calgary counselling services title image showing doctor holding COVID vaccine

Calgary Counselling Services: Agonizing over COVID 19 Vaccination?

Calgary Counselling Services: Thirteen years ago, Ros and I were sitting in our doctor’s office rather anxiously discussing a lump that had been discovered in one of our daughters.

In her gentle but direct way, she laid out the various possibilities, ranging from a deadly form of cancer down to a simple cyst. After she finished answering our questions, she then prescribed what she believed was the best possible intervention: Immediate surgery without even waiting for a biopsy.

As our conversation was winding down, I asked a critical question while intently watching her reaction:

“If this was your daughter, what would you choose to do?”

hands of doctor preparing for surgeryTo her credit, she didn’t blink or hesitate in the slightest when she reaffirmed that what she was suggesting to us was not only what she would prescribe for her own child but that she would pull whatever strings required to make sure it would happen as soon as possible.

The surgery was successful, and the lump turned out to be the most benign option possible. But I’m still glad I asked the question.

Over the years, I’ve asked that question many times of many different professionals in a wide variety of fields – and been asked it a few times as well. It’s a potent question and, being on the receiving end of it is a surprisingly emotional experience. It’s a question that forces all of us out of our analytical world of facts and reason and into the world of fear, love and attachment that none of us are strangers to.

There is a place, of course, for emotion to be removed entirely from a decision-making process. Back when I was putting myself through school with a part-time job in emergency medicine, we had standing instructions that, should we recognize the name or address, we were to request that a different car responds to the call. This policy was in place because everyone involved was very aware that emotion had no place in the swift and often brutal adherence to procedures that emergency medical care sometimes requires to save a life.

While much of our medical system operates with that same understanding, it’s not always the right approach. So much of the science-denialism that runs rampant in North America today is rooted in how detached from the day-to-day realities of life our scientists and medical practitioners can sometimes seem to be.

Simply put, it’s hard to trust someone if you think they are incapable of feeling the fear you are experiencing.

Sadly, that’s where we find ourselves today with the entire question of COVID 19 vaccinations.

Calgary Counselling Services: Agonizing over COVID 19 Vaccination?

white and black labeled COVID vaccine bottleEver since questions started to emerge about the outdated information used to approve the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, we’ve seen a shocking spike in clients suddenly expressing intense anxiety about COVID 19 vaccination. Some of those clients (and even the odd therapist, Calgary psychologist or Christian Counselor) have already decided they no longer trust any vaccine for this virus at all!

Of course, some of those clients have recycled the tired lies about the vaccines being improperly tested. Others have delved even deeper into conspiracy theory websites’ fictions about microchips and aborted fetal tissues being included in the vaccinations. Some have been drawn into even darker and more implausible stories.

Research has shown the vast majority of these lies originate from only twelve people, and none of them are founded in reality, but that matters little.

Though the shoddy way Oxford-AstraZeneca has handled an issue this sensitive borders on criminally irresponsible, the vaccine is probably still safe. However, in a post-Donald-Trump world where around 50% of both the left and right leaning population cannot believe anything but alternative facts and fake news, the objective safety of this vaccine simply doesn’t matter. The repeated cycles of senseless controversy over effectiveness, blood clots, dosing and side effects they have repeatedly generated will likely take the lives of thousands who will now refuse any vaccination.

But, Oxford-AstraZeneca is just one company, and it doesn’t need to be this way.

Ros and I received notification of the Alberta Government’s plans to offer vaccination to front-line medical professionals earlier this week – a group they include us in. It sparked a research process that we are discovering that too few of our clients understand how to undertake. In its absence, this seems to be the root of the intense distress they are experiencing.

How to cut through the agony surrounding medical decision making:

man sitting in a car after test driveIn many areas of our lives, decision-making is easy. Take buying a car, for example. It is well within most people’s abilities to sort the list down by price and then further reduce it by operating cost. From that shortened list, most people can then choose different options, number of doors and vehicle style to the point that all that remains is personal preference for colour and look.

If we mess up the decision, it’s usually possible to return the car or resell it.

We find that relatively easy because all of those elements are physically able to be touched and seen. As a result, we understand them. And, because they are reversible, the anxiety levels are usually much lower.

Medical decisions are much more difficult for the same reason: We can not touch or see anything of what we are expected to base our decisions upon. Thus, it is much more difficult to understand them. Furthermore, we are all well aware it’s impossible to un-vaccinate yourself, so the stakes (and thus the emotions) are higher.

However, it is still possible to make a decision without agonizing and stressing yourself out, if you know the steps.

Accessing academic research:

I’m sorry to put it this bluntly, but when it comes to COVID 19 vaccination, around half of our society is trusting the beliefs of people incapable of passing a high school Biology class over those of researchers with double PHDs in immunology. Some of that is, of course, an insidious stream of anti-intellectualism that has dominated our political lives for at least the last hundred years or so. Still, the majority is much more about a lack of knowledge regarding how to access credible information.

Simply put, you can easily access real research.

Go to Google Scholar and search: “efficacy and safety,” followed by whatever you wish to research. In this case, “efficacy and safety covid 19 vaccines.”

search information sign on pegboardIn most cases, there will be enough links with “HTML” or “pdf” to the right of the page, indicating that, for a change, largely government-funded research is not locked up behind some crooked private publisher’s paywall. (If necessary, z-lib dot org and Sci-hub dot whatever-mirror-is-up-this-weekend provide very effective though somewhat less than legal alternatives…)

Google tends to show the latest or most significant journals first. Read the abstracts and the key points as well as the concluding paragraphs of those studies. Even if you can not understand much of the study’s statistics and research data, all of these research papers are peer-reviewed. If the research data did not support the abstract or conclusion, the author’s colleagues would rip them apart.

As Ros and I did this work, we came to several conclusions:

  • In Canada, the first was that all of the currently available vaccines were close to 100% effective at preventing severe illness and death.
  • The second was that only Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were in the mid-90% range in other effectiveness areas.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech has the lowest side effects followed by Moderna – while all other vaccines had side effects we were not comfortable with.
  • The final piece was that only Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were highly effective against the dominant variant strains.

Decide what matters:

One of the most significant issues clouding any discussions about vaccination is in the area of effectiveness. “Effectiveness” is a highly relative term. What the Canadian Government defines as being effective is dependant upon their goals. Our government, obviously, has a straightforward plan: Keep people from death and prolonged/severe illness that cost our economy money. I suspect most people agree with that goal.

Based on that goal, it makes sense that the Canadian Government would state that they view all vaccines as being equally effective. It further makes sense that they would promote single-dose vaccinations that do not require people to return for another shot on a rigid schedule and vaccines that they could easily transport to remote communities.

But, what if that is not your only goal?

Realistically, neither Ros nor I are old enough to face any reasonable chance of death from this virus. The majority of the similar-aged clients I have walked through COVID with basically experienced it as a nasty cold/flu they quickly recovered from. Yes, there have been a few younger people whose lives are now permanently compromised by the effects of this virus, but they are a tiny minority compared to all of those who have lost elderly loved ones.

We’re not that old, and admitting that our goals are not aligned with the above definition of “effective” is an essential first step.

elderly man having heart attack lying on floor at homeWe both have ageing parents. Our goals are more focused on not being taken out by a couple of weeks of illness during this high demand and critical time for so many clients. And, we are VERY focused on not posing a risk to our loved ones and clients.

So, we went back to researching and found that, while evidence is very sparse at present, some studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines show that they could reduce any infection around 94% of the time. Furthermore, even with asymptomatic infections, there is growing evidence that they eliminated most viral shedding that could infect others. At the time of this writing, we could locate no data for the other vaccines in this category.

For us, this alone eliminated any other options but the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines – both of which appear to be excellent vaccines.

Obviously, had we been older or not in a front-line medical role, survival and swift access would upend this calculus. Some of our clients hate needles so much that a single-dose vaccine trumps everything. The purpose of the above is not to promote a specific vaccine but rather to demonstrate how you cease agonizing and start researching and calculating.

Establishing trust:

But, here’s a simple reality: Ros and I studied how the heart and mind work. Neither of us is qualified to assess what an epidemiologist or an immunologist can or make a judgment call on if they are telling us the truth. For all we know, the research studies we looked at could all be based on the same cherry-picked data Oxford-AstraZeneca is still accused of using, even after lowering their estimates.

mother nursing child sitting on black wicker chairThis is where the question I asked our doctor above comes in:

“If this was your daughter, what would you choose to do?”

However, there’s a problem with that: Certainly, most executives of all of these firms would loudly assert that they have given their vaccination to their own children. But, how do we know that is true? How do we know that anything more than simple saline or perhaps some other vaccination was in that syringe? Furthermore, it is implausible I could ever sit down and look that executive in the eye to ask that question to begin with.

So, Ros and I continued our research – this time into the companies. One of the exciting things we noticed was the deal Pfizer-BioNTech cut with the entire country of Israel for priority vaccination in exchange for full access to medical data – with stunningly successful results. We started to wonder: Why Israel and not, say, Switzerland, which has almost an identical population and a far greater level of ethnic diversity?

This is where things started to get interesting.

One of the first people we looked at was the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla. Bourla is a descendant of Sephardic Jews. The child of Holocaust survivors who managed to survive after the Nazis killed all but a tiny remnant of the 50,000 person strong Hebraic community in Thessaloniki.

As we looked deeper into the company, we found that Pfizer’s head scientist is another Jewish immigrant named Mikael Dolsten. Dolsten’s mother also fled the Holocaust to Austria, and his family’s multiple visits to Israel eventually led him to study at the Weizmann Institute near Tel Aviv.

brown and black wooden candle holder with star of davidJewish peoples, in general, display a high degree of nationalism and allegiance with the nation of Israel – even if they have immigrated to other parts of the world. Both of these men have made no effort to hide how deeply committed they are to such. Thus, it is utterly unsurprising that these leaders of Pfizer-BioNTech would focus so much of their vaccine resources and research efforts on their own people.

This is also the critical piece we were looking for. Even if one of the Pfizer-BioNTech leaders happened to be some sort of sociopath with zero compassion for others, it’s unlikely both would be. Suppose either one of these highly nationalistic men would be aware of any damaging side effects of their vaccine. In that case, it’s incredibly implausible that they would knowingly endanger their entire people group’s health.

The opening question: “If this was your daughter, what would you choose to do?” They definitively answered that question and then followed through on it by vaccinating them first and publishing every shred of data they can get on the results.

Ros and I have chosen the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that this is the right choice for anyone else. The purpose of this article is not to promote any one vaccination nor to claim we can fully assess the tens of thousands of pages of research already published.

This article comes out of deep frustration with the number of people listening to the twelve crackpots responsible for spreading over 60% of the disinformation on these vaccines – many of whom are so unqualified to comment that they likely couldn’t even pass a high school science class.

It was born out of a desire to demonstrate how to cease agonizing, start researching and make your own decision for yourself.

Calgary Counselling Services: Stop agonizing over COVID 19 Vaccination!

 face your fears written on piece of paper held by calgary counselling services clientSo, if you’re tired of living in fear and overwhelmed by anxiety over COVID 19 or the prospect of choosing a vaccination, consider booking a Calgary Counselling Services appointment and walk out of that fear today!

It’s time to stop agonizing and start living!

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