How Safe Are You?

OK, bear with me. This is a completely unbaked but possibly brilliant idea related to the vaccine-hesitant.

I live in an area in which a significant minority of the population is refusing the Covid-19 vaccination. Their justifications are varied and often contradictory, but these vaccine resisters are a part of my community. You probably have some of those people in your community, too.

from Marco Verch via Flickr

Under normal circumstances I like to encourage a variety of opinions and lifestyles. Usually, those things just make life more interesting. However, because I am mostly housebound because of the virus, I am more than just a bit annoyed by all those people who would have me self-isolating for even longer.

I am not qualified to evaluate all the fears, defences, rationales, and explanations from the vaccine avoiders. All I know is that they are making the return to normalcy less likely to happen this year. That interferes with my plans in a dozen different ways, and that makes me more than a little bit cross.

So, here is my idea. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that it is perfectly fine for you to refuse to be vaccinated for any reason. The proviso, though, is that your employer has to publish the percentage of their employees who are vaccinated. If the business engages directly with the public, then that information has to be provided to all potential customers or clients. If the business is retail, then the percentage of vaccinated staff must be displayed on the front doors.

If that regulation is made official, then I can choose which companies or services I prefer to do business with. For example, if my grocery store or library or hardware store has a sign on its doors that says “Staff 75% vaccinated” I would probably be ok with that. I would do business there. If, on the other hand, it said “50% vaccinated” I would have second thoughts.

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

At present, not all adults in my province have had the opportunity to get even the first shot of vaccine, so my plan cannot be implemented right away. I get that. But perhaps in the interim we could have signs that said “65% vaccinated, 15% intending to vaccinate.” That way we could know what to expect when we walk through those doors. As it stands, I have no idea how many of the people I interact with have chosen to put their own and my life at risk.

The alternative, I suppose, is for us all to have vaccine passports on lanyards around our necks so that everyone knows we are less likely to be a threat. Or, we could have armbands to signify the unvaccinated, but that has nasty historical connotations so I doubt that idea would fly.

For the time being, I am still afraid to take public transport or to spend much time in crowded stores. I just don’t know how risky it is. And it has been a long, long time since I felt safe around strangers. Can we please have a plan for people like me so that we can make informed decisions? Please pass on my idea to your local politician so that, perhaps, we can get a movement started. After all, we’ve done our part and I think we should get the social benefits sooner rather than later. At the very least, we have a right to know how safe we are.

42 Comments

  1. If you live in fear of a virus, from China, that they’re discovering more and more has the same stats as other flus, then where will your fears end. Be afraid of this one and the rest of your life is history. This country was founded on freedom because people chose freedom over fear.

  2. One of the printing companies I worked for back in the 60’s produced the anti vaccination leagues magazine. Their main argument was you were more likely to get the disease following vaccination than to catch it naturally.

  3. Your idea is not very fair to employers or businesses. Why should they have to suffer because a certain proportion of their employees refuse to protect themselves and others. I think they would be perfectly justified in refusing employment to people who do not have vaccinations. The idea that some hospital employees would not be vaccinated, for example, is outrageous. Why do some people feel they have no responsibility to others in their community?

  4. Interesting ideas! I think posting the percentage of employees vaccinated would serve both sides of this coin. People who are against vaccines may feel inclined to patronize a store who have low percentages of vaccinated staff.
    The task for me is how to navigate in my world without being fearful, resentful or suspicious of others around us. Because I don’t like feeling that way towards my fellow human beings; it’s not good for my mental health and wellness. I have been fully inoculated for over a week now, and have to remind myself of this as I share space with strangers who can’t seem to keep their face masks over their noses. And minimize the amount of time I share my space with them.
    Whenever we walk out of our doors we take risks. We have acclimated to the other risks; maybe we will acclimate to COVID-19/pandemic risks as well. Meanwhile I continue to make face masks for my tribe.

    1. I feel much the same as you, Lorna. I don’t like feeling fearful, but as long as there are too many people unvaccinated, we will not get to herd immunity.

      I have been thinking that businesses that depend on indoor audiences such as arenas and cinemas might shift the balance if they require proof of vaccination before people can enter.

      1. I know, I’m sad to think that herd immunity is looking illusive. I wonder if we have a better chance at it when our youngsters can be vaccinated.
        And indoor venues. Can’t even imagine.

  5. The public health goal with vaccination is to achieve what’s called herd immunity. What that means is a community rate of spread that is lower than 1, meaning each infected person ends up infecting fewer than one other person. This is how outbreaks stop. So the issue at hand is about how safe are we to go out into the public where the reinfection rate is below 1. Well, this is where community numbers come into play. We’ve heard this number as number of infections per one hundred thousand and, let me tell you, Alberta right now has numbers higher – yes, higher – than India. This gives you some idea of just how the risk of becoming infected is increased with every interaction: the more interactions, the higher the likelihood of becoming infected. Those who doubt any of these facts have nothing to stand on other than some anti-reality belief.

    So the real issue is how can we reduce A) the risk (answer: reduce contact, reduce the community spread), and B) the reinfection rate.

    The reinfection rate can be lowered a bunch of ways including staying isolated, dying, getting, and recovering from, Covid. Unlike Dophinwrite, I don’t see this approach as either a reasonable nor rational public health policy. In fact, there is no worse a public health policy if recovering in all ways from a pandemic matters more than a tinker’s damn. But I know it suits a lot of people who don’t really care about others compared to how they care about doing what they want when they want.

    Vaccination also reduces reinfection rates and this is what I want to mention: you’ll hear more and more about a pair of numbers: 75 and 20. These numbers from real world data indicates rates of reinfection fall below one when 75% of a population have received one dose and 20% have received two. (Not included in these numbers is the single dose J&J vaccine yet in Canada.) This is why various health agencies have recommended extending the time between doses: achieve that 75% as soon as possible and fully immunize the most vulnerable (defined as those most likely to require hospitalization). Only by getting that rate below one other infection per infected person will the pandemic start to end so vaccination is a key element. This is why mask wearing and distancing will stay around even as number decline and vaccination hits these bench marks (for people who are willing to do their civic duty for the welfare of others versus those who are not); we have to remain conscious of the risk as the numbers decline because risk is the number of contacts while the virus is present in the community. There are threshold numbers (for example, Ebola and SARS and MERS is still present in our wider communities but so small in numbers that an infection can be caught early and tracing done to capture those who might become infected). But the most insidious aspect of SARS-CoV-2 is that transmission occurs prior to the onset of symptoms (estimated on average to be for 5 days).

    Without vaccination, the overall risk for getting sick with Covid is about calculated using the example of living with an infected spouse. The actual likelihood is about 30% for a 14 day infection, meaning 30 people out of hundred living with an infected person will become infected. There are all kinds of reasons for this I won’t get into, but this is how people can congregate and not get sick. They are beating the odds for now. However, if a person living with an infected person has had a single dose of any of the vaccinations (there is a time lag between getting the first shot and having it take full effect), this likelihood drops to about 3%, meaning 3 of those hundred will still get infected. If one gets both shots and lives with the infected person, constantly sharing air and contact material, that likelihood drops to about 1/1000th of 1%. The likelihood of a blood clot from the protein vaccines is at the very worst about1/250000th of 1%. Real world data is coming in around 1/1000000-150000000th of 1%.

    So there’s the choice non vaxers are taking if any close contact is allowed: 30% compared to 3%. They will still benefit from herd immunity when all the rest of us step up and do what needs to be done, when the 75/20 is achieved by those who aren’t so self-absorbed and are willing to do their part to reduce the suffering of people they do not know and will never meet.

    So when these numbers are achieved, one can go shopping and do all the stuff you once did, but there will be a period of hang over using the masks and distancing as the community rate approaches zero. That’s still a ways away – especially when so many people in Alberta continue to act not as part of the solution but insist they have a right to be part of the problem – but it will be achieved eventually. I think it’s reasonable to expect that many provinces will get there by September but we’ll be asked to mask and distance for probably about another year.

    I say all this stuff not because I ‘believe’ this, that, or the other thing but because my spouse was a pooh bah regarding the use of federal health statistics and how it shapes the provincial policies derived from them. If anyone has any questions, I would be glad to pass on whatever understanding I can provide.

    1. Thank you, Tildeb, for this very clear and thorough explanation of herd immunity. I appreciate it very much. Also, thanks for offering to answer questions. I am very glad for your depth of knowledge.

      1. My pleasure. I apologize for the length of the comment but explanations to help informed consent usually do. The question about getting out and about relatively safely is somewhat difficult to have a straightforward answer but these numbers are what local health authorities are trying to achieve in order for getting things back to normal as fast and as safely as possible. So, to anyone who has received at least one vaccination shot, who take social distancing seriously and wear masks to reduce the potential of spread, please know that doing so is saving a lot of unnecessary suffering down the road to – as I said – people you don’t know and will never meet. It really does matter, even if it’s a little thing, so thank you.

          1. I second that Anne! I always welcome Tildeb’s lengthy, but very well-informed comments. His depth of practicality, wisdom, common sense, and sheer intelligence always urges me and challenges me to be more refined, more informed, and broader minded! 😁

            There isn’t much at all that slips by Tildeb. I find his comments (and very rare blog-posts 😉 ) extremely helpful on several/many levels.

            1. Well thank you, Prof. You know better than most how often the value of my explanations fall well short of the preferred pithy one liner. Still, it’s the only form of commentary that allows others to see where and if I go wrong in my reasoning or question data and I am actually very thankful if something there can be pointed out as mistaken so that I can correct for it.

              But understanding this pandemic, and why this coronavirus is not like a rhinovirus (mentioned unwittingly by Dolphinwrite even though both ‘flus’ can cause acute respiratory symptoms), informs why this pandemic is not like others and so this understanding leads us to treat it far more seriously than, say, H1N1 (remember the run on Tamiflu?). Add in the VOCs (Variants of Concern) and the public uncertainty about what to expect and what to look for and when it will end starts to adversely affect the determined efforts by so many to get a handle on it.

              Notice today that LA County had no deaths (first time in over 400 or so days)? That’s the result of a bunch of factors, not least of which is the fantastic vaccination program rolled out by this Administration. We’re well on our way throughout much of Canada to getting to the same point thanks in no small measure to increased production from our much maligned southern neighbours (Canadian spelling). Some places – like Nova Scotia and Alberta – have further to go to stop the increasing number of infections but I have little doubt the day is not that far off when we also have a day of zero deaths. That’s a good start.

              We have had two people released from hospitals today here in my neck of the woods: the first spent 7 months and the second nearly 5 months in the hospital from Covid. Both spent months in comas. Alarmingly, I’m seeing data that nearly 1 in 4 people who have had Covid suffer from lingering aftereffects 6 months later – some with significant life-altering debilities, organ damage, some with chronic conditions, some with cognitive impairments, some with weird neurological seizures (many involving the tongue!). Show me anything comparable from an influenza!

              Also, I don’t know about Texas, but in Canada there has basically been no flu season! The numbers are single digit percentages compared to a normal Canadian winter. Still, I will gladly endure a bad flu season compared with SARS-CoV-2 and its VOCs. Getting more people to understand goals I think is important… especially if they can tell others who probably have the same questions. Everyday people can make a huge difference by behaviour and simple choices; why not make the ones that benefit everyone?

            2. Your welcome Tildeb, of course. And I agree with you on all points, especially your 1st paragraph regarding pithy one-liners. Ugh, I can’t STAND or stomach gross oversimplification! In this modern society now of hi-tech ultra convenience and speed, the human race, in particular in highly developed regions of the world, are most definitely becoming less and less dependent on one’s OWN mental skills, mathematical calculations done in their own brains or critical-thinking for one’s self to name just two examples, and hence DE-evolving and digressing instead of the other way round. :/

              In a word? Lazy. In three words? Lazier and lazier! 🤦‍♂️

  6. San Francisco restaurants are starting to open up to 50% capacity. Yesterday on the news they showed the front door of one restaurant a sign that said all their employees were fully vaccinated. Brilliant!

        1. Not losing ground because of the B117 per se but because this variant is able to be passed on with a much lower viral load, meaning it’s more contagious. It was going to become the dominant strain even if every Albertan was a stellar model of following medical advice. But the more people get it, the higher the absolute numbers of hospitalization… already strained to the max. Alberta is in trouble because, well… Jason Kenny and the UCC’s lack of good leadership and absence of good stewardship. The virus doesn’t care about political compromising or meeting the expectations of a political party’s base.

          1. He’s damned by his base if he tackles the virus head on and damned by the rest of us if he doesn’t. He’s going down in flames anyway, so he might as well do the right thing.

            1. Exactly. But that takes courage and integrity… neither being highly prized by those who would have voted for a dead cow if the name stapled to it’s hide was Ralph Klein.

              And the first place to start is appoint an honest doctor as Chief Medical Officer and not one willing to shape the messaging to suit the political leadership.

            2. You’re probably right. The bottom line is that Alberta has 10 days (May 14th) to act to implement and enforce a hard provincial lockdown. After that, triaging. And that means doctors will have to pick and choose who lives and who dies and by that time lockdowns will not avert this exponential unfolding crisis (remember, numbers today at best reflect conditions from 3 weeks ago).

              So today in Alberta , each positive case produces just shy of 12 other infected people. Case counts are nearing, what 2500+ a day now? In three weeks that will be over 4000 per day and, without a lockdown now, increasing for a minimum of 21 MORE days. The Premier knows this. The health Minister knows this. The doctors and nurses know this. Every regional health unit knows this. Everyone but the public seems to know this, but still Kenney fiddles while the virus burns. That is atrocious public health management, far far worse than Texas ever was (that’s for you, Prof, knowing how bad it was just a few months ago and the death count it entailed).

              The per million case count in Alberta is about double that of Ontario (and Ontario today is worse than any US state ever was, which is why he asked for military and provincial assistance two weeks ago). And Ontario is ALSO teetering on the brink of not having enough ICU capacity (even though the ICU capacity is now nearly 5 times what it was 6 months ago) but is managing to reduce the 7 day rolling rate every day from a lock down 3 weeks old. (Ontario is also suffering from the same explosive variant, the B117, which dominates case counts and is particularly hard on those under the age of 25… nearly half of all Ontario cases needing hospitalization today).

              In the US, triaging led to 20% staff leaving their profession. Not just taking time off or moving but deciding they felt being forced into making such decisions and dealing with the emotional cost was not what they went into medicine and nursing and specialities to do.

              Knowing all this ahead of time, the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta has utterly failed. By legislation, the CMO can trump premiers, although none to date have done so. Hinshaw needs to for the health of Albertans. But Kenney needs her to overrule him so that he can pretend this gong show is all her fault for not doing enough earlier. The alternative for Hinshaw, which is what she’s doing, is to continue to advise for a lockdown and let Kenney, his cabinet, and every UCC voter who continues to fail to act on that advice own the unfolding public health disaster…. which I think will be made worse as more and more medical professionals leave Alberta and the mask-less rodeos in the rear view mirror.

            3. There’s a Maclean’s article coming out tomorrow about Alberta specifically. I hope it’s a wake-up call to those who think this is ‘just a flu’. You can ask Prof what living through such a surge is like; he went through it in Texas two months ago. I always see Texas and Alberta as two peas in a pod (that’s why Ted Cruz fits right in with Texas… a gift from Alberta that just…keeps on giving!)

  7. The word ‘lucky’ is hardly appropriate here, but back in March of 2020 an otherwise healthy and robust RPN (Registered Practical Nurse) working at the same facility as my spouse died from Covid so we became aware very early that this was not something to take lightly. Another colleague died in a different but local facility and then all hell broke loose at various nursing and long term care homes. Death became the metric. What wasn’t mentioned were a growing but mostly undocumented number of people who had been infected and recovered but still had various mild to severe symptoms that emerged sometime later and yet interfered with getting back to ‘normal’. They weren’t dead, so they really didn’t count for much. Only now are we beginning to accumulate enough data to know this is not a small number but a significant and long term problem not just for our health care system later but all the families from which these folk were once a vibrant and robust member but now a chronic concern and potentially lost wage earner. This is especially hard on many working families.

    I mention this because many, many people don’t even know anyone who got sick and so the presumption is that the disease (the name of the disease is Covid-19; the virus is called SARS CoV-2) isn’t as dangerous or bad or contagious as we know it can be. Unless one knows someone in long term care, it’s hard to imagine over 7000 residents and care workers got infected in a matter of weeks and about 40% of these residents died. But hey, they were old and vulnerable, right? Look at how the young fared! Why immunity for them is almost assured… right up until the B117 variant showed up.

    So it’s easy to think this virus is more like a typical flu that also claims a lot of seniors and vulnerable (meaning ‘compromised’ with various health issues that weakens the immune system) people. This would help explain the extremely high rate of vaccinations this cohort has wanted and received (the older the person, the more likely they’ve accepted a vaccination – over 80 years of age, over 90% wanted vaccinations and no younger cohort to 55 has been under 85%, which is great news!).

    But the misperception has fueled something of a backlash by those younger people who think this disease isn’t all that pressing a concern… because they were spared the same rate of death! Politicians who have used this to their own benefit – usually by gaining support as their ‘champion’ – are actually harming those they say they are helping in a number of ways but mainly by undermining the level of concern it deserves. These politicians have increased the very real danger of the doubling factor such a contagion lives by when behaviours that best interrupt aerosolized contagion are challenged as ineffective and interfering with ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’. By federal and provincial regulation, constraining individual behaviours that are threats to public health supersede individual rights and freedoms that increase the risk of contagion to the public. It is the civic duty of both political and healthcare people to help the public understand and accept temporary constraints for the benefit of the public welfare. They know this, but put themselves ahead of the public welfare when they pretend these simple and time limited constraints are a greater risk to public safety than, say, Covid-19. I just wished they worked in an ICU for 24 hours straight and had to make the phone calls.

    The young are now as vulnerable as the elderly were earlier in the pandemic but, rather than dying, run a significant risk of contracting a life long impairment. I also wish the health authorities would push the fact that RISK EQUALS THE NUMBER OF CONTACTS and that more and more often the only barrier between a young person and this disease is a properly worn mask by someone six feet away.

  8. I will add this: If one’s idea of feeling safe depends upon one virus, which has similar stats as other flus, nothing will ever make that person feel safe. There will always be something to create the fear, because fear is what’s motivating the person. It’s either a need to worry all the time, a distraction, or a person’s sense of rightness because they worry.

    1. Influenza (the flu) and COVID-19, the illness caused by the pandemic coronavirus, are both contagious respiratory illnesses, meaning they affect your lungs and breathing, and can be spread to others. Although the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can look similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses.

      The mortality rate from Coronavirus is at least ten times greater than most strains of flu. (Johns Hopkins Medical)
      https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu

      1. Actually, for those truly seeking the real numbers, if that’s their intentions, will show conflicting information. I have seen the numbers you’re talking about. But I have also seen other studies, supporting my understanding. But, I have also discovered over-counting, and all sides agree with this, which means accounting for the errors, the actual numbers will be far less. Again, it depends upon intention. For myself, I will always think for myself, never allowing anyone to think for me. This keeps me safer from propaganda. Since the numbers are all over the place, depending upon sources, I have to use my own observation, research, and common sense. Where we live, where our friends live, and others, we have all seen no one lying in the streets dying of Covid, none of our families have died of Covid, and if this were as serious as “they” and you would have us believe, never would they have been okay with home-made masks, masks with gaps all over the place, plastic shields that do nothing to even hold particles, and such. If “they” were serious, they would have designed a specific mask for all, with the caveat for those with asthma or other problems with recirculated air. It’s all a matter of thinking for yourself, which all people should do, but also with the understanding of doing your research, asking doctors for their input (Two doctor friends, which I won’t name, shared that they believe in the need for masks, but they also admitted what I’ve said, which the two don’t agree. Read it yourself.), observing, and learning about real health and science. Again, it’s all a matter of honesty.

    2. It is reasonable and rational to fear a virus from which we have no immunity, causes more life-threatening and lasting complications, is more highly contagious and delivered unwittingly by pre-symptomatic carriers for a much longer period of time, and that once contracted causes a greater percentage of far more significant organ damage to a much wider swath of the public across age and vulnerability cohorts than seasonal flus. The claim that SARS-CoV-2 virus is ‘like’ other flus is not just factually wrong (different RNA strand, different protein hook, different host cells, different reproduction cycle, different mutation rate); this ‘like any other flu’ misinformation is an imposed belief that does not align with reality. This disrespect for reality is also a cause for concern because it is neither reasonable nor rational.

      One only need to look at current conditions that have overwhelmed the medical and funeral system in India to realize this ‘flu’ is not like any other flu. By every metric, SARS-CoV-2 (and its multiple variants of concern) is far more dangerous to the health and welfare of the general public and the economies they exercise, than any other seasonal flu and so it should be treated as such by the public (many of whom are vulnerable to reinfection sooner than they otherwise would be from other flus), especially when we have enough compelling evidence to understand that, unlike other flus that are passed on by droplets, this one is an aerosol (meaning it’s not just droplets (about 50 microns and larger) but smaller than 5 microns). Because most other flus are transmitted somewhat by droplets directly but most often from surface contamination transferred to a host, our Covid response has to be different. That’s why the containment and reduction by vaccination against the disease we call Covid 19 – and unlike other flus that fluctuate in contagion based on seasonal factors – IS the key defense.

      1. Read my reply above. Never does a bunch of words, emotional pleas, or propaganda and rhetoric faze us. We think for ourselves. We observe. We ask questions. We read. We research and read other sites. With all this, we know the virus, like any flu virus, has caused difficulty, and as with all flu viruses, some people die. We don’t want anyone to die. But that’s a part of all life. Getting into your car has risks. For ourselves, we know life comes with risks. From every corner. There’s no way we’re going to let this one thing input fear. Moreso with the actual numbers. You will continue to think as you do, I will continue to think for myself, researching, and in this, readers can decide whether to allow emotions, rhetoric, and fear drive them, or to think for themselves, doing their homework, on their own.

        1. Respecting reality and the findings of epidemiologists and infectious disease experts the world over in their area of expertise is not a ‘belief’ some of us hold (similar in your mind to the ‘independent’ one that you maintain) that can categorize their conclusions that SARS-CoV-2 is not like other flus as primarily driven by fear, emotion, and rhetoric. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you’re the smartest one in this room of experts or the best informed at this table of growing knowledge. I think you are using motivated reasoning that denies this reality and replaces it with one you find comforting. Be thankful you don’t know anyone with Covid-19 because for those of us who do, for those of us who know people who have died, who have struggled to breath for months, who have lost jobs because they can’t function without exhaustion 9 months after Covid and still counting, for those who have weird and ongoing seizures, for those who now live with permanent organ damage not least of which is cognitive, we wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

          So taking reasonable precautions and intentionally reducing risk to avoid these far from rare conditions related to this virus particularly, is based not on misguided belief about fear, emotion, and/or rhetoric but on harsh reality of a very real threat. That threat will recede with mass vaccination – not because I believe it will but because reality demonstrates it will. Reality and not opinion or belief informs this knowledge.

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