Sabrina Almeida

Haven’t got your first jab yet? Perhaps you live in a non-hotspot area where the rollout has been relatively slow. Or, you’ve been holding off for the vaccine of your choice.

Chances are you’re not the only vaccine shopper in your social circle! Several Canadians openly admit to having a preference. Pfizer being the most popular choice, followed by Moderna. While some people initially toyed with the idea of Johnson & Johnson because it was a one-shot vaccine, AstraZeneca seems to be the least preferred.

I have observed that there are two groups of people who were willing to take whichever vax they got –seniors above the age of 70 and those under 30. Although most older adults explained it as having nothing to lose, they were also willing to do whatever it takes to get back to normal life. Just like the younger age group.

Vaccine shoppers, like you and me who are mostly 40 and above, would be well served to learn from their logical approach. 

Any vaccine is better than no vaccine, doctors have said over and over!!!

I’m guilty too! Like several Canadians, I was quite uncomfortable with all the bad press AstraZeneca received. So, I was very relieved that it was not recommended for my age group or my sons. But I did  steer my husband away from it by booking our appointments at a mass vaccination clinic that I knew was rolling out Pfizer doses. As per anecdotal evidence, several friends did the same. A few even tried, unsuccessfully, to get a doctor’s recommendation for an mRNA vaccine.

AstraZeneca has received a bad rap around the world. Several Australian friends informed me that they would rather wait for another vaccine than take it. Relatives and friends in Gulf countries also opted for mRNA vaccines.

Yet India and the UK have doled out millions of AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD doses with an exceedingly small percentage of adverse reports. For a while it was the only vaccine being rolled out in India, so it was hypocritical of me to advise family and friends there to get vaccinated as soon as possible while I navigated my way around the choices here.  Relatives in India and the UK who took the COVISHIELD vaccines didn’t have any adverse reactions yet that didn’t clear my doubts.

In reality, we have little knowledge about any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Which means one is not necessarily better or worse than the other. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently looking into a rare heart inflammation in some American teenagers and young adults who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. (Oops one of my boys got Pfizer and the other Moderna!) Israel reportedly had a few similar cases associated with Pfizer which it looked into in April. And Germany reported 10 deaths among seniors during its initial rollout of Pfizer last December. Yet Pfizer has become a preference here in Canada and many countries around the world, while AstraZeneca can’t seem to get a break from the negative news surrounding it.

Vaccine shopping, as unwise and unscientific as it may be, is the privilege of having a choice.  It’s the first question people will ask when you tell them that you’ve been vaccinated. A friend from Dubai proudly informed us that his family had taken the ‘premium’ Pfizer shot. Although we laughed at his classification, it’s an impression that has been created in people’s minds. Friends in India openly state their envy about our Pfizer and Modern options.

The truth is these weren’t really meant to be options!!! The federal government was merely trying not to put all its eggs in one basket. Unfortunately, many of us misread it as having a choice and are now getting more picky.

While one might be able to understand some hesitancy about AstraZeneca and J&J because of the adverse reports surrounding vector-based vaccines,  latest news suggests some Ontarians are now asking if they can get Pfizer rather than Moderna. Doctors are worried that this could delay vaccinations and our recovery from the pandemic as a whole. Not to mention the wasted Moderna doses from cancelled appointments.

With India and a swath of countries in Africa and Central Asia, struggling to procure vaccines, comes the moral question about whether we should have a choice, medical reasons aside.

Although doctors and immunologists have been trying to explain the importance of being vaccinated as soon as possible, we’ve let the fake news and rumour-mongering on social media and the Internet get the better of us. So we believe social media’s conspiracy theories over scientific advice.

It’s time to get real! With herd immunity being key to coronavirus eradication, none of us are safe till we are all safe.  That means a majority of people being vaccinated locally, nationally, and globally as soon as possible to prevent mutations and variants from rendering them ineffective. This also means taking the first jab you can get.

I salute Ontario for basing its reopening plans on vaccine coverage, among other things. It’s the smart, if not the only way forward.

Perhaps they ought to infuse our second doses with some common sense as well.

 

 

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