Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Concerns mustn’t be swept under the carpet.
During these COVID-blighted times, we have been urged to support our frontline health care workers. Collectively, we’ve done so by complying with lockdowns that politicians believe are necessary to protect our health care system and its personnel.
But something unexpected is now going on with these same frontline workers: large numbers are declining the currently available COVID-19 vaccines.
These people have seen COVID up close. They know that the risk to themselves (and, by extension, to their immediate families) is non-trivial. But having worked in the healthcare sector for years, many are also skeptical about how certain decisions get made. If we’re serious about supporting our frontline workers, we need to pay attention.
Over at the Epoch Times, Lawrence Solomon has written a commentary titled: The Biggest COVID-19 Vaccine Skeptics? Frontline Health Care Workers. Reservations about these vaccines, he says, are surprisingly widespread.
News stories suggest that many (perhaps a majority) of nursing home and hospital staff in California, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas are declining COVID vaccines. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that “more than half of 200 health professionals who were due to receive the AstraZeneca shot” in the German state of Saarland “failed to show up without warning.”
Likewise, according to a recent PBS report, “Since India started administering the second vaccine dose two weeks ago, half of the front-line workers and nearly 40 percent of healthcare workers have not shown up.” Not just in one area, apparently, but across the country.
The speed with which these vaccines were developed, and the brevity of the clinical trials on which decision-making authorities have relied, makes many people uncomfortable. Numerous nursing home workers say they’d prefer to wait a while before rolling up their own sleeves.
Side effects also seem to more virulent than expected. In France, hospitals have begun staggering their vaccination schedules due to the 20-25% of staff members whose side effects lead to missed shifts. Inoculations were paused last week in two Swedish regions, “after 100 of a total 400 hospital employers reported high temperatures and other side effects.”
A French newspaper quotes an Emergency Room doctor in Normandy who was surprised by the severity of her symptoms following her first dose: “I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible headache, nausea, feeling cold but no fever…It’s the first time I’ve had so many side effects after an injection, yet I vaccinate myself against the flu every year.”
Because clinical trials suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective, French and Italian doctors have been rejecting that brand. They aren’t opposed to a COVID vaccine per se, but have strong views about which one they receive. Unions representing Italian teachers and police officers have expressed similar concerns.
This week Germany, France, Italy, and Spain joined Austria, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway in suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine while authorities investigate a possible link between it and blood clots. In a precautionary measure, a prosecutor in Italy has seized nearly 400,000 doses and opened a manslaughter investigation after a 57-year-old man believed to be in good health died within hours of receiving an injection.
Six months ago, I observed that “vaccines are complicated.” Smart people stress that each vaccine must be judged on its own merits. Just because vaccines have historically been a gift and blessing, doesn’t mean unexpected problems don’t occur.
We may individually and collectively decide that the benefits of COVID vaccines outweigh the harms. But denying that those harms exist isn’t the way to persuade the reluctant.
If we really care about our frontline workers, their vaccine concerns mustn’t be swept under the carpet. They need to be taken seriously. And addressed respectfully.
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