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Opinion: Dave Dale, Brief calm between storms

On the pandemic front, the discussions, debates and protests over vaccine mandates became a lightning rod for politicalization.
peaceful walk
There's a short but peaceful truce for a few hours when the campaigning ends on the last day of an election.

Election days are therapeutic if nothing else. There are a few hours when most people can catch a breath following weeks of campaign angst. It’s like a calm before waves of the storm before the tallies of votes spell out political futures and put a cap on others.

It’s as much a part of the process for federal plebiscites as it is for provincial and municipal elections.

Cheers, jeers, and head-hanging come later in the evening with thousands of pundits and hacks sharpening their scalpels for dissecting what went right and more obviously wrong.

But for a few hours on election day, one can focus on other issues or catch up on the things that have been set aside or twisted out of whack by political spin.

On the pandemic front, for example, the discussions, debates, and protests over vaccine mandates became a lightning rod for politicization. Having that topic super-charged by people benefitting from a polarized population definitely didn’t help matters.

One of the things that have made COVID-19 harder to handle than necessary was the inability to speak openly about the issue without getting run over by zealots on all sides. It’s made it hard to trust official dictates and the statistics used to back up decisions.

One small example of that is how a small percentage of people had horrific reactions to the vaccine. Several in my circle described it as being the sickest they’ve ever been, albeit temporary and limited to between 12 and 36 hours of being turned inside out.

A close friend of mine said it was 10 days before he was back to where he was the day before the second jab.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not suggesting that’s a good enough reason to avoid vaccination. There’s only one way to deal with these sorts of issues and that’s as a community working in the same direction. It’s overwhelmingly clear the majority of scientists, health professionals, and the populace are united on the need for vaccinations to be a major part of the defence system.

It was disconcerting to hear, however, that one of my friends tried to report his reaction to his health care provider and they refused to submit a report. They suggested he actually had COVID itself or something else triggered the scariest symptoms of illness he’s ever experienced.

Yes, COVID-19 is worse and it’s clearly more debilitating and damaging, based on what we do know for certain. Yes, it’s true, none of the people I know who went through such reactions died and they recovered fully, it seems.

Yet, that’s exactly the kind of small – and possibly inconsequential – faux pas that people throwing gravel at politicians and terrorizing hospitals embrace as proof the system is too corrupt to trust.

No matter how inconsequential it appears on the surface, it’s exactly how public confidence erodes one little fleck of sand at a time. We have, from this one roadblock to the transparency of data collection, lost the trust of someone who voluntarily agreed to get vaccinated. And it’s now in the mind of all his friends and family members. If “they” are not taking people’s reactions seriously and refusing to report their personal experiences, what else is being arbitrarily vetted by front-line health providers?

It’s already being tossed back at me as an example of why someone I know won’t get vaccinated. Even a little example of data suppression adds to the arsenal of the misguided.

I asked three other people I know who got doubled-over by vaccines if they had trouble reporting their experiences and none of them even bothered to submit a report. Reasons vary but the outcome is the same: the people who review adverse reaction reports don’t have accurate or complete information.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the vaccinated people I have either spoken to or communicated with had very little to no reaction to either injection at all, including myself. If I was to guess, I’d say 85 per cent skipped through it unscathed in the least, and only five per cent were put in a position of doubting their choices in life.

Of course, you’d be a fool to go by my anecdotal perspectives and percentage guesses instead of meticulously gathered health data – but we obviously don’t have that either.

None of this is a rationale for not getting vaccinated but it does explain some of the hesitancy and mistrust that’s out there. It seems a lot of people who are dealing with harsher realities don’t give two hoots about anybody’s excuses right now. Many have run out of patience with the anti-anythings, especially those who value themselves and their perceived freedoms over the common good and fellow citizens.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the pandemic issues and the polarization it created will have on this ill-advised and untimely federal election. How will this distrust of government and politicians in the middle of a pandemic translate at the polls? And how will it impact the decisions going forward?

They talk about “long COVID” and how some people who are infected – even if they only noticed slight symptoms – deal with a variety of health issues for a considerable time afterward.

I think society itself will be dealing with the overall impacts of the pandemic for a long time as well, with damaged trust chief among the ailments.

The only thing I can recommend is that Canadians should always vote for the future and not the past. And try to be brave and get the vaccine, please.

NOTE: Next week, I intend to write about the pros and cons of ward systems for municipal elections, specifically for North Bay. Got any thoughts? We can discuss them in the comments.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to editor@baytoday.ca. To contact the writer directly, email: davedale@backinthebay.ca or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca