to be admitted to hospital, and 10.8 times more likely to end up in the ICU.

We should be screaming these numbers from the rooftops, not shaming people for not understanding the rationale for vaccination. I don’t believe that anyone WANTS our health-care professionals off sick, unable to care for all other health emergencies. I don’t believe that anyone WANTS to be the reason that someone else can’t get life-saving treatment because they are taking up a bed in hospital or the ICU with COVID that they could be managing at home if they had gotten the vaccination. I don’t believe that anyone WANTS to bring the virus to their grandparents and see them end up in hospital fighting for their lives.

I encourage anyone who knows someone reticent about vaccination to look at the data for their region, or province or Canada-wide to see the proportions of people in hospital and taking up ICU beds by vaccination type.

Quebec has reported a frustration with non-vaccinated people clogging their hospitals and ICUs, so much so that they are looking at levying a significant financial penalty for the non-vaccinated, as Christopher Nardi reported on Jan. 12. Premier François Legault stated that “unvaccinated Quebecers occupy 50 percent of ICU beds, despite being one 10th of the population” and that the burden on the system should not be borne by all Quebecers.

Instead of hefty financial disincentive, I would like to believe that, instead, if we take the time to explain this properly and simply, that more will get the vaccine. That said, the provincial governments have the business of health care to run and it may come to hitting people where it counts.

We have irrefutable proof now that vaccination is working to reduce the cases and severity of symptoms, and is keeping a greater percentage of those vaccinated out of hospitals and ICUs. We need to be in the fight against COVID together, not divisively fighting each other from vax and anti-vax corners. Let’s share the information so that people can make informed decisions.

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