Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Pharmacist Mario Linaksita administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Jonathan Vogt, 62, at University Pharmacy, in Vancouver, on April 1, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

I got the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 20. A week or so later, health authorities announced that they were putting limits on its use because of safety concerns. Am I nervous? Not in the least. I feel lucky to be protected. What makes me nervous is that this news may keep others from getting vaccinated and so prolong the pandemic.

We are in a deadly race right now – vaccines against virus. Variants have made COVID-19 more transmissible and more dangerous. Hospitalizations in Ontario have reached a new peak. If nerves over the safety of vaccines slow the immunization campaign, we could be in even bigger trouble. It is vital to get shots into as many arms as possible.

That doesn’t mean throwing caution to the winds. Authorities were being prudent when they advised that, for now, AstraZeneca should not go to those under 55. New information suggested that an exceedingly rare blood-clotting disorder might be linked to the vaccine. They needed time to check it out. It was just the latest of several rounds of negative headlines for AstraZeneca.

Story continues below advertisement

Tracking Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans: A continuing guide

Coronavirus tracker: How many COVID-19 cases are there in Canada and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Is my area going back into COVID-19 lockdown? A guide to restrictions across Canada

But let’s put those headlines in perspective: This is all about balancing risks. The risk of blood clots is tiny compared with COVID-19. Not a single case of the clotting disorder has been found in this country. Canada has recorded close to a million cases of COVID-19, and about 23,000 deaths.

That threat/benefit equation is the reason that authorities are still recommending the use of AstraZeneca for those 55 and over, who are more vulnerable to the virus. The vaccine is effective, inexpensive and can be stored in a simple refrigerator. Millions of doses have been administered in Europe and more than 300,000 in Canada.

“Even assuming the very worst about the risk that the AstraZeneca vaccine might pose, the shot will save many more lives per million doses than it could ever possibly end,” science writer Hilda Bastian wrote in The Atlantic.

Let’s remember, too, that AstraZeneca is just one of the main vaccines being deployed against the virus and that none of the others has suffered anything like the same bad press. As Ms. Bastian puts it, “There’s zero indication, at this point, that the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson vaccines have caused any deaths at all.” Even severe allergic reactions, which can happen with vaccinations, are glancingly rare.

And yet worries over vaccination persist. While many thousands of Canadians are rushing in for their jab, as I did, a good number are still hanging back – many because of difficulties in getting to an appointment or navigating the health system, but some because they harbour fears about safety. These are often highly educated, well-informed people.

As he announced this week that he was extending Ontario’s lockdown, Premier Doug Ford lamented that lots of those over 70 and even over 80 had yet to be inoculated. Part of the solution is better outreach from public health, especially in vulnerable neighbourhoods. Another is simply spreading the news about the vaccines and how they work.

That news is far more often good than bad. Report after report since COVID-19 vaccines started appearing late last year has shown them to be safe and reliable. Only this week, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to be highly effective at preventing the disease. What is even more important, the vaccines all do a great job of stopping people from being hospitalized or dying from the virus – which is, after all, the main point. That science managed to invent and manufacture vaccines against a new disease at such speed is impressive. That they all have proved to work so well, and with so few ill effects, is incredible.

Story continues below advertisement

So let’s be straight about this. The qualms that hesitant Canadians are having about the vaccines are not justified by the facts. If they delay getting vaccinated, or refuse altogether, they are doing a disservice to the whole country.

I felt a wave of relief when I walked out the pharmacy with that Band-Aid on my shoulder. Even though it hasn’t changed my behaviour much, it makes me feel much safer and more hopeful.

Millions more Canadians will get their chance in the next few weeks as vaccine deliveries accelerate. For their own safety, and the safety of others, they should get over their fears and line up for their shots.

Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, offers assurances on vaccine safety as the province expands bookings for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine next week. The Canadian Press

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies