Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Let us be adults. Let us be honest. At this stage, no one knows what will happen when COVID vaccines are given to millions of people.
Last week, the Canadian government refused to tell the public whether it had granted legal immunity to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers. Health Canada said it couldn’t release “details of its contracts due to confidentiality clauses.”
On Monday, this changed. A cabinet minister has now acknowledged that pharmaceutical companies will be protected from lawsuits in the event that Canadians are harmed.
We keep being assured serious adverse reactions are “incredibly rare,” “extremely rare,” and “exceedingly rare.” The National Post tells us that Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist, considers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recently approved by Health Canada to be “super safe.”
But here’s the problem. Serious adverse reactions to long-established vaccines are, indeed, rare. COVID-19 vaccines are brand new. They’ve been developed in a rush. Unlike measles or tetanus vaccines, they haven’t been closely monitored and tweaked over a period of decades. Telling us how few problems are associated with older vaccines is therefore beside the point.
If one in every 50,000 people has a bad experience with a COVID-19 vaccine, that’s 20 people per million. Multiplied by Canada’s population of 38 million, we’re talking 760 individuals. Those are still great odds. But let us not pretend the risk is zero.
While some swine flu vaccines performed well back in 2009 and 2010, during a similar rush, one appears to have triggered calamity in people with a particular genetic predisposition. (See my previous posts regarding the health care workers and children who developed incurable, life-altering narcolepsy following swine flu inoculations.)
Because COVID vaccines have yet to be administered to millions of people, we simply don’t know how serious or extensive any harms may be. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about legal immunity again. Back in July, a news story quoted Ruud Dobber, an executive with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca:
“This is a unique situation where we as a company simply cannot take the risk if in…four years the vaccine is showing side effects,” Ruud Dobber, a member of Astra’s senior executive team, told Reuters.
Repeat after Dobber: “This is a unique situation.” Vaccines normally get tested for years before being given to millions of people.
Repeat after Dobber: it could be “four years” before important side effects are recognized.
Repeat after Dobber: “we as a company simply cannot take the risk…”
From the perspective of big pharma, governments have demanded these rushed vaccines. Governments must therefore assume responsibility. Despite everyone’s best efforts, life remains unpredictable. Unintended consequences are real.
So let us be adults. Let us be honest. At this stage of the game, it’s highly misleading for journalists, politicians, or medical officials to insist COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
We hope so. But we don’t know.
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