People who resist vaccination are not crazy. But they will be left out.
I had expected to be able to start teaching in-person by September. But vaccination rates have slowed recently. So, it will take a little while longer.
My business is conducted at close quarters, face-to-face, and is considered non-essential. So, I’ve not had in-person classes since March 2020. The reopening of regular classes will depend on vaccination rates in general, and unvaccinated students will not likely be possible here until the pandemic is officially over, or public vaccination rates are over 90%.
Nearly 80% of Canadians have been vaccinated, as of this posting. But I know that some people will never get vaccinated. I want those of you who cannot get vaccinated, or who choose not to do so, to know that I respect your decision, and I am sorry for the difficulties you will face because of it. That is your right, just as it is my right to do what is necessary to protect my students and my family.
My decision may be a moot point, however. Policy makers around the world are increasingly mandating vaccine passports. Any of my regular students from other countries will likely be required to have proof of vaccination before they can board a plane or enter the country.
Why do some people not want to get vaccinated?
There are many different reasons for not getting vaccinated, and it is important to acknowledge that most of the people who resist the Covid vaccine are not just anti-science.
From the point of view of most vaccinated people, the reasons for getting vaccinated are to save lives, save the health care system, and get the economy back on track. So, it is tempting for those who have been vaccinated to think that the people who have not been vaccinated are just cruel and selfish people who don’t care about human lives, the health care system, or the economy. While that may true in very few cases, there are many legitimate reasons for people to be hesitant about the vaccines.
Skepticism about Science vs Scientific Skepticism
Scientific skepticism is good science. Skepticism about science is the suspicion that science is flawed. And given the way that scientific research is often treated by media and policy makers, that suspicion has a lot to stand on. Scientific understanding is subject to paradigm shifts that are driven or hindered by social, economic and political forces. Medical and nutritional science is hamstrung by the need of doctors and politicians to have answers, whereas the driving force of pure science is the celebration of ignorance. While a doctor is compelled to give confident answers, and politicians are driven to speak confidently about scientific advice, pure science is supposed to be about slow, honest analysis and the truthful admission of ignorance.
One can argue quite convincingly that there is not enough skepticism about science, and not enough understanding of scientific skepticism. because, especially when it comes to some branches of science, such as medical and nutritional science, for example, there is sometimes a disturbing lack of scientific skepticism.
There was a time when doctors couldn’t see the point of washing their hands before surgery. Science proved its importance. But acceptance of the practice didn’t come until after a hand-washing policy was enforced.
Scientists are human beings, and human beings tend to commit to a paradigm and then bend the data to confirm it. The scientific method is supposed to help break this attachment to paradigms. But human nature is stubborn.
Public policy, however, can be far more stubborn than human scientists. Scientists might present research that informs public policy. Within two or three years, those same scientist might refute their own research. But it can take several decades for the public policy to adapt, because the paradigm becomes entrenched in politics.
So, it is understandable that intelligent people will be be skeptical of public policy that seems hasty or sudden.
Having said that, I have a reasonable amount of faith in vaccines, because they have been around for centuries, and several paradigm shifts have already happened. The current data is strong, and stands up to the challenges made by reasonable scrutiny. Public policy has centuries of experience to look at, including the history of vaccine mandates.
Fear of adverse reactions:
One of the concerns is the possibility of immediate side effects. I had a fever for a couple days after each of my shots. I also have a personal friend who had a very severe reaction to her vaccine and spent time in hospital. That did not stop the rest of us from getting vaccinated, although she herself will not be getting a second dose. The fact that she and others like her are unable to get vaccinated, is one of the reasons why the rest of us need to do so. The risk of side effects from the vaccine is FAR LESS than the risks posed by the virus itself. Several of my personal acquaintances are among the 4,757,270 people who have died, and others are still suffering from the after effects of the disease.
Fear of long-term effects of the vaccines:
This is understandable. There have been very rare cases where people have developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome after receiving certain vaccines. But far more cases have been caused by the viruses themselves. Such long-term side effects of Covid-19 vaccines are still hypothetical, whereas there are already many known side effects of the virus, known as “post-COVID-19 syndrome” or “long COVID-19.”
There is a certain amount of risk every time we get into a car, and there is a greater risk if we drive faster than the speed limit. But when a forest fire is overtaking your town, the risk of not driving is far greater. Even so, if you have already been in a car accident, and have not yet been burned by a forest fire, you will measure risk differently.
I have a fear of flying, due to personal experience. But I do not fear driving, in spite of having been in near-fatal car accidents. I know that driving to the airport is, statistically, far more dangerous than riding in a plane. But I still drive. In fact, I still drive to the airport.
I also still fly, of course, in spite of having to bury my terror in statistical analysis to do so. I once gripped the arm of an unsuspecting passenger while landing in Vancouver. I’m a much better passenger nowadays, and can actually enjoy flying. I have even been known to comfort other passengers during a storm. But you won’t get me on a B737 Max or B787 Dreamliner. For years, I would rather spend three days on a train, or drive across the country, than accept free airfare from Toronto to Vancouver.
My point is that I totally understand such fears, and I totally get that some people will not want to take the vaccine.
Concerns about the rapid development of the vaccines:
The vaccines for Typhoid fever, Meningitis, Whooping cough, and Polio, each took several decades to develop. It has been normal for vaccines to spend ten years in development. By contrast, the vaccines for COVID-19 were developed incredibly quickly. In early 2020, few scientist would have expected a vaccine to be available so soon. But several factors came together to make rapid development possible. So,
How is it possible that the Covid-19 vaccine could be developed so quickly?
- Money. For one thing, COVID-19 presented a global crisis that rich countries cared about. Not as much money went into things like Ebola because, while Ebola destroyed communities in Africa, Covid-19 threatened all countries, including rich ones. Billions of dollars have been poured into research on this one.
- Technology. In 2003, it took nearly three months to identify the SARS genome. It 2020, it took a few days to sequence the genome for SARS-CoV-2. (Compare your cell phone now to those available in 2003 for an idea about how technology can improve.)
- Cooperation. In 2017, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was created to deal with disease outbreaks. In the wake of SARS, MERS, Zika, and Eboa, there was a strong international motivation. For years, there had been increasing cooperation among different countries to develop defences against pandemics like this one.
- Years of advance research. SARS was already known, and coronavirus transmission from bats to humans was already known to be happening on a regular basis, although there had not yet been a strain as contagious as COVID-19. A coronavirus pandemic was anticipated by international researchers in China for about four or five years. So, there were already international efforts to research them. Researchers from around the world were in Wuhan studying coronaviruses when this one appeared.
- Previous research. DNA vaccines have been studied for 25 years, and research on SARS and MERS was instrumental in helping researchers develop the mRNA sequences.
- Administration was expedited. There is usually a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting a clinical trial started. But in the case of COVID-19 vaccines, it is safe to say that no submissions, questions, or investigations ever got left in a pile on a desk for two months. There were also rolling reviews, which meant that data was submitted to regulators as soon as it was produced, instead of waiting to the end of the trial and submitting it all at once. This was not a case of cutting corners.
- Hard work by a lot of people. This was a global crisis. Lots of other scientific research was halted or sidelined so that more resources could be put into this problem. In fact, one of the casualties of the pandemic has been scientific research in other fields.
In a democracy, campaigning tends to veer toward niche marketing, with different parties trying to carve out a specific devoted following. They often do this by getting people to take up sides that have nothing to do with actual ideology or policy. It is like turning fans of one sport team against the fans of another, even though the fans on both sides are all the same, and all the players on the actual teams are from somewhere else entirely. The emotional appeal and peer pressure can be very powerful. So, when a party thinks that their niche market is suspicious of vaccines, they will pile on the anti-vaccine rhetoric, even as they themselves roll up their own sleeves to get the shot.
Misinformation and Disinformation
Misinformation is false information that’s shared by people who don’t realise it is false and don’t mean any harm. Misinformation can be spread by anyone, including vaccine proponents. 1
Disinformation is deliberately engineered and disseminated false information with malicious intent or to serve agendas.
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.” – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Antivax entrepreneurs – people who profit from anti-vaccine disinformation – increased their Facebook followers by about 1 million during the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic. The anti-vaccine profiteers are a billion-dollar industry. 2
There seems to be a lot of people deliberately spreading lies and misinformation about vaccines. Some social media sites ban them from their platforms, but they can still be found, and their videos get millions of views. More view means more money. You may have noticed that Youtube has become increasingly “click-baity.” Junk news sites like Project Veritas and The Gateway Pundit are notorious.
When someone we trust shares a sensational post with us, we are more likely to believe them than all of the dry scientific data in the world. But our friends don’t need to believe something themselves in order to share it. So, our trust may be misplaced.
Of course, the best lie always claims the best sources. So, while they hijack some authority from the source, they are fairly easy to de-bunk, if you bother to try. I recently saw a post copied from a fake news site The Gateway Pundit that used data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The post claimed that there have been more deaths from Covid-19 vaccines than from the actual virus. But an investigation of the source revealed the opposite to be true.
No, there have NOT been more deaths from the Covid-19 vaccines than from the actual virus…
VAERS is a USA national early warning system for possible safety problems in vaccines. Anyone can report an adverse effect, and healthcare providers are required to report any death after a vaccination. So, if a person has a headache, or a hearth problem, or dies, and they coincidently received a vaccine in the past few weeks, then this will be reported to VAERS. The idea is to identify patterns that might suggest a safety concern with the vaccine.
VAERS received 6,207 reports of death among people who had received the vaccine. It does not mean that the vaccine caused their deaths. I just means that of all the people who died during that time period, 6,207 had been vaccinated against Covid-19. A clinical review, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not shown that they were caused COVID-19 vaccines.
“Since April 2021, there have been more than a thousand reports of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) happening after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…Considering the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been administered, these reports are very rare. The problem occurs more often in adolescents (teens) and young adults, and in males. The myocarditis or pericarditis in most cases is mild and resolves quickly.”
There is a condition called Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) (also known as Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) and Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS)) which is a rare adverse event following adenovirus vector Covid-19 vaccines. From what I have read so far, the link between the vaccine and blot clots is “plausible” but not yet confirmed a causal. It is considered a “Possible, rare, side effect.” There is a plausible relationship between the vaccine and TTS. But the number of cases is not more than the normal expected number of cases without the vaccine.
Anyone who has a known severe allergy to any of the vaccine ingredients should not receive the vaccine.
Anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to injectables or other vaccines should consult their doctor.
Love of complementary and alternative medicine:
I am personally a strong proponent of complementary and alternative medicine, especially when it is supported by scientific research. But I have seen many people whose disillusionment with bad experiences with doctors, or disturbed by bad medical science, has led them to be blind to bad scientific practices in alternative medicine.
There is not a lot of money in researching alternative medicine, and so much of the research being done is of low quality and biased either for or against.
I’m a huge fan of Traditional Oriental Medicine, of qigong, of acupuncture, and herbal medicine. I’m also a fan of fresh air, good food, and exercise. These things can certainly help to fight disease. I’m sure that if more people learned this stuff and did tai chi and qigong every day, the general health of the population would improve dramatically.
I also take fish oil, vitamin D (especially in the winter), vitamin C, zinc, and B12.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is accepted that every diagnosis is unique. The same illness can affect different people in different ways. There is also no one treatment that will help everyone. But there are some treatments that will always be tried for certain conditions, no matter who the patient is.
This concept is also known in western medicine, which is increasing treating patients in what might be called a wholistic manner. By the same token, modern doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine are expected to study western pharmacology and epidemiology.
Modern medicine often gets criticized for ignoring the person to treat the disease. On the other hand, devotees of ancient medicine often neglect the very scientific rigour that created the art in the first place.
A similar thing happens with martial arts. I have seen many devoted students get trapped by their faith in their style. They get so enamoured with the style that they blind themselves to the science behind the art. People tend to forget that the old styles were built on research, and that the oldest version of something is seldom the best. So, to ignore modern research is to disrespect the art. Some students can’t see the art for the style. They would rather lose a fight using their favourite style than research what works best for them.
This is what happens in discussions about vaccines. People get emotionally attached to what they think of as their team, and ignore facts presented by what they see as “the opposing side.” That goes both ways.
Many of my own students have told me how tai chi saved their lives, and I have certainly seen the improvement that it has made in my own life. But if your appendix is about to burst, I suggest going to the hospital, and my acupuncturist would agree with me.
Scientific research shows that lack of exercise is one of leading risk factors for death worldwide. In fact, I recall being told by one biostatistician, that physical exercise is the leading factor in all noncommunicable diseases, and that nothing else is even a close second. (citation not available…but I’m looking)
But, in spite of all the things that we might do to improve our health, there are times when we just can’t.
Regular, correct, daily tai chi practice can help individuals improve their odds. But nothing is proven to work better than a vaccine, for the general population, against a virus, especially a novel virus like COVID-19. If we get injured or are unable to maintain our fitness for any reason, being vaccinated could make all the difference.
Of course, the vaccine is not 100% effective. But nothing is.
Some studies appear to have shown that tai chi can enhance immune function, and provide “outstanding advantages in the face of Covid-19.” But that study was talking mostly about recovery, and not the preventions of infection.
Getting the vaccine is like advanced grappling lessons for your antibodies.
Modern allopathic medicine has saved my life many times. But I don’t consider vaccines to be allopathic medicine. In fact, vaccines have more in common with ancient medicine, in that they train the body’s own natural immune system to defend itself. Getting the vaccine is like advanced grappling lessons for your antibodies.
A tai chi player might say, “I don’t need to learn grappling. My tuishou skill is so good that I can’t get taken to the ground.” Well, speaking as a martial artist who has made ‘anti-grappling’ a bit of a specialty, and who was once flattened by a little old lady half my size, I say that no anti-grappling skill is 100% effective.
Exercise, diet, vitamin D, fish oil, zinc, vitamin C, tai chi, qigong, yoga, meditation, prayer…These things may help. But they are not 100% effective, and they are not available to everyone.
Who wants to be at the Pearly Gates listening to God ask, “Why didn’t you take the vaccine I sent you?”
We are all sheep. Science is difficult.
What we believe, and how we see the world, is influenced by others in ways that we cannot perceive. From birth, we do not determine our religion, our diet, the music we like, the way we walk, the way we sit, our mannerisms, our speech. These things are all the result of geography and culture.
Synchronization is a universal principle. It occurs everywhere in nature, at every scale, and uses every communication channel that nature has devised.
“Any way that two things can influence each other, nature uses that to get things into sync.”Prof. Steven Strogatz, Applied Mathematics, Cornell.
Scientific research has to work very hard to overcome these biases. There is a long and stringent process involved in validating research. But sharing a meme on Facebook faces no such obstacles.
Journalism is notoriously bad at representing science to the masses. At any stage in the scientific process, a journalist might get their hands on a hypothesis or a result and sell that as a story. While science struggles to see things without bias, journalism tends to sell people on what they already believe.
When we start down an internet rabbit hole, we will increasingly find content that supports our bias, and we will build a filter bubble that blinds us to different points of view.
We are like the passengers in a moving train. It is very hard to see, much less understand, the point of view of someone who is on a different train.
People don’t like to argue as much as you might think.
When we say something that others disagree with, they might speak up. But often they just walk away, unfollow us or unfriend us. You won’t tend to hear from friends who think you are wrong. This is the other angle on the the donkey and the tiger story. Sometimes we are the tiger, and sometimes we are the donkey. We wish we could all be the lion.
Honest debate is a sign of respect. It means that you care about what the other person thinks, and that you believe that they can be reasoned with. This requires an eagerness, not mere willingness, to see the other person’s point of view.
It is said that Orville and Wilbur Wright would argue loudly with each other, and then switch sides, arguing the opposite view just as strongly.
Vaccine Passports will soon be a fact of life.
If you travel much, you probably already know that some countries require proof of vaccination for variety of diseases such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, polio, anthrax and meningitis. If there were good vaccines for Malaria or Dengue Fever, I bet they would be required, as well.
Proof of Covid-19 vaccines may soon be required for most, if not all international flights.
Complaining about vaccine passports will be like complaining about needing a driver’s licence to drive a car, or about having to wear clothing in a restaurant. If you can’t get a driver’s licence, that is unfortunate for you. If you drive without one, that is unfortunate for everyone. If you can’t wear clothing, that is unfortunate for you. If you choose not to,…hm…well…
Most people find getting a vaccine to be easier than shopping for clothes, and providing proof of vaccination is easier than wearing pants to dinner.
To everyone who refuses to get vaccinated because the free vaccine is “a threat to your personal freedom” I want you to know where I stand…. far away from you. It is a matter of principle, surely. But it is also a matter of practicality. If you care, and if you can safely do so, please get vaccinated. Otherwise, you can’t come here.
Sorry. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the new rule.
My students have to follow lots of other rules, too. Just add this to the list.
Vaccination is the best way to get back to normal.
I have students around the world who, like me, have lost people to the pandemic. I will not put more of them at risk by opening up too soon or by exposing them to unvaccinated students. This is particularly important in my business because of the close contact, and because of the risk factors involved with many of my students.
Many businesses, including martial art schools, have been shut down, many permanently, since March 2020. I am barely holding on to mine through donations, online lessons, and my ability to find odd jobs such as maintenance, gardening, and other work.
Before the pandemic, most of my students came from overseas. So, I have been close to shutting down many times.
But I would gladly shut down for good if it would save lives. I don’t think it is too much to ask for most people to endure a sore arm, a mild fever, and some aches and pains for a few days. The vaccines are our best way out of this.
If you are among those few who have not yet been vaccinated, I strongly urge you to look into it as soon as you can. If you have concerns about the vaccine, please talk to your doctor. You can also do a search for “Vaccine hesitancy” to find articles like these:
Here are some other recent notes:
- Hospitalization rate 10 times higher among unvaccinated kids.
- These charts show that COVID-19 vaccines are doing their job
- Unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid
- Famous person’s cousin’s friend’s aunt suffers from swollen testicles after getting vaccinated.
- Long-term effects of Covid-19
- Reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada
• The vaccines save lives. That is a fact beyond dispute. Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from Covid-19. Unvaccinated people are also far more likely to be hospitalized.
• People who can’t get vaccinated due to health conditions depend on the rest of us being vaccinated in order to help protect them. When people don’t get vaccinated, people die, not just from Covid-19, but from other health conditions that cannot be treated due to an overwhelmed health care system.
• Doctors and nurses are burning out, and have burned out. Many have died or been unable to work because of the disease. Surgeries are still being cancelled or delayed because hospitals have to deal with the Covid crisis.
• The vaccine is free, safe, and easily available.
• We are fortunate in Canada that we haven not had bodies in the streets as some places did. My international students have shared horror stories that Canadians could not imagine happening here. One student told me that bodybags are sold in the local market place. He and his wife have been under curfew since March 2020. A man in Africa lost 11 family members to Covid-19.
• We are also fortunate in Canada because we have the vaccines. Other countries are not so fortunate, and the longer it takes to get the rest of the world vaccinated, the longer it will take for the world economy to recover.