We All Have To Receive The Covid-19 Vaccine
Question: Our daughter is in her late teens. She was born with a serious lung condition that requires treatment everyday; she is very susceptible to severe lung infections. She works at a restaurant. I know that she takes all the precautions, using masks and hand-sanitizer, but she cannot stay away from patrons. I am terrified that she will be infected with Covid-19, and get very sick. Recently, she was offered the AstraZeneca vaccine because of her work, but she refused. We have all heard about blood clots through the media. She doesn’t feel safe going to work, but she is also afraid of getting the vaccine. I don’t know why Canada approved this vaccine that can harm people.
I understand your anxiety about the AstraZeneca vaccine because of recent reports of blood clots in Europe and in Canada. Your daughter is a frontline worker; she is more vulnerable than others to develop serious complications from Covid-19 infection. She needs to be protected with vaccine as soon as possible.
The first Covid-19 vaccines approved in Canada are from Pfizer-BionTech and Moderna. They are based on mRNA technology; both are extremely safe and effective.
Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have been approved more recently. These are viral-vector vaccines. Scientists have inserted the genes of Covid-19 spike proteins into the DNA of adenovirus to produce these vaccines. Adenoviruses are some of the common cold viruses; these are modified and cannot cause infection, therefore, they are completely harmless. The adenovirus brings the spike protein genes into our cells, and we produce the spike proteins that induce immunity after vaccination. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been used widely in Europe for several months; millions of adults have been immunized.
It has been shown that AstraZeneca vaccine reduces spread of Covid-19 in vaccinated population, and protects seniors from almost certain death after infection. Some can still get infected, and develop mild disease.
In recent weeks, reports of side effects have emerged. Several dozen people, mostly women under 55, developed unusual blood clots with reduced platelets in the blood. Platelets are blood cells that control bleeding. Initially, some died. It was estimated that this complication occurs in four out of every million people vaccinated.
Very quickly, scientists recognized this condition and developed treatment. Recent reports in Canada showed that these patients were successfully treated and recovered.
Similar complications were reported in US following vaccination with Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Both of them use viral-vector technology. Research is underway to determine the underlying mechanism. It is important to know that many who developed severe Covid-19 infection often have blood clots as one of the complications.
As a result, many countries, including Canada, took cautious steps and changed vaccine recommendation multiple times, following emerging data. This has caused confusion and alarm to the public. It is possible that this complication is related to these two vaccines, but the danger is very low, while the risk of Covid-19 infection is increasing in many countries, including Canada.
Hospitals in many provinces are filling up with younger Covid-19 patients; many in ICU are on ventilators. Those who recover can develop long-term complications.
As we already know, the Atlantic bubble that was supposed to open has remained closed. Families have not been able to see each other; businesses have closed or markedly restricted following public health orders. Schools have closed in some regions; children’s education has suffered. I have seen college and university students dropped out because they cannot handle online learning. Our world has turned upside down because of the pandemic.
There are other indirect consequences of this pandemic. Many surgical procedures were delayed or cancelled. Cancer screening was delayed, patients are diagnosed with more advanced diseases, reducing their chance of successful treatment. Healthcare professionals are exhausted physically and mentally. After the pandemic is over, we may see a large exodus of these professionals.
Most have recognized that vaccination is the best way for us to get out of the pandemic. The Covid-19 virus, with its many variants, will likely continue to circulate. If most of us are vaccinated, the herd immunity will reduce the spread of Covid-19 virus.
Balancing the risks and benefits, your daughter should get the vaccine as soon as possible. With recent public health recommendations, she will likely receive one of the mRNA vaccines. Regardless of which one, she should roll up her sleeves, and get it.