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Choices and research

Commentary — Rob McKinley

For a generation offered so many choices, trepidation over vaccines should come as no surprise. We have 52 flavours of ice cream, 11 sizes of coffee cups and 18 Internet carriers to chose from. We are a people of choice - and with those choices comes questions. And with more and more COVID-19 vaccines coming available, those choices ... and questions, continue.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson

Which formula am I going to mix with my blood-stream? Can I choose? Does it work? 

Pharmacies across rural Alberta are now slated to be distributing tens of thousands of the vaccines to residents, part of a massive push to vaccinate all Albertans by the end of June. To do this — taking a province with just eight per cent of its population currently vaccinated, to 100 per cent — immediate plans are underway to borrow more than a million doses of the AstraZeneca brand from our American neighbours to the south — a vaccine their federal agencies have yet to approve for its own people, as well as the purchase of millions more vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and the family-favourite-sounding Johnson & Johnson.

The choices, timelines and constant updates from our elected leaders and health officials have sent many residents digging for answers — and that is a good thing. There's very little chance that any one of us can say we are un-informed.

When we buy snow tires, we research for  testimonials, reviews, prices, effectiveness. We do the same when we buy pet supplies, flip-flops and marijuana. So why should vaccines be any different? The information is out there — but just like standing in front of the ice cream counter deciding if today is a good day for mint chocolate chip, Very-Berry strawberry, a simple vanilla, or something with pralines ... the available choices can give us a brain-freeze.

Available data for those vaccine choices is out there — but it takes some digging ... as well as some scepticism and  good-faith judgments.

It's easy to be a sceptic. Other sceptics make it easy for us.  For example, one of the vaccines has a low-end effectiveness of just 60 per cent — and yet health officials are encouraging we line up to take it.  Those out there who are already a little jaded towards Big Brother tactics are having a field day with this one.  They are asking how a 100 per cent shut down of most of earth's social functions for more than a year can be addressed by encouraging a solution with only 60-70 per cent effectiveness?  It's a good question. 

Just like: How did black licorice become a popular flavour to mix with orange sorbet to make a Tiger Tail?

The answer?  People did their own research; they tried it. Those with open minds didn't just turn up their noses, deeming it to be bad or wrong — they embraced that they had a choice, and gave it a shot. Obviously, the choices regarding life-altering vaccines and ice cream are miles apart on the scale of importance, but the availability of choice, and our ability to make those choices, is the sweet spot that unites them.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine gives you trouble, do some research. Choose for yourself. Research all that you can about the rollout of the vaccines, and don't simply fall for what others are saying — find your facts.

The information is out there. And yes, there is a lot of it. But at least there is a choice.  

If we can spend 20 minutes in the hardware store aisle deciding on a light bulb —  halogen, LED, incandescent, fluorescent, 40 watt, bright white  — we can certainly take the time to determine which vaccine choice will bring a light to the end of this pandemic tunnel.