There’s a Covid Fetish and it’s really irritating. First, what’s with the demand everyone must get vaccinated? Second, why are Canadians being punished for wanting to fly outside Canada and then return?
Let me declare off the top that I am double vaxxed. It was my choice and I was vaccinated early in the game. In fact I’m also going to go for my booster now that it is being made available. So there’s no hesitancy on my part about the science.
What I question is the efficacy of the vaccine. Sure, I can still get Covid but hopefully I won’t get seriously ill and statistically I have a better chance of survival. Those who are not vaccinated face a bigger risk of getting seriously ill, hospitalization and death. And they risk catching it from me as much I face catching it from them.
What I don’t see is conclusive proof that forcing everyone to get vaxxed will stop the spread.
Vaxxed or not you can still spread Covid and you can still be asymptomatic and contagious, from my reading.
Here’s the CDC posting on this.
“If you are fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did before the pandemic. However, you should wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Being fully vaccinated and wearing a mask maximizes protection from the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others.”
Further down they reiterate it “can” prevent the spread.
The fact is the data is shaky. I think the authorities need to be much more clear as to why they are pushing a mandate since the premise of stopping the spread is not conclusive.
Bullshit decisions like opening Scotia Arena to 20,000 hockey fans but restricting restaurants and bars is illogical.
Poor decisions and proclamations destroy credibility and cause people to question everything, even the sensible suggestions.
For example, the mask mandate is passé. Most jurisdictions have lifted it.
Life is full of risks and we should be able to assess and make our own decisions around how much risk we accept.
This is what people are pushing back on.
So I would argue that more transparency and common sense need be applied. If it were up to the science table we’d never be unmasked and lockdowns would be a constant threat to ensure compliance.
We all go to our doctors who advise certain lifestyle adjustments and some we follow and some we don’t because it comes down to quality of life and how we live an enjoy our lives.
That doesn’t stop the Karens and Kens out there who believe that vaccination in others somehow protects them. I saw a clip of an unmasked Karen on a plane demanding to see the vax certificate of the passengers who was to sit next to her. As if that was protection. Oh, and she had an exemption for a mask because “I have asthma.”
Which brings me to point #2.
Why are we punishing Canadian travelers with a $200 PCR Covid test? It’s not efficient. Perrin Beatty President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce calls it “irrational.”
It really does seem to be set up as a punishment. A family of four flying out of Canada faces an $800 penalty just for wanting to go somewhere.
But don’t take my word for it. The over reliance on PCR COVID tests over nimble rapid antigen tests has been a “waste of taxpayer money,” and a risk to public health.
With COVID well into its fourth wave, with potential fifth waves on the horizon, a combination of testing, vaccinations and personal protection remain the best defenses to prevent infection, says Iqbal Sunderani, CEO of BTNX, a Markham biotechnology company that provides tests globally.
But, he says, PCR tests are not the gold standard in a pandemic where time is of the essence and Prof. David Juncker, chair of biomedical engineering at McGill University’s Genome Centre agrees.
“At say $100 each, PCR tests are a total waste of taxpayer money,” Sunderani says. “It’s better to send a test to a home if they need one. Let them test. If it’s positive they send someone over to get a swab but the person doesn’t go out and infect others.”
Ontario alone has spent more than $1.8 billion on 18 million PCR tests to date while the federal government had been reluctant to approve rapid tests which can cost as little as $1 each. Some of that has changed but rapid tests still aren’t available for self-testing.
Juncker also says rapid tests are a better option over PCR tests.
“Rapid tests are great to find out if people are ‘infectious,’ which from a public health perspective is really all that matters,” he says.
“After getting infected, there is a short incubation time, and then one rapidly accumulates a high load of virus within the body, often before symptoms appear, and can infect others. The virus then lingers on…so PCR tests are good to indicate if someone is infected (or has been infected), but as they are costly, and the result slow, they are inefficient at breaking chains of infections.”
Part of the issue, says Juncker, is that home testing is sorely needed just as testing at workplaces is needed for asymptomatic patients and those with some symptoms.
“Germany, there are well over 100 rapid antigen tests that are approved, and 60 that are for self-testing, but Health Canada only approved tests for testing by a medical professional,” he says.
“There is one test for home use, but it is not a pregnancy-type rapid test and requires an instrument.”
At construction sites especially, antigen tests which search for protein markers specific to COVID, provide a rapid screening of workers before they enter. With the recent Ontario labour board ruling that such tests are not an unreasonable infringement, it’s expected that more sites will demand not only proof of double vaccination but rapid test screening.
“Rapid tests are thus very efficient when taken regularly, notably because they can be taken before entering the premise, and if positive, the person can be isolated immediately,” says Juncker.
There is considerable discussion in the medical community around how best to test for COVID with Canada lagging the rest of the world in approving rapid tests.
PCR tests, which involve the insertion of a long swab into the back of the nasal cavity are considered the “gold standard” by some in the medical community but they have their own issues, says Sunderani.
“You only get a PCR test if you are symptomatic, which means you could infect everyone you come in contact with on the way to the hospital,” he says.
“Then it takes up to two days or more to get your result and you could still be infecting others.”
Accuracy is also an issue sometimes with false positive results, he added. Since the PCR test picks up dead COVID cells.
While rapid tests weren’t initially approved, Health Canada did green light them last spring and in August started distributing 2.5 million rapid tests for workplace screening.
However, acceptance remains an issue.
The federal government still requires a recent PCR test for those flying into Canada which at $100 to $200 each is an additional financial penalty on families taking vacations or businesses trying to decide what tests employees should have, especially if they are not double vaccinated.
Juncker urged Health Canada to update their regulatory approval guidelines and recognize rapid COVID-19 tests as a public health tool and get more self-administered tests on the market.
“The criteria Health Canada set for approval for rapid tests are overly stringent and, considering we are in a pandemic, misguided,” he says. “Last time I looked, they are also not consistent with the use of rapid tests as a screening tool, and not conducive to approval of tests, and very onerous for applicants. In short, a very high entry barrier.”
He says Health Canada should look at the approval certificate process in Europe to speed things up.
“The compromise so far is that they have shipped them to companies only where they are administered by some trained staff, or to schools as well, but there’s still no self-testing,” Juncker adds.
“PCR testing is critical for making therapeutic decisions, but for public health they are expensive, too slow and require the isolation of many people who were infected, but are not infectious. To cut chains of infection, I want to know here and now if someone is a risk to others.”