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Welcome to season four of 'piss-poor' public health comms
If a masked Theresa Tam holds a boosted press conference to end the summer of 2023, but no one's there to hear it because we're all busy being normal, does it make a sound?
Here’s the bad news:
This week, Health Canada snap-approved a new Moderna COVID vaccine for the XBB.1.5 variant for 6-month-olds, kids, and teens, based on a study involving only 50 individuals. Of those 50 individuals, none were under 21 years old.
Oh, and Canada’s chief health bureaucrat Theresa Tam, expects you to “get your mask ready.”
But here’s the good news:
This time, no one cares.
Even at my annual physical this week, in an unmasked doctor’s office in midtown Toronto, with Tam neo-asphyxiating along in the background on CP24 in the waiting room, the mere sliver of a thought of a booster never came up. There were bigger fish to fry: actual matters of health and public health to be dealt with, that exist relatively within our control.
I get my blood pressure checked, receive some routine bloodwork, refill my Ramipril prescription (thanks, mandated second dose of Pfizer), and opt for a 5k jog home.
Along the way, I stumble upon more safe injection ‘success stories’ than I do masks. In a rapidly declining city of three million-plus, I notice perhaps a dozen wayward souls still treating the air as their most pressing threat while they cycle amid endless construction sites and potholes without a helmet, and where every major thoroughfare exists as a veritable Travellers Rest for violent schizophrenics made all the worse by government-brand hydromorphone, or ‘the harder stuff’ that comes in through the Port of Vancouver via China.
When I get home, I’m greeted by a handful of messages from a few concerned physicians who are worried that the government's COVID panics of the past have begun anew.
“What on earth are they doing? We’re not seeing (any) COVID in my hospital right now, won’t this just cause worry?”
“Can you ask about the province’s ‘fall preparedness plan’? I’m officially concerned they’re going to blow this again.”
“I wouldn’t even recommend the booster to my parents at this point. But to kids? Really?”
“They know masks don’t work, right? The data are piss-poor.”
And therein lies the issue with not just our now desperate and fledgling Covid Industrial Complex, but with modern attention-deficit-disordered government, where the perception of doing, or having done, something continues to trump all matters of rhyme or reason.
On the most benign of days, suddenly comes anxiety, and the fear of the other shoe having dropped once again, all because our best and brightest communicators don’t work in bureaucracy, and a few middle-management types wanted to send an emphatic message to Liberal wine moms and the men who look and act like Bruce Arthur or Tim Caulfield.
And, of course, not a single serious member of the press gallery asked the obvious question about mixed messaging from the nation’s alleged ‘top doc’:
“That previously banned vaccine is fine for your child now, we swear. And it *definitely* works this time, too. Hey, wait, where’s everyone going?”
If there are more silver linings to be found, and if recent uptake numbers are to be believed, Tam’s announcement, to go along with the CDC’s heavy-handed endorsement that ignores more rational guidance from Europe, will likely only end up mattering to 10-15% of the Western populace, and that’s perhaps being generous.
Far too many individuals had bad reactions, to unremarkable reactions, to “holy hell, this made no damned difference, did it?” reactions. And far too many now have a cursory understanding of the trappings of a ‘non-sterilizing’ vaccine or the concepts of ‘hybrid’ and T/B-cell immunity.
Even one of the world’s foremost vaccine experts Paul Offit, an FDA vaccine adviser, is telling the relatively young and healthy to be wary of this latest round of Trustin’ the Science:
So why has the messaging been this bad? Even now? I can appreciate that many COVID commentators will turn to malice as a motivator, and that there are those who have been all but radicalized by the past few years (and in many ways understandably so), but the likely truth of the matter is much less remarkable, if no less depressing.
Like the Patriot Act before it, we are living in the years-too-long death throes of Operation Warp Speed, and such money, power, and influence are seldom handed back willingly or expediently.
There are still billions in over-procured contracts to fulfill, expiring and unpopular products to move, Ontario Moderna plants to subsidize to the hilt, and a few hundred lobbyists left to appease.
I’m not your doctor, so far be it for me to end on medical advice, but neither are they, and neither is Dr. Tam — and both couldn’t be doing a worse job if they tried. But that’s the whole point.
Welcome to the big business of anxiety and uncertainty. It ain’t boomin’ like it used to be, but if you’re still feelin’ a certain kind of way, don’t worry, there’s a shot for that.
There’s no need to line up this time. They’ve got plenty of 'em.
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