Living with COVID and Staying in my Lane

“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind”

Buffalo Springfield

To me it is sad how much faith society has lost in the scientific community as we grapple with ever changing information about COVID-19.  Did it start in a wet market or in a lab?  Did it start in December 2019 or much earlier that year?  Do masks work?  How many people should attend a wedding or a funeral?  Why can’t you go to the barber at all, but you can go to Costco with thousands of others?  Vaccines protect you from COVID but it’s too risky for the vaccinated to be around the unvaccinated.  Herd immunity is around 70% vaccinated – no 80% – maybe 90% – maybe never.  Myocarditis is a serious side effect of the vaccine – no wait, we did the math wrong, turns out it isn’t.

The scientific community would have been way better off saying more often ‘we don’t know but this is our best guess’.  Some claim they did but that wasn’t the experts they put on TV every night.  Don’t get me wrong – I am vaccinated – but I feel uncomfortable mandating by law that everyone make the same choice that I have made.

I have tried to sort some of the confusion for readers and have posted commentaries about lockdowns, herd immunity, and vaccine passports to try to bring some clarity to a messy messaging by media with the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ telling very different stories – neither of which seem to be completely without bias on what they want us to believe and want us to do.  After my last commentary, a friend reached out and said: ‘I appreciate the blogs by you and your colleagues on our industry, but I think you have to be careful not to promote fear’.  I always appreciate feedback on my commentaries whether it’s agreement, disagreement, or angles that I haven’t considered.  At first, I didn’t overthink this feedback since I didn’t think I was pretending to be a doctor and one of my goals is to sort through volumes of material and try to simplify some of the messages for readers – even if the subject is a little outside my expertise.

Vaccine Passports come to Ontario

Over the last few weeks, I have been rethinking which lanes are safe for me to drive and which lanes are really for others – be it slow trucks or expensive sports cars.  I have concluded that I drifted into the wrong lane last time around.  What I said that might not make sense is around vaccine passports:

“Doug Ford came out and said that Ontario would not be introducing vaccine passports because “We’re not gonna have a split society”.  Sorry Dougie – we already have a split society – those that want safety above freedom and those that want freedom above safety.  Your decision doesn’t help bring anyone together.  Ironically, the seemly endless lockdowns and restrictions in Ontario have for many of us appeared to have tilted too far towards safety and away from freedom.  So, putting a flag in the ground for freedom by not creating vaccine passports is an almost meaningless token at this stage.”

What I was thinking at the time was that businesses that wanted to require patrons to be vaccinated could do so if they thought it was good for business – and passports would make it easy to administer.  What I also thought is that with vaccine passports perhaps we could keep businesses open all winter rather than another round of lockdowns.  Finally, I selfishly thought that a passport might give me more room to go out and about and I have already admitted I am tired of being locked in small rooms in front of video cameras.

Growing the Divide

What I didn’t want was for us to continue to divide society and promote fear and anger.  What I didn’t see coming was the introduction of passports as a way to bully those that were choosing not to get vaccinated to get vaccinated against their wishes.  There is broad agreement in support of the benefit of the measles vaccine.  The question not yet answered is whether the COVID vaccine deserves the same acceptance given its short history and ongoing testing for negative side effects.

We now have a new divide among those that didn’t want to get vaccinated.  The first group is the group that still aren’t getting vaccinated and are even more angry with the infringement on their freedoms – some have lost their jobs.  The second group is the group that is caving in and getting vaccinated to keep a job or to hang on to the freedoms that they enjoy today like going to a restaurant – they are just as angry as the first group and I don’t blame them.  It feels a lot like blackmail.

Living with COVID

This is normally the part of the commentary where I say what I think.  I don’t even know what I think anymore.  I decided to get vaccinated in May as soon as I was eligible.  But some people don’t want to get vaccinated and have compelling arguments on their side.  Aren’t we at the point where we need to stop protecting the voluntarily unvaccinated?  Shouldn’t those that cannot be vaccinated on the advice of a doctor be the ones to take the extra responsibility for their own safety?  Shouldn’t the vaccinated be satisfied with protection they now have and be willing to let the unvaccinated live with the consequences of their choices?  Is the half-effort many are making for masks and distancing making a difference at all anymore?  Why is it so hard to increase our hospital capacity to support those that continue to get sick?  Are we remotely prepared for a different virus next time around?

Some are saying that COVID is never going away and that we are going to have to learn to live with it.  If that is true, then we have setup a world that is run by fear and as we await our cellphone-based passport, we move one step closer to the world George Orwell warned us was coming.

I am not having fun over here and I am tired too.  I just want it to be over or for all us to find a better way to live together.

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