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Opinion: Waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine is agonizing in the final days

Imagine being vigilant for so long and getting sick right before the shot
COVID-19 vaccine
A senior male is about to receive a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. - Photograph via Getty Images

“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty

Oh Tom, you have no idea. I missed out on the AstraZeneca vaccine because I was too slow, but my age group is set to come up this week so I can book a COVID-19 jab.

Once I get the notification, I don’t know how long it will take for an actual appointment, but I know it’s coming soon. Days? Weeks? I don’t know, but it feels pretty close.

You’d think I would be excited, but instead I just feel dread. The problem is that as I get closer to being vaccinated, I worry about getting coronavirus right before the needle. I’ve been so good and so vigilant during the pandemic that I’m now terrified I’ll blow it in the final days before my vaccination.

I know it’s irrational, but that’s how my mind works.

Imagine putting in that much effort to wear masks, keep a safe distance from others, constantly wash my hands and keep my dirty mitts away from my face only to get COVID-19 now. It’s a fear based in reality due to the highly contagious variants going around.

I was barely going out as it was and now I barely leave the house once a week unless it’s just a walk in the fresh air. All I know is that the closer I get the more paranoid I get. Oh, and yes, I do realize how lucky and privileged I am to have a job in which I can work from home. The government needs to do more to ensure workers get paid sick days to protect them and to vaccinate vulnerable citizens.

This is because I believe in the vaccines and know that the first shot will offer an excellent layer of protection. I will still be extremely vigilant about what I do, but I’ll definitely feel a sense of calm I haven’t had throughout the pandemic.

I wish more people believed in the COVID-19 vaccines.

So far in Canada, 12.8 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. About two-thirds of them received Pfizer, one-fifth received Moderna and the rest AstraZeneca.

One problem is the different messaging that keeps coming out about different vaccines, including today (Monday).

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be limited to people over the age of 30 who don't want to wait for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said Monday.

The advice is almost identical to that issued by the expert panel for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine last month and comes as both are suspected of causing a new and exceedingly rare blood-clotting syndrome.

"The viral-vector vaccines are very effective vaccines, but there is a safety signal, a safety risk," NACI vice-chair Dr. Shelley Deeks told a virtual news conference.

"And the issue with the safety signal is that although it's very rare, it is very serious. And so individuals need to have an informed choice to be vaccinated with the first vaccine that's available, or to wait for an mRNA vaccine. They need to be aware that those are the options available to them."

Deeks said the issue is not whether one vaccine is better at preventing COVID-19, but the fact that two vaccines have this known safety risk, and the mRNA vaccines do not.

For people who are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 because they live or work somewhere they are likely to be exposed, or those who are at higher risk of serious illness from it, there likely is a benefit to getting AstraZeneca or J&J earlier rather than waiting even a few more weeks for Pfizer or Moderna, which are both mRNA vaccines.

The problem is people hear these messages and let their fears interpret it into something else, which leads to hesitancy at a time when we need people on board with getting vaccinated.

- With files from the Canadian Press

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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