Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis

Goal: $100k
$19,202

For more than six years now, Donald Trump’s hold over his political base has withstood revelations of corruption, scandal, grift and incompetence. Even evidence that he’d colluded with Russia, once the Republican Party’s greatest geopolitical enemy, and tried to overturn the results of a democratic election didn’t faze them. But it seems, at long last, that he’s found a line his unvaccinated supporters won’t follow him across: science.

Trump is obviously no friend to science, given his long-standing status as one of the world’s most influential climate change deniers. But when it comes to his own health, at least, he’s not nearly as willing to bet against it. In a recent interview with far-right provocateur Candace Owens, Trump repeatedly touted the effectiveness of vaccines and their ability to reduce the negative outcomes associated with the COVID-19 — and pushed back over her objections.

That did not sit well with the MAGA universe. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, for example, said Trump was either “completely ignorant” or “one of the most evil men who has ever lived,” while long-standing Trump-brand Kool-Aid purveyor Wayne Allyn Root suggested the former president needed “an intervention.” Owens, for her part, explained it away by pointing out that Trump is old and “came from a time before TV, before internet, before being able to conduct independent research.”

Trump, of course, helped seed much of the anti-vaccine skepticism that is running rampant on the political right these days. And he isn’t the only politician who’s having to contend with the anti-vaccine monster he helped create. In Alberta, a group of 50 protesters picketed the Calgary-area home of Jason Copping, the province’s health minister, with two arrested for breaching bail conditions associated with their behaviour at previous protests.

Premier Jason Kenney tweeted that the right to peaceful protest “does not extend to trespassing at private homes and harassing the families of public officials,” and that “this is not the first time that fringe anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have tried to intimidate government officials in this manner.”

Ironically, Kenney seemed more than willing to countenance former health minister Tyler Shandro’s 2020 driveway tirade against a Calgary-area doctor who had dared to criticize his government. And throughout the pandemic. he’s shown a conspicuously soft touch when dealing with anti-vaxxers in his own midst, whether they’re in his caucus or merely part of his political base. When you tell people over and over again that you’ll do almost anything to defend people’s freedoms only to end up curtailing or constraining them, you shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a backlash.

With his popularity sinking below 20 per cent and Brian Jean now gunning for him from within the UCP caucus, Kenney’s political fate seems sealed at this point. Trump, meanwhile, is still so massively popular with his base that he remains a lock for the 2024 Republican nomination if he wants it — and if the Department of Justice doesn’t get to him first.

But the Frankenstein they’ve both helped feed will live on long after they’re gone from public life.

That's why it’s time for the rest of us to bring that Frankenstein to heel. And while Trump and Kenney may not be willing to face it down head-on, other political leaders are. In a recent interview with a French newspaper, Emmanuel Macron said he’s had enough of dealing with his country’s anti-vaxxers. “I really want to piss them off,” he said. “And so we will continue to do so, to the bitter end. That’s the strategy.”

Opinion: The rest of us have already wasted far too much time trying to humour anti-vaxxers' beliefs and accommodate their demands, writes columnist @maxfawcett. Now, it’s time for us to move on — and leave them behind. #COVID19

It’s a strategy Justin Trudeau seems more willing to experiment with here at home. His recent comments about a charter flight filled with unmasked Quebec influencers suggest he’s willing to take a harder line than he has in the past. “It’s a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible,” he told reporters. Back in September, he was even more blunt, describing anti-vaxxers as misogynistic and racist. “They are a small group that occupies a loud space and a decision needs to be made: do we tolerate these people?”

It’s a question that far more Canadians are asking themselves right now.

People have the right to continue raging against reality and refusing to follow the rules. But the rest of us — the vast majority, with nearly 80 per cent of the population having two or more COVID-19 vaccinations — have the right to move on with our lives. We have the right to put our kids in school without fear of them interacting with unvaccinated children. We have the right to expect that the medical system won’t postpone our surgery or other medical procedures because anti-vaxxers keep filling up our hospitals and ICUs. And we have the right to expect that conservative politicians will stop playing footsie with the most anti-social elements of our society simply because it helps them win elections, as Erin O'Toole did just the other day when he said we should "accommodate" the unvaccinated.

Yes, the anti-vaxxers will complain bitterly about this. Let them. The rest of us have already wasted far too much time trying to humour their beliefs and accommodate their demands. Now, it’s time for us to move on — and leave them behind.

Keep reading

Max, from my observations there isn’t a singular group of Canadians who refuse the Covid vaccine but several smaller groups who refuse due to:
•religion
•personal politics (such as Libertarions)
•misinformation
•medical reasons based upon either unfortunate previous vaccine reactions or true concerns with the vaccines due to their personal health situations

I believe that many end up in the anti-vaccine category also as a result of what they feel are confusing or contrived messages from authorities (WHO, CDC, Health Canada and regional medical officers of health, Pharma manufacturers ).

What they seem to fail to comprehend is that with a new virus, decisions and policies need to be made with the evidence of the moment, evidence that will evolve over time resulting in changes in our approach.

As provinces and other countries have been managing the pandemic in a variety of ways, which adds to the vaccine resistant’s decision process.

While this is a major contributor to the anti-vax group, the political decisions often driven by shaded economic pressure is surely mana for their mindset.

Consider Ontario’s recent restrictions announced days after a press-conference by the CMOH where basically the message was “all was well”, kids will be back in school. And now schools are closed, yet malls are open, small businesses have greater restrictions than big box stores etc. Those in the vaccine resistant group see these confusing messages as more evidence that the authorities are either making it up as the days pass or have more nefarious reasons which further hardens their decision not to vaccinate as “they don’t know what they are doing so why would I let them inject their dubious drug into my body”.

While the Prime Minister and Mr Macron speak openly about their frustration with the un-vaxxed, Mr O’Toole stands firm that members of the CAF must be vaccinated but member aid his party are free to chose. Just yesterday Mr O’Toole expressed empathy for the un-vaxxed asking for more undemanding and tolerance.

If the death toll, the admissions to ICUs with it without being placed on a ventilator or the impact on our economy doesn’t motivate the vaccine hesitant, if the individual is convinced that their higher being will protect them, if the conspiracy advocates remain entrenched and deny real science, if those who believe they are medically at risk and cannot be convinced otherwise by their primary care providers and if the Facebook junior scientists persists is promoting false data then we will continue to have many who will remain unvaccinated.

Despite the burden that these collective groups create for the rest of us,, we cannot legislate common sense just as we cannot chase people down to jab them with a vaccine.

Much like the process of “positive parenting”, likely the best tool that we have, other than educating and working on ensuring a more common message, is to simply make it more comfortable for the un-vaxxed to comply. While the City of Toronto terminated over 460 employees this week for failing to obtain the vaccines in the timeline requested, we don’t now how many sought out a vaccine after their employment was threatened. A heavy handed approach for certain but the message was clear.

I will be following the outfall of Premier Legault’s announcement that evidence of vaccinate will be require in order to purchase alcohol and cannabis in Quebec. Another policy addressing a specific element of the unvaccinated group. It will be interesting.

I don’t believe that there is a simple or single policy that will engage all of the un-vaxxed and as a result believe that we will have them among us for a long long time.

As a triple-vaxxed retired HCW with 40 years in ON hospitals I am so disappointed in our preparedness as we knew this was coming,

SARS 2003 was our test run and from the perspective of our pandemic health management we have failed miserably despite the recommendations of the Campbell report offered to protect us from the coming global pandemic;. That should anger all Canadians and may also shed some understanding as to how people can become entrenched to avoid a vaccine that may save their lives, may protect them from serious illness and may prevent them spreading to other around them.

Ps Covid is airborne and likely has been all along but for some interesting reasons, the authorities refused to accept the studies that provided that evidence: not a good look when trying to reign in the vaccine hesitant. We really could do more to manage this pandemic in a more positive, helpful way..
Stay safe…

Provinces have long had requirements for vaccination as a prerequisite for school attendance, with some accommodations made for religion and health. Not sure what's different about COVID, except for the speed that these vaccines (out of necessity) have been rolled out.

I think that that is what Mr. Macron and Mr. Fawcett are getting at. This time around, and like the crisis we face around global heating, reality is in-our-face on this and we don't have the luxury of waiting for perfection or coddling people who are more interested in themselves than respecting the common good.

The term 'Suck it up, buttercup.' springs to mind. Respect the common good. Get vaccinated in appreciation of everything that everyone else is doing to keep the lights on while you twiddle, searching ever-more in vain for tiny specks that support confirmation of your biases in a stormy sea of dissonant data that the rest of us simply see as the reality of the situation. Even if you 'don't believe in vaccines' .. whatever that means for you .. stop being a passenger - get vaccinated in respect for front-line workers that support your world not to mention your neighbours, your friends and your family.

Anyways, I agree with Max and Mr. Macron, I'm done with being patient. And I suspect that many people in this category of hesitant have faced similar moments in their past where their elders have had to intervene to push them forward - hopefully Mr. Macron's moment will feel like deja-vu for some of them and finally prompt some action.

Having been double vaxxed myself I can assure that the process is only a pin-prick and feeling flu-like for a couple-few days, and in those moments, feeling crappy and flu-like post-vax, I personally reflected on how hard the real covid would have likely hit my system, and what a frickin gift these vaccines are to those of us lucky enough to live in the first world to receive them, and for free. And most directly grateful to those have put themselves at risk and without even knowing me have selflessly done their own bit and collectively moved heaven and earth to get that shot into my lucky arm.

Especially to the last paragraph, I agree. I had some very scary things happen a couple of days post-vax, that weren't among the list of known reactions or sequelae to the vaccine at the time. In all likelihood, it was because the vaccine wasn't injected quite right: there was blood on the bandaid over the injection site, which shouldn't have happened. The second was injected too high up, and I lost the use of my arm for a while, then couldn't raise it for a week or two. For the booster, I asked the nurse to inject as far from my shoulder as was within the guidelines, and to aspirate. After hearing my reasons, she did both: it was the first covid vax I had that was "only a pin-prick." BUT despite my first two experiences, I was clear that I was better off vaccinated than not.

Because no matter what, as unpleasant as a vaccine response might be, the relevant consideration is not that, but rather how much worse the illness itself would have been. In all likelihood, those who have "hard" reactions to any of the vaccines would likely have had a much worse go of it if infected. That's what is known about the genetics of individuals who have had severe illness points at.

I've no quarrel with vaccine refuseniks, as long as they don't inflict themselves on society in the meantime, whether they think they're infected or not. The ones I think should be severely sanctioned are those who work in long-term care homes, in community support services, etc., and escape job termination because government hasn't ensured sufficient levels of suitably educated staff. And employers who pay staff so little, and provide such horrible working conditions, that workers are afraid for their jobs if they don't show up for work as their bosses order, despite being ill, That too is on government for having in place such crappy employment laws and enforcement.

A very dear friend in the US, smart but uneducated in pretty much every sense of that word, got caught up in the far-right nonsense. In e-mail she asked what I thought should be "done to" unvaccinated people like herself, to which I replied that certainly she had a choice, in practical terms. But that if she insists on not vaxxing and not wearing a mask, she should stay in her own house, hopefully with access to a grocery-shopping service ... both for her own protection and for the greater safety of others. I wound up viewing a number of misinformation videos, and wrote for her an educational and disambiguation piece. In the meantime, she got Covid. I think it's very difficult for someone who's been vocal about taking a position contrary to the mainstream, to turn around: some people do eventually see the light. It depends how deep down the rabbit hole they've gone, and how much their sense of self is threatened by admitting they might be wrong.

I dislike being wrong as much as the next guy: that's why I make darned sure of my facts before opening my mouth. I learned the hard way, and unfortunately I think too many people who will have to do it that way, will drag along a lot of victims on the way.

I think a much larger number of people than most would believe, share shall we say adverse opinions of behaviour of our leaders (replete with law-breaking, lying and "do as I say, not as I do") ... and anyone who doesn't see that governments by and large act in the interests of the wealthy, large corporations, and basically anyone who can fill their election war-chests, and feather their post-government nests, has probably just not been looking.

Public health has not only changed its message alongside evolving science, had different messages from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and given horribly crafted messages to the public, but also delivered messaging contrary to fact and contrary to science. Data has been poorly collected, and always there's been a CYA approach, politically driven messaging, and plain failure to consider people as opposed to systems. There has been a lot of incompetence and bungling all the way 'round the circle. BUT the science is what the science is. History is what the history is, however badly it's been told: facts are facts.

The worst of all liars sometimes tells the truth. As always, the devil is in the details. If everyone repeated that one thing to themselves every morning, the whole world would be less likely to jump to unwarranted conclusions. About almost everything.

And we'd all be better off for it.

This is unfortunately, an archetypical , balanced, sympathetic, empathetic, on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand, administrative (Canadian?) response to a crisis. Such approaches do not lead to resolution, but lead to inaction.
A crisis, by definition, requires decisions taken quickly but with incomplete information. You do your best, but you only find out if you made the right decision afterwards.
Canada got some things right at the beginning of the pandemic - shut down society and pay everyone who can stay home to stay home; pay bonuses to those who must go to work on behalf of the rest of us. Canada got two big things wrong after that - voluntary vaccinations with a careful, slow roll out and opening up society before the vaccines had a chance to take hold. The proof is there for everyone to see: the Omicron wave.

The fact remains that vaccines are less effective against Omicron, as is prior infection, as well as far more contagious.
Omicron is there largely because governments have been unwilling to regulate pharmaceutical companies in order to make vaccines available to poor countries, and that the more people are infected, the more people within a given population are infected, and the fewer restrictions there are on people's movement, the more the virus will mutate, and the more likely it will do so in ways that enhance its own survival. Most mutations, in viruses or otherwise, do not do that.
The more complex the organism, the longer its evolution, the more likely its genetics are to have several ways of accomplishing the same ends.
That's why it's important for wealthy countries to do everything possible to support vaccination to reduce infection in countries that can't do it themselves. As long as we insist on travelling between countries, we'll continue to bring back home whatever's going on "over there." So that, too, needs to be part of our endeavour.
(And, as with other things, there are parallels to climate change, There are many countries, many people, but we all live on the same planet.)
Personally, I'm not in favor of forcing vaccines on individuals. I am, however, in favor of restricting their access.

There is a distinction here to be made with Omicron. While it is a 'breakthrough' variant, the double vaxxed will in almost all cases not develop full-blown symptoms that will require intervention in an ICU, long-hauler status or death. The ICUs are overwhelmingly full to overflowing with the unvaxxed.

With respect to Big Pharma, at this point it would be a mistake of planetary proportions to promote taking them down as part of an anti-capitalist revolution. Try it and see how they will predictably reject any overture to supply vaccines for Canadians in the next few waves, or the next big pandemic. Forcefully regulating them to develop and distribute vaccines to the poorest developing nations would be a second huge mistake that would result in them simply saying No to regs, then move to a less-regulatory jurisdiction. That too is so predictable.

The only viable immediate and long-term solutions are: (i) to quickly negotiate with other wealthy nations to pay royalties to the vaccine makers to make billions of extra doses and to distribute them to the poor worldwide for free (we can afford it); (ii) to concurrently develop detailed plans to build rapid response vaccine development capacity in Canada using Canada's (and international) top notch biomedical research and development skill sets; (iii) to actually build that capacity using the incentive of major public funding; and finally (iii) to re-establish Canada's once top notch global pandemic surveillance and early warning system.

It must be noted that Big Pharma isn't always some fire-breathing, cigar-chomping fat capitalist wild boar eating your babies. A BC biomedical company working on nanotechnology out of UBC was instrumental in finalizing the work on mRNA vaccines with Germany's Bio N Tech, which then partnered with Pfizer which had the facilities to make and distribute billions of COVID vaccine doses.

Use respected Canadian scientific talent wherever possible.

Please describe "behind" in more detail.

The article ended without a prescription...perhaps tomorrow Max will set out precepts for how it might be done.

Maybe, the question that science has answered should also be shared by the authorities: The anti-vaxxers are asking: What are the side-effects of the Covid vaccination? Unfortunately, that information is only available on the ''despised'' sources.

If by "despised sources" you are referring to sites featuring conspiracies, misinformation, exaggeration and science politicized to the point it is no longer science, then that statement is patently false.

Health Canada, the CDC, the EU's health authorities and other advanced health professionals take as much time as they can afford under great social pressure to review the research and test results and regularly give the information to the public. COVID is a fast moving target, and demanding perfection from medical professionals every hour is not just unreasonable, but impossible. The vast majority of medical scientists will tell us just that.

So there is some uncertainty about vaccines, and that uncertainty is continually being modified as the learning curve moves around on the graph and refines the data down closer to the best estimated solutions. The expression of that uncertainty is a sign of honesty. So is the fact that the uncertainty is today expressed as being acutely minuscule, such as the exceedingly tiny incidence of heart inflammation from Moderna in a massive study of 5 million children.

It is profoundly detrimental that selfish iconoclasts have gone political on vaccines and latched onto these tiny grains of uncertainty and converted them into weapons for dissemination to social media followers. Click bait can kill. If everyone took the same attitude about everyday living, no one would leave their homes for fear of lightning strikes and cows falling from the sky, and everyone would vote for and give millions to evangelical charlatans.

Fawcett: "People have the right to continue raging against reality and refusing to follow the rules."

Do drivers have the right to drink and drive, drive the wrong way down one-way streets, speed in school zones — and refuse to follow the rules?
Not if it puts the public at risk.

You may want to rethink that one, Max.

I've read this article from beginning to end and still have no idea what Mr. Fawcett means by moving on.

Hey Max,

I think we can do our society a favour by not feeding in to the polarization and politicization of the pandemic. I understand its a pandemic and everyone is stressed but being in support of Macron and Trudeau's very divisive comments will do nothing but further split our people apart.
Besides, even Trudeau said in early 2021 that vaccine mandates would be divisive and destructive to society (1). Now because they have no more cards to play, and they havent prepared sufficiently given they continue austerity in the health system, with at-home tests supplies and N95 masks, oversold the effectiveness against spread of the vaccines and of cloth masks, they are further scapegoating the unvaccinated. Our international governance has also failed in that less than 10% of the less-developed regions of the world are vaccinated because we are hoarding vaccines. Thats where Omicron brewed.

I wont deny that the unvaccinated hold some blame. But in reality its more specifically the vulnerable people with comorbidities among the unvaccinated that are filling the hospitals (2). A targeted campaign to that group is much more likely to have results rather than further ostracizing them. We need an honest campaign about the vaccines' uncertainties and risks (and that its definitely worth the risk for vulnerable people(3)). I have a lot of family that are vaccine hesitant and further ostracizing them, politicizing the issue and doubling down is precisely the worst thing to do in my opinion. Its easy to hate on them when you politicize and demonize it but based on my family and friends, the "anti-vaxxers" are not who they are portrayed to be. A study in the USA actually found the most hesitant group by education level are PhD graduates (4). People have reasons to distrust the regulatory institutions, the government, and pharmaceutical industry. I know for a fact a few of my unvaccinated family members would have been more open to the vaccine if it was less politicized, if authorities were clear about the uncertainties and risks and if they acknowledged things like the science of natural immunity (which many unvaccinated, especially health care workers, have). And as for vaccination of healthy children this has been contested by many epidemiologists and virologists and is not a black and white situation. In the UK, their health advisory panel did not recommend vaccination of health teenagers (5).

(1) https://globalnews.ca/news/7576955/coronavirus-vaccine-passports-canada-...
(2) 95% of hospitalizations are have at least one comorbidity, average of 4
https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2021/21_0123.htm
(3) 35 year old with comorbidities more at risk than 60 year old with none
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.120.019259
(4) Vaccine Hesistancy by education level, PhDs are the most hesistant
https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/americans-with-phds-are-most-re...
(5) Advisers against vaccines for health teens
https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-advisers-decide-against-covid-vaccin...

As a kid growing up in the 50s + 60s, I was vaccinated at elementary school many times. One remembers images of iron lungs with polio-stricken kids only too well. I had only one reaction: I ran down the hall in fear of my first needle. In Grade Two I was a top runner. Later at home, the school nurse suddenly popped through our front door and jabbed me. The fact that my dad grabbed my legs while my mom pinned my arms told me that was a planned act. I didn't feel a thing, and have never had a problem with needles since, though I had lots of difficulty swallowing the occasional school-distributed gel pill with horrific-tasting green gunk inside.

Today, I live with an immune-compromised person who cannot get COVID or she will die, or at least become a severely constrained long-hauler. She is triple-vaxxed. I am scheduled for my booster in two days. It casn't come soon enough.

To read the above list I am reminded of the climate doubters and delayers who push out a fog of facts and stats that do nothing to dent the core science, or take away from the skeptical, self-testing nature of the scientific method (repeat the calculations / experiments for proof, revise as necessary) or of the absolute necessity of peer review. What they do is influence public opinion, not the actual science.

When I hear news reports stemming from Health Canada and the CDC that mRNA vaccines were ~90% effective against the first three waves of COVID as actually measured among hundreds of thousands of people, and that a heart inflammation or other issue is something like a 1:250,000++ gamble, and that getting hit by a bus is 1:9,000, I have no problem getting vaxxed. The incidence of vaccine side-effects was a lot higher 60 years ago, but then smallpox and polio were defeated by them too. There is no question that vaccines have had a great public health effect on the world.

The clincher to me is that fomenting uncertainly about vaccines or masks as part of one's individual rights can actually kill others, like my spouse. I have zero interest in mollycoddling the unvaxxed, which has now proven to be extraordinarily taxing on society and our health care system. Bring on the passports for everyone. It's just a quick jab and a little bureaucracy that has wide-spread benefits for everyone.

But you need to watch out for buses while crossing the street.

"A study in the USA actually found the most hesitant group by education level are PhD graduates." This made me laugh. I knew everything before I got my Master's degree. ;-) That degree dropped my self-confidence by quite a few notches. But a PhD degree is worse — those folks know a lot about a tiny slice of something, which can make them think they know a lot about everything.

But this is what got me: " I know for a fact a few of my unvaccinated family members would have been more open to the vaccine if it was less politicized ...." And we'd have had climate disruption reined in long ago if it hadn't been, by some quirk of his personal interest in the threat, championed by Al Gore, who just happened to be a politician. (If he'd been a Republican ... hmmm.)

Where, oh where, have our critical thinking skills gone?

The definition of the word "political" is anything to do with government and public affairs though, so a pandemic is unavoidably political. In that context, since the newly extreme right wing has employed deliberately divisive tactics as their main strategy, your chiding of Macron and Trudeau is the usual wrongheaded "bothsidesism." Conservatives have fully exploited everyone's desire to be reasonable and fair-minded, "going high when they go low" sort of thing, which is particularly appealing to Canadians it seems, this while being the complete opposite themselves. Clever, distracting, and depressingly effective. But this public health crisis has also exposed their strong, stupid streak of libertarianism, which has led to roughly as many unvaccinated Americans as there are Canadians in total.
The federal public health minister said yesterday that with the perfect storm brewing, the health of the public health care system is now starting to trump everything else, including the right of individuals to eschew protective vaccination, hence mandatory vaccination now needs to be considered. I heard this on the morning briefing and then it appeared everywhere as a headline because at this point it's what the majority of people, the public, want. We/ they, have just had it with the willfully ignorant, irrational, selfish crap of conservatives, period. And because they are the anti-science ones who don't "believe" in climate change EITHER, they've simply become the enemy of us all, who ARE actually reasonable.

If this was the Black Death where your extremities would turn gangrenous in just a few days and when a pandemic would kill up to half the population in a few weeks, conservatives would be screaming for vaccines and public health services along with everyone else.

COVID is insidious enough to slip around the intellects of anyone who thinks that science and public health are the works of woke socialists.

Trite, I know, but stop calling the monster "Frankenstien". The monster's name was Legion, as his parts were many. Frankenstein was the name of the doctor.

There are some people who have a legitimate reason for not getting vaccinated. For the others, who are the subject of this article, I agree entirely with your recommendation. They have been treated with kid gloves for far too long. There is ignorance, and then there is wilful ignorance. I wish them well, but that’s about it.