LACKIE: Feeling used after getting AstraZeneca shot to help beat back third wave

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If you had told me a year ago that by June 16, 2021, I would be lucky recipient of not one, but two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, I just wouldn’t have believed you.

Such a monumental step towards a return to normalcy felt eons away.

If you had told me that on the day of my second dose I would be feeling anything short of complete elation alongside the fatigue and flu-like symptoms, I also would have been shocked.

But here we are.

Firstly, I cannot begin to describe my deep and unwavering gratitude for science, to the researchers who have dedicated their lives to researching infectious diseases and vaccines, long before COVID-19 was even on our radar. How far we have come in such a short time is pretty miraculous, and certainly a testament to the important efforts of countless scientists whose names we will never hear.

I’m grateful to them, and to the fact that living in Canada sets me among the most fortunate on our planet. While other countries are still deep in crisis, struggling to access basic medical supplies like PPE to protect their healthcare workers or oxygen to treat their sick, we are now dismantling COVID wards in Toronto hospitals.

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This is significant.

  1. Vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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  2. Vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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But alongside all of that gratitude, is a lot of frustration. If I’m being honest, I’m also pretty furious.

How this vaccine rollout has been handled is nothing short of infuriating.

For those of us who listened to our leaders when they begged us to get out and “get the jab” as soon as we were eligible — even if that meant receiving the much-maligned AstraZeneca, the same as our prime minister, premier, and mayor received on camera, no less — as a means of getting life back towards normalcy, it’s impossible not to feel let down.

We were asked not to “vaccine shop” and told that “the first vaccine you can get is the best vaccine you can get.”

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But when you look at what has happened this week, from NACI saying, no, just kidding, you really want the mRNA for best protection, to Springsteen declaring those of us with AZ are insufficiently vaccinated, it would appear that for those of us who gratefully took that AZ, it turns out the first shot offered to us was actually not the best shot.

The people who listened to our leaders, ignored the bad press and jumped. The ones who spent days relentlessly refreshing our browsers as we trolled our outrageously inefficient multi-siloed vaccination booking system for available slots, racing off the moment we lucked out.

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It’s hard not to feel used right now. It is because of the more than 250,000 Torontonians who received AZ in the early days that the brutal third wave was beaten back.

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This isn’t a criticism of the science or the doctors. It’s a criticism of the refusal to acknowledge that it is about more than science — these recommendations take place at the intersection of science and politics. They must factor in supply chain issues and rising case counts. Global jockeying for access to vaccine and ICU capacity. Those decisions must come together quickly and are based on the best information available, and that information evolves.

Why was that not communicated? Why has the reality that this is both a public health crisis and a public relations crisis been so hard to acknowledge? Communications cannot read as spin in a case like this — it needs to be timely, correct delivery of important information to the public. The public deserves a cohesive message. This is too important to be fumbling.

The unfortunate reality of all of this is that the keeners who raced out to get their shot aren’t the vaccine hesitant who will need convincing. The people who felt truly hesitant held back and it’s hard to imagine that everything they have witnessed in this botched rollout will inspire confidence.

And that is unfortunate because vaccines are our way out of this.

@brynnlackie

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