How "Dangerous" is My Vaccine?

Apr 17, 2021

(HINT: A lot less risky than getting covid, jumping into a boat or on a snowmobile)

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at DCP

It is one of the first things you learn in pharmacy school. All medications are drugs and drugs are technically poisons; but used correctly they save lives and help people live better. There is always some calculated risk versus the benefit. Whether it is antibiotic use, blood pressure pills or treating cholesterol, there is always a small risk a drug will act as a poison more than a medication, although this is rare. This is the case when considering vaccinations. Unless you have been living on a deserted island in the middle of Lake Winnipegosis; you have heard about the blood clot issues with both the Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I want to be clear; this article is not to say everyone must get vaccinated and its not to say there is no concern. It is just a look at the actual numbers and data we have available which help determine the actual risk, which compared to "life" is quite low!

Almost everything you do has some risks associated with it. Google told me my lightning strike risk, is about 1 in 500,000 per year. The Canadian Cancer society reports 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime. About 1 out of 4 is expected to die from cancer. US Census data says your odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 188 364, compared with 1 in 1100 for drowning and 1 in 103 for a motor vehicle crash. About 75 Canadians die in a snowmobile accident every year, which is astonishingly high considering most Canadians have never been on a snowmobile. The risk of getting a blood clot while on a flight is about 1 in 1000, due to the flying altitude and circulation issues in your feet while seated. Even knowing the odds and risk, we still play in the rain, eat foods containing chemicals we cannot pronounce preserved with oils we should not consume and stored in plastics we should not heat, which are all linked to being carcinogens. We smoke cigarettes and have drinks. We jump in the car, sometimes without buckling up, keep the life jacket under the seat, and I for one cannot wait to get back in a plane, even though flying makes me super nervous. Snowmobiles were sold out this winter.

The blood clots being talked about are significant, serious and can cause death. It is not to be taken lightly. However, the data is showing the risk of developing a severe blood clot like the media is talking about is quite rare. In fact, most consider it extremely rare. Best estimates are currently somewhere between 1 in 150 000 to 1 in 250 000 based on UK data. In Canada, so far, we have seen 1 blood clot in over 500 000 Astra Zeneca vaccinations given. The USA saw 6 clot cases in 7 million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.

Also, comparing the risk we are seeing to the regular population; about 13 in 1000 people are at risk of getting any type of blood clot at some point. If you test positive for Covid 19 the clot risk is anywhere from 15 to 20 in 100 people. Yes, that is a 15 to 20% chance. Other medications also put you at risk for blood clots. Birth control users have a risk of about 9 people out of 1000. A smoker who uses birth control is even at higher risk.

Vaccinations often slow the transfer of illness from person to person, loved one to loved one, although we are not sure how effective this is with covid vaccination it does seem to be working to prevent transmission. While covid will likely just be a "flu" for the young healthy person, it might be more severe for someone else. Think about the hospital worker who is at high risk daily. What about your kid's teacher, or a grandparent? Consider the local business owner who needs this pandemic to end. In Manitoba about 35 000 people have tested positive for covid-19. To get herd immunity about 800 000 people need to get covid or get vaccinated. With a fragile health system, the government simply cannot another 750 000 people get infected. Vaccination may be the only way out of this.

Everyone is entitled to their own decision about receiving a covid vaccination. Some may wait, some may not get it. I respect everyone's decision, our pharmacy respects everyone's decision even though we are providing the vaccine. What is appreciated is to help inform people of the facts and try to improve healthy living and safety in our community. You can do your part by helping spread the correct information to allow everyone to make an informed decision, whichever it may be. My advice: get vaccinated with the first one offered to you.


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