The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has focused a lot of attention on the safety of vaccines for adults and children.
To get the shot or not, should it be mandated or not, the long-term impact 20 or 30 years down the road?
All these questions and more have created divisions in our community, among our families and our friends. In the middle of all that has been this cascade of misinformation, some legitimate concerns with no easy answers, and a lot of vitriolic anger.
People lunging at me with signs and genuine hate in their eyes have confronted me at several anti-vaccine, anti-mask demonstrations in Kelowna.
I made such a connection with someone on the sidewalk at Stuart Park. It was brief, a second at most, but I got the message this person was freaked out mad because we made eye contact in that brief moment.
I found it interesting how unsettled that briefest of encounters with a total stranger made me, and have subsequently asked, as have many others, in the days and months since where does that anger come from. I have yet to find a satisfactory answer.
But I have noticed the longer you engage in that debate with people, the conversation drifts from health concerns to political conspiracy theories. And once you enter that rabbit hole, you never get out.
Last week, enterprising members of the Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council played an integral role in securing the availability of the current Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart, a Yukon pediatrician, to give a virtual presentation and respond to questions submitted by parents.
For anyone with issues about their child getting vaccinated, it is worth an hour of your time to hear what you have to say. (Check it out at www.copac.sd23.bc.ca)
She spoke clearly and confidently as one would expect from a doctor who specializes in child care, but I suspect those opposed to the vaccine won’t be convinced by her, that dissenting voices on the Internet will be hard to shake. Those who are on the fence might find some reassurance.
As a parent, I too had reservations about the vaccines initially for my 12 and 14-year-old kids. I too heard at the outset of COVID how children were less likely to catch the virus, that vaccinating adults was the top priority.
I too had concerns about placing my faith in Big Pharma, which next to the U.S military-industrial complex is the most profitable, disingenuous and lobbying-influential outfit in the U.S.
But in the end, I felt I should place my confidence in the people, the public health experts, who we confide in to look out for our safety. This is in their wheelhouse and what they train and research for all their professional lives.
Our oldest, our daughter, also asked to be vaccinated. We talked about it several times but she never wavered. Because his sister wanted it, her brother also decided he wanted it a well despite not being a fan of needles.
So we are all vaccinated. Our arms were sore for a day after each shot. And today, we are ready to move on with life, but such is not the case.
Ultimately any pressure we feel to inoculate our children, or not, comes from too many adults not living up to their collective responsibility to look out for the rest of us and get vaccinated, following the idea instead that individual rights supersede what is the greater benefit for all, something which seems to be challenging the concept of how a democracy is supposed to function.
So the pandemic drags on. The initial noble thoughts about the safety risks of the vaccine have long since been hijacked by cynical politicians who see an opportunity to gain popularity at the expense of others with serious concerns.
But as this pandemic drags on, we continue to learn more about it, gaining a wider spectrum of analysis to determine if perceived dangers really exist or not.
Dr. Smart said medical experts are always following the data to learn more about this virus, and the rest of us should be doing the same.
Barry Gerding is the regional desk editor for the Okanagan Valley division of Black Press Media.
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