Inspired by a conversation this weekend with someone ranting about “stupid anti-vaxxers”, the remarkably poor Canadian media coverage of the COVID-19 situation needs to be addressed. For context, the conversation was about vaccine passports recently proposed by the Quebec government. This person seemed remarkably mis/un-informed not only about the published research and data on COVID-19, but also the flu vaccine and pretty much any history of previous public health crises. Thanks, CBC.
To briefly touch on those last two points first:
No, the flu vaccine is neither highly effective nor low-risk. Officially published CDC data indicate an adjusted seasonal flu vaccine effectiveness rate averaging 40 percent over the past decade — ironically, the referenced section in the CDC report is titled ‘Flu Vaccines Work’. CDC-funded research published in the journal Vaccine found a 7.7 times greater risk of spontaneous abortion among pregnant seasonal flu vaccine recipients. In response, follow-up CDC-funded research also published in Vaccine omitted the years of data used in the original research and found no such risk. This episode prompted a British Medical Journal (BMJ) article critical of the CDC, media coverage of the episode, and flu vaccine effectiveness and risk reporting in general (‘Official doubletalk hides serious problems with flu shot safety and effectiveness’).
No, the current COVID-19 situation is nowhere near as dire as the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic, aka ‘Spanish Flu’. An estimated 500 million were infected and 50 million died during the Spanish Flu. With nearly three times the number of cases and ten times the number of deaths among a human population less than a quarter of what it is today, the Spanish Flu was orders of magnitude worse than COVID-19 has been to date.
So what if people are confused about these details; what do they have to do with what is going on right now? A great deal, actually.