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Canadian media sows COVID-19 confusion (No, the vaccine will not make you Superman)

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 not highly effective. 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 suggested significant risk from the seasonal flu vaccine, specifically 7.7 times greater risk of spontaneous abortion among those receiving the seasonal flu vaccine. In response, follow-up CDC-funded research also published in Vaccine ommitted the years of data used in the original research to find no such risk — prompting the CDC to emphasise that ‘Getting an influenza Vaccine While Pregnant Does NOT Increase the Risk of Miscarriage‘. 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 of 1.8 billion at the time, the Spanish Flu was orders of magnitude worse than what the world is facing today.

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.

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September 11, 2019

On September 11, 2019, a Quebec Superior Court decision struck down the Canadian government medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation as unconstitutional, triggering the current review of the law to extend eligibility and remove safeguards on ‘dying with dignity’.  That same day, the same court issued another ‘dying with dignity’ decision, which largely went unnoticed. Which is unfortunate, because the latter should give pause to advocates of MAiD expansion.

The legal proceedings of that case are apparently under publication ban. However, a critical reading of the cryptic details provided about the history of the case and the hearing proceedings raise numerous questions and concerns.