It has been an incredibly hard year and a half. And it looks like we have at least another nine months of this … maybe more.
There have been several vaccines – two of which were in the making for thirty years: Pfizer and Moderna – both mRNA vaccines. Thirty years ago, scientists began creating mRNA vaccines. The mRNA vaccines work like a basic pancake recipe: once you have the foundation, you simply add an ingredient to get the type you want. So they developed the mRNA vaccine over decades. By 2020, what was left was to insert the mRNA sequence for COVID-19.
As a new mom and a single parent, I knew two things. FIRST: that it was extremely dangerous for myself or for my newborn daughter to get COVID-19. I knew this because my family doctor, my midwife, my surgeon – every one of them and their colleagues – were clear that this was the case. I watched in horror as the body counts went up in anti-mask areas of the United States and in poorer nations that could not protect themselves from the virus. I needed protection. Penelope needed protection. SECOND: that all of those doctors recommended that I get vaccinated and that being vaccinated made it significantly less dangerous for my daughter and me to go out into the world. Above: the author with her daughter, Penelope. Photo submitted.
Making an informed decision
I am an analytical thinker. It’s part of my job. So, when people were hesitant about the vaccines, and when people from my town and county posted links advocating against masks and then against vaccines, I opened them and read them with an open mind. But I didn’t stop there. I looked further to the source of the information: not just what they told me, but especially what they didn’t tell me. I researched their background: Had they been removed from their professional organization in the past? Were they associated with hate groups? What did other professionals in their field say about their work? Where had they been *recently* (in at least the last ten years) published, and did those publications pass muster?
This is it. This is where I made my decisions.
As you can see, the decision wasn’t made lightly. My safety and the safety of my daughter were at stake. Yet, in weighing the known deaths and immune system long-term effects of COVID-19 against the known protections and very rare complications of the vaccines, I decided that it was in both mine and Penelope’s best interests that I get vaccinated as soon as possible. And so, I did. It was quick, I felt a little hungover after the second shot, and then I felt a sense of relief: the end of the pandemic for Penelope and me was in sight. But Penelope was still at risk of others not taking the vaccination.
The vaccine passports could have been a very successful measure to create safe spaces for those who could not be vaccinated yet. However, the Ontario vaccine passport is another example of politics getting in the way of science.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the implementation of limiting those who are most likely to spread and catch the virus by confirming vaccination status. But the list of places in Ontario is politically driven with some places being left out and others being included without an explanation of any clear health reasoning behind it. It doesn’t inspire confidence and it puts the onus on the service industry to enforce rules which seem arbitrary. That said, these are the measures they put in place and, like a lot of things in the last few years, it is what we are stuck with.
So the question remains: should people get vaccinated because they believe that the vaccine can protect them? If they don’t or they are unsure, should they be in open spaces where they could spread to others or get infected themselves?
People are still weighing this decision carefully. Some vaccine-hesitant people are friends of mine. I understand the concern. Putting anything in our bodies is concerning. And politics has made it worse. The government at both the provincial and federal level have been inconsistent in messaging, they have repeatedly chosen politics over science when making policies, and it is really hard to trust right now. So I understand the need for each person to check for themselves.
Not checking blocks the path to safety
Where I take issue is here: people who aren’t checking.
Imagine we are all in a burning building. The smoke is filling the air and we all need to get out. So we all run toward the walls – to the windows and to the doors. Many of us get to the windows and crack them open, allowing us some relief. But the main way out is through the doors and there are people blocking them because they are worried about what could be outside.
Being scared of something is understandable, but we need everyone to do their full homework and really look outside. We need to do the homework now, so we can get out of this pandemic. This means going beyond re-posting and re-sharing scary memes and watching YouTube videos. We need people who are hesitant to do a full critical analysis of the information they are receiving and arrive at a full answer. And then, once they have that answer, to check with a doctor they can meet *in person* who they have trusted before – whether it be with their father’s end-of-life care or with the surgery that was performed on their wife or child. Check your homework, and then decide about vaccines.
Meanwhile, those of us who are protected can go outside the door now. We know that the way through is with vaccinations. While those who are understandably vaccine-hesitant complete their due diligence, those of us who have checked and obtained the vaccine will be able to do some things people who have not been vaccinated cannot.
To the vaccine-hesitant
Speaking for the 70 percent of Canadians who are vaccinated and ‘outside the burning building.’ We love you and we want you to come with us. We don’t want you inside the burning building; we want all of us to be outside, breathing clean air and enjoying our lives outside of crisis. We want this pandemic to be over as much if not more than you do. We end the pandemic with vaccinations.
So, please, complete the research that you need to do to ensure your own safety. In the meantime, please bear with the Ontario protocols.
Then, when you feel safe, grab your vaccine and let’s enjoy life together on the other side of the pandemic.
About the author: Jodie Primeau is a lawyer, mother, amateur triathlete, and owner of a law firm in her hometown of Deep River, Ontario. After practicing in the Kingston area, in 2019 Jodie founded Primeau Law Professional Corporation – her area’s first female-run firm – now tripled in size. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, she bought her first commercial building and gave birth to her daughter, whom she is proudly single-parenting. In the 2021 federal election campaign, Jodie was the New Democratic Party candidate for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.