Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Sending more time with family" is now a popular career move for top politicians

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just carried out another cabinet reshuffle. A shuffle like this is often a prelude to an election, and most people seem to believe that a federal election will indeed be called this year, perhaps as early as the spring, although Trudeau insists that it is the last thing he wants.

The main instigating event, though, is the announcement by current Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains, a long-time Trudeau insider, that he will not seek re-election and is to stand down from his cabinet post, which he has held for the last 4 years. The awkwardly-named ministry is a pretty high profile one, and Mr. Bains must be considered to be at the height of his career. Which makes me wonder, cynical as I am, what the REAL reason behind his announcement is.

The stated reason for Mr. Bains' departure is that old chestnut, to spend more time with family: "It's time for me to focus on the most important job I have, being a Dad". There's even a whole back-story to it, that his daughter mentioned one day that, were he to be elected for another four years, she would be grown up and in university by then, which made Mr. Bains stop and think about his priorities in life. 

It's a good story, but I (cynical as I am) can't help but think: wait, a top level politician of this kind has to be so drive and so ambitious that very few of them can have had such a life-altering Damascene moment, and chucked a high level and lucrative career to help a teenager with her homework. See, cynical!

The "wanting to spend more time with family" line has been used over and over again when major politicians and business people stand down from top jobs, and it doesn't always mean what it says. Often people turn out to have been pushed out, or are being proactive in avoiding some kind of a scandal. 

This may not be the case with Navdeep Bains, but it just seems a bit disingenuous to me for politicians to always resort to the family  explanation, rather than saying something like, "I realized I could make more money as a lawyer or a corporate consultant" or, "I am totally disillusioned with federal politics". Rather, it seems to me, spending more time with my family" is a recognized shorthand for "I don't want to talk about the real reasons".

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Why we need a comprehensive paid sick leave program

Pretty much everyone I speak to, and many of the people I read, cite the lack of paid sick leave in Canada (and elsewhere) as being a major contributor to the continuing spread of COVID-19. Workers in essential industries, from healthcare to warehousing to manufacturing to food production, keep on working even when they get sick, because they need the money coming in and their employers (and their governments) do not offer paid sick leave.

The federal government did introduce the Canada Revovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) last fall, which it claims is basically the same as paid sick leave. But the program requires users to navigate a government website to apply for it, and payments may be delayed several weeks, which does not answer the need for short term cash (for rent, groceries, etc) that these generally low-paid workers have. 

Activists in the field often point to Germany as an example of a good comprehensive paid sick leave system. And Germany has fared better than many countries, although certainly not as good as others, as regards the virus. Either way, though, common sense dictates that the rash of industry-related outbreaks (and the elevated incidence of COVID cases in areas with lots of warehouses, food distribution businesses, etc, like Surrey, BC and Brampton, Ontario) could have been alleviated by paid sick leave. 

If the government is willing to help by instituting a program like CRSB, then why not go the whole hog and make it a mandatory and immediate paid sick leave program?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The supply of vaccines depends on how much countries pay for doses

It had never occurred to me that different countries would be paying different prices for the same COVID-19 vaccines.

The only reason we really know anything about that is due to a tweet from from a Belgian budget official. The tweet was hastily deleted, but not before the price the European Union is paying for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine ($14.76 per dose) was compared to the price the USA is paying ($19.50). Now, it is possible that some of that difference is due to the subsidies the EU provided towards the vaccine's development. The total number of doses ordered may also play into it, as may the speed of delivery. But it seems like few other people had thought about how much different countries were paying for the vaccines either, and countries were not going to be widely broadcasting that information.

There are significant differences in the relative prices of other vaccines too (all courtesy of that same unfortunate tweet): the EU will pay about 45% less than the USA for the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 20% more for the Moderna vaccine. Again, this may (or may not) be a function of the relative investments made by these countries to the development of the vaccines. AstraZeneca's response to requests for information was that, "The price per dose varies depending on the supply chain. We are unable to comment on specific agreements". Which is not very helpful.

It is not clear how much Israel has paid in order to obtain such large quantities so quickly. (Israel is streets ahead of any other country in the proportion if its population already innoculated.) Did they just pay lots of dosh to get preferential treatment? Is this fair? One leaked report suggests that Israel may have paid as much as $30 per dose to get such a large early supply, two to three times the reported market price per dose. This is how the "Israeli miracle" was achieved. Added to this, Palestinians under Israel occupation are not getting vaccinated, while Israelis illegally squatting on Palestinian territory are, but that is, as they say, a whole other issue. If you are cynical, you might say that the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is due to contest yet another general election in March may also have had something to do with the strong push for early vaccinations, cost be damned.

The whole issue is quite opaque and clearly very sensitive. The Canadian government is not releasing any information about how much Canada is paying for the vaccines it has ordered, and this is becoming much more of a concern as our supply of the vaccines seems to be drying up (or at least progressing much more slowly than promised), and the provinces are complaining that they urgently need more doses. They have huge unused vaccinating capacity as a result, they say, of lack of supply from the federal procurement system.

It has also come to light that Ottawa has offered to pay more in order to expedite supplies of the vaccines, which seems like an embarrassing public admission, and reflects poorly on the whole process. And where does this leave poor countries, many of which are faring much worse than we are?

All of this shouldn't come as a surprise to me. Drug companies are commercial enterprises, out to make a buck. I just naively thought that such considerations might have taken a back seat during such a global crisis.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Duck-billled platypus' genome is as weird as you might expect

I have read several articles recently about the duck-billed platypus, that weirdest-of-the-weird animal from Down Under, the one with the bill and webbed feet of a waterbird, the venomous ankle-spikes, the biofluorescent fur, and the ten sex chromosomes (unlike every other mammal, which have just two), that lays eggs but still feeds its young on its milk (even if it happens to secrete it through sweat glands!), and hunts using electroreception (emitting electrical impulses to locate objects in the water).

It is such a strange beast that it appears to be a random mish-mash of several different animals, the closest thing we have to a real-life chimera. The latest information we have gleaned (and the reason for the recent proliferation of articles), shows that that is actually not that far off the truth.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have now mapped the complete genome of the platypus, as well as that of the only other living monotreme, the short-beaked echidna. Monotremes are unrelated to any other living mammal, having split away from other mammals as long ago as 170 million years, a time when the early dinosaurs were colonizing the earth, and millions of years before other modern mammals emerged. The duck-billed platypus in particular appears to have genes similar to both mammals and birds, and even some otherwise found only in reptiles.

This report comes almost a year after another groundbreaking study of platypuses, which suggests that this weird and wonderful animal may be "on the path to extinction", and could see its population halved by 2070 as a result of development and the effects of climate change (particularly droughts).

Republicans' continued pursuance of the "stolen election" fiction makes no sense

After Wednesday's shocking insurrection at the US Capitol building, many Republican congress-men and -women seem to have seen the error of their ways and have definitively broken with Donald Trump, and with his assertion that the election was "stolen" from him. For many, Trump has well and truly "jumped the shark" with his incitement of the far-right rent-a-mob, and with his dogged pursuance of the electoral fraud narrative, even in the face of over 60 failed court cases.

A disquieting number of them, however, remain intransigently adamant that the election was indeed fraudulent, despite all evidence to the contrary. Just hours after the storming of the hallowed halls of Congress by an unruly mob, no less than 147 Republican members of Congress objected to the certification of Joe Biden as President (8 Senators and 139 Representatives). This represents just 5% of Republican Senators (chief among them Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both of whom have pretentions to standing for president in 2024), but fully two-thirds of the Republican Representatives in the House.

So, what gives? Are these people making a principled stand against what they see as an egregious miscarriage of justice? Are they just grandstandingor shit-disturbing for no apparent good reason? Are they still in thrall to the Svengali-like charisma of Trump, or maybe scared of what push-back or retaliation Trump might enact? Are they just stupid? What is their angle?

Arguably, Cruz and Hawley have at least some motivation, keen as they both are to inherit the mantle of Trumpism for themselves in the next election, as well as the hordes of rabid and undiscriminating supporters that come with it (although they are facing a substantial backlash from everybody else). But why would all these other lesser-known Republicans stick with the "stolen election" fiction? Even Trump seems to have pretty much given up on it, and has been broadcasting something close to acceptance of the result (in between more claims of skullduggery and fraud - the man has not suddenly become all sensible and consistent!)

Maybe this all makes some kind of twisted sense to Americans, but to the billions of us outside of the USA it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Friday, January 08, 2021

No, the kids are not alright

As it is announced that Ontario (or at least southern Ontario) is to keep in-class school learning closed for at least another two weeks, I have finally, after all this time, seen a breakdown of Ontario's COVID-19 positivity rates by age group.

And it is as I had suspected and feared: the highest rates, by a long chalk, are among teens and younger. 12-13 year olds are the worst with a 20% positivity rate, followed by 4-11 year olds (16%), and 14-17 year olds (14%). Even 2-3 year olds have a positivity rate of 9%, similar to the rate for 18-22 year olds, and 23-29 year olds are not far behind (8%). Thereafter, as the age groups increase, the positivity rates fall, until all the over-50 age ranges have relatively moderate rates of around 5-6%. All of the positivity rates are increasing week by week, and those of the teenagers and younger kids are increasing fast, doubling weekly in the case of 12-13 year olds.

So, it is mainly kids that are spreading this thing, even if they are not showing many symptoms. They should have been testing schoolkids regularly and often since September (then we might not be in this situation now). I am very glad that Ontario at least has seen sense and is keeping kids home from school (Quebec, on the other hand, has gone the other direction on this). And all those people who are kvetching that kids are "special", and it is imperative that they be allowed to attend school in person, will hopefully see that there is a bigger picture here.


And now, finally, there is scientific evidence that keeping kids home from school significantly reduces the community spread of the virus (along with banning gatherings of more than five people, and closing bars and restaurants). I rest my case.

Lockdown policing gone wild

Sometimes - actually quite often - you read things that make you very grateful that you live where you do, and not somewhere else. I'm not referring to the embarrassing goings-on in the USA, although that definitely falls into that category. What made me stop and think this particular morning occurred in my birth county of Derbyshire, England.

Two young women had driven about 5 miles from their home to go for a walk at the usually quiet and peaceful Foremark Reservoir. There, they encountered several police cars and "loads" of police officers. The two women assumed that there had been a crime in the area, maybe even a murder. They were even more surprised, then, when police officers headed straight for them and handed them a £200 fine each. 

It turns out that the police officers were very liberally interpreting the local lockdown laws, which forbid citizens from travelling out of their "local area" for exercise. "Local area", though, is not actually defined anywhere in law, and various government departments failed to give the BBC a straight answer on how it should be interpreted. 

Derbyshire Police defended the officers' actions, arguing that it is up to individual officers on a case by case basis. In this case, they had argued that driving somewhere for a walk was "not in the spirit " of the lockdown, and that carrying two cups of takeaway Starbucks coffee could be "classed as a picnic", which is also disallowed under lockdown rules.

Well, yes, but you have to be sensible about it. The two friends had arrived in separate cars from their respective homes and and were maintaining their distance from each other. What they were doing seems entirely within the spirit if the law. In fact, there is no law as such against driving somewhere for exercise, and lawyers agree that police have no power to enforce what are just government guidance and recommendations. Surely, a simple warning should have sufficed if they really thought that the women's behaviour was out of line.

Basically, the police officers were just making a bad pandemic unnecessarily worse for two unsuspecting individuals.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Some good news for a change: there is hope for Swinhoe's softshell turtle

If you are depressed about this here pandemic and all the shenanigans going on in Washington DC, then a smidgen of good news might just cheer you up.

The good news starts with some bad news: Swinhoe's softshell turtle (also known as the Hoan Kiem turtle or the Yangste giant softshell turtle) is the most endangered turtle in the world, one of the most endangered animals in the world. Up until April 2019, there were just two of them left, a male and a female, living in Suzhou Zoo, near Shanghai, China. Then, the female, died of childbirth complications after last-ditch artificial insemination, following years of unsuccessful natural breeding attempts. It was thought that there was, then, just one animal left alive, with no chance of continuing the species.

Then, this last October, after months of searching, Vietnamese researchers discovered a female Swinhoe's softshell turtle in Dong Mo Lake in Vietnam, a healthy, 190lb giant in good condition and of breeding age. The animal was released back into its home lake for now, and is being closely monitored. It is thought that there may also be another turtle, a male, in the same lake, and possibly a third in nearby Xuan Khanh Lake.

The Swinhoe's softshell turtle is not out of the woods yet, so to speak. But there is now at least some hope for the species.

Canada is not protecting its borders against the pandemic

Despite the fact that, appearances to the contrary, Canada seems to be dealing reasonably well with the the pandemic, at least compared to many other countries, there is still much that could have been, and still can be, improved on. 

One such thing is to clamp down on international travel. The countries that have really done well - think Taiwan, South Korea, Australia - are those that introduced strict, even draconian, measures to restrict travellers entering the country, and, when people do enter, for legitimate essential purposes, they are tested, quarantined, traced and generally made uncomfortably conscious of their responsibilities.

Canada has imposed no such restrictions until just this week, when anyone flying into Canada must show proof of a negative PCR test result; otherwise, they will not be allowed to board the plane, whether their flight is for essential purposes or not. Once arrived in Canada, all passengers, wherever they are arriving from, will need to show evidence of a pre-arranged 14 day quarantine plan; otherwise, they will be placed in a federal quarantine facility for the 14 days. (The announcement further rules that federal quarantine facility will also be used for anyone coming from a country that does not offer PCR tests, although just how that squares with the requirement for a PCR test before boarding, I don't know).

It still seems very strange to me that: 1) Canada has come so belatedly to this realization, and 2) that we are letting anyone at all into the country if they don't have a very specific and very essential purpose. Why are we allowing tourists in, for example, from anywhere at all? Hell, we are even opening the country up to travellers from the UK, of all places. Why are airlines aggressively marketing overseas beach holidays at the same time as we are being told by our governments to shelter in place and not leave our local area, never mind our country? Talk about cognitive dissonance! But don't expect airlines to put the public good before profitability (or, as they woukd probably describe it, survival).

And it's not just international flights that are being under-policed. Thousands of truck drivers each day drive over the border from the States, and they are inexplicably exempt from testing and quarantine rules. I'm sure most of them are on official essential business, but there is no monitoring at all, and no requirement for a negative test. We are inviting in thousands of people from COVID Ground Zero, and we have no idea how many of them are infected. At the very least, we should be insisting that truck drivers be tested regularly before they cross the border.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Georgia Senate run-offs called for Democrats - look out!

Some, but not all, news outlets have already called the two Georgia Senate run-off elections, both in favour of the Democrats.

Get ready for civil war...


Yup, here we go. Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol in Washington DC, while a joint session of Congress was underway to certify Joe Biden's electoral win. Vice President Mike Pence (who had just rejected Trump's last-ditch pressure to block Biden's win) was hastily ushered out of the building, and the whole area was locked down by security forces. Members of Congress in the building were advised to don gas masks, before being evacuated to a safe place. Four people are reported to have died during the armed standoff, one shot and three dead from separate mysterious "medical emergencies".

Footage of coup attempts in Venezuela and Belarus are probably trending as we speak. And that noise? It's the sound of America's reputation going down the toilet.

Meanwhile, almost as a footnote to all these shenanigans, both Georgia run-offs were indeed called for the Democrats and the Democratic Party now has the trifecta - control of the Presidency, the House of Representatives and the Senate - which will make Joe Biden's job of undoing all the havoc that has been wreaked in the country over the last four year just a bit easier. On any other day, this would be huge news; today, it received scant attention.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

How will a curfew help?

The province of Quebec, which is having a horrible second wave of COVID-19, is seriously considering bringing in a curfew, with an announcement expected to be made tomorrow. Fines of between $1,000 and $6,000 are being suggested. This would be a first for Canada, although many other countries are going down that route, even as we speak.

Supposedly, the theory behind curfews is to "reduce non-essential interactions between people from different households", especially at times "when people tend to participate in non-essential social gatherings that often result in less compliance with social distancing guidance and mask mandates". (Read: get drunk).

I understand all that. But I am at a loss to understand just how a curfew might help anything in practice. Who are they expecting to keep at home after 7pm or 8pm or whatever? What are these people to be prevented from doing? Bars are not open anyway, neither restaurants. I suppose some young risk-takers and rebels might conceivably be meeting up and socializing out of doors after dark, but we don't need a curfew to police that kind of rule-breaking behaviour, we just need a police force.

So, are we trying to stop people from going for walks at a time when the streets are less busy? Or maybe essential workers who have to go shopping late in the day?

Is there any evidence that curfews actually work in this kind of circumstance? A quick trawl of the internet turns up a whole host of web-pages claiming the contrary, but many of these have their own axe to grind. So, what about more official sources. Well, studies are few and far between, but the indications suggest otherwise. In fact, curfews could cause people to socialize indoors in secret, making things worse, not better. People who feel they have to get drunk on a regular basis are going to do that, come what may. Adding a curfew into the mix is just going to piss people off.

As a Montreal professor of public health notes, "the curfew is unlikely to lead to big changes in urban hot spots where bars and restaurants have been closed since October", and "the government's goal is likelier to shock people into observing the rules". Other public health experts in Canada seem to think that a curfew is unlikely to prevent much social contact, and furthermore warn that a big problem with curfews is the possibility of a rebound when the curfew is finally lifted. School closings, on the other hand, are widely considered a very effective measure for limiting the spread of the virus and - go figure! - Quebec is going the opposite way on that, and opening schools up! 

Experts are warning that, curfew or no curfew, this kind of "lockdown light" (i.e. anything short of a complete, Australia-type, draconian lockdown) is unlikely to be effective at this point. And, of course, the civil liberties people have jumped all over it, despite the rather tame nature of this latest lockdown model and the inprecedented crisis levels in the hospitals of Canada's largest and most populous provinces.

So, curfews are what governments opt for when they don't know what else to do. No-one really knows if they work, but at least something is being seen to be done. Apparently, the only thing a curfew might actually achieve is to bring home to people that things really are desperate, and that it is time for last resorts. But do we really need to be reminded of that? Is it actually in any doubt?

Trump's (maybe) final gesture: allow oil drilling in sensitive Arctic areas

As a parting gesture, the lame-duck (dead duck?) Trump administration has forced through one last insult to the environment, just for good measure. 

Having passed a law allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as part of his signature 2017 tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill, supposedly as a means of paying for the tax cuts, Trump has now made very sure to follow through, during the sad waning days of his odious regime, by auctioning off parts of the ANWR to his friends among the oil drillers.

The ANWR was established by Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 to protect the migratory and calving lands of the endangered porcupine caribou herds and the increasingly important land habitat of polar bears as climate change continues to decimate their ice-floe hunting grounds. It is also a sacred place for local Indigenous bands.

Trump and his Republican friends, though, are not big fans of wild animals or Indigenous rights, whereas they are big fans of oil and money. So, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the direction of tame Trump man Andrew Wheeler, has been directed to ensure the leases are sold off before Joe Biden can come in and protect the Arctic lands once and for all, as he has promised to do. Yes, that's right, the Environmental Protection Agency selling off protected lands to the highest bidder! Once sold, it will be very difficult for Biden to legally claw back the lands, although he could make them less desirable by imposing regulatory hurdles.

It's an unfortunate and spiteful action at the end of an administration that has been disastrous for the environment. The only possible silver lining is that oil companies, which ironically are more environmentally-conscious than Trump & Co, and which are at least governed by economics and practicalities, might balk at buying up leases that some organizations have valued at a much lower level than Trump's estimations, especially with the knowledge that a new federal administration is coming in that might make their investments even less appealing.

Wouldn't it be nice to see oil companies coming out and saying that no, this is the wrong thing to do, that the polar bears and caribou need the lands more than they do? Don't hold your breath on that one, though.


Well, oil companies didn't exactly come out full of environmental passion and outrage, but maybe this was the next best thing. In their own economic interests, major oil players like Exxon, Shell and BP decided to forego the Alaska auction, preferring to invest in renewable energy projects, leaving an Alaskan state agency as the only bidder. The auction raised a measly $15 million, a small sliver of what Trump & Co had hoped and predicted.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Canada became much more pro-immigration during the pandemic

As we enter into another calendar year, and after almost a year of pandemic across the world, many articles in print and online have been taking stock of how our lives have changed and how our attitudes have changed.

One interesting one, based on surveys of Canadian attitudes by the public opinion research and polling firm, the Environics Institute, shows how Canadian attitudes towards immigration have changes in the decades since the 1970s, but particularly over the last year.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, and even well into the 90s, the percentage of Canadians who believed that there was too much immigration into Canada was between 60% and 70%, and those who disagreed languished around 30%-40%. There was a sea change in attitudes in the 1990s, and since the early 2000s those percentages have reversed, with less than 40% agreeing with such a proposition and a steady 60% saying that there is most definitely not too much immigration into the country.

Over the much shorter period of the plague year of 2020, that sea change has gained new impetus, and the curve steepened precipitously until some 66% of Canadians now think that there is not too much immigration, and the proportion that thinks that there is too much fell to around 28%.

So, unlike some countries (or at least some populist leaders) that have seen the pandemic as an excuse to double down on immigration and to stress nationalist and  nativist policies of all kinds, Canada has gone even further the other way, embracing openness, inclusiveness and internationalism.

As for why, I can only think that Canadians have been very cognizant of the fact that, during the pandemic, the country has been almost entirely dependent on essential workers and healthcare workers, the vast majority of which are demonstrably racialized and from immigrant backgrounds. This has clearly been enough to make people stop and think that, oh yes, without them we would be struggling in the dark during these lockdowns, whereas in fact, despite all our complaining and kvetching, our lives have not actually changed that much.

Recent immigrants, and their families and descendants, have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic so that the rest of us do not have to be. We owe them a huge vote of thanks, and the polling data reflects that.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Why are so many healthcare workers refusing the COVID vaccine?

I've read so many articles about vaccine hesitancy and, even more specifically, the outright refusal of some healthcare and frontline workers to take advantage of the COVID-19 vaccines.

For example, only 40% of Ohio nursing home staff are planning to get the vaccine, more than half of the staff of a large Houston hospital  are going to refuse it, 55% of New York firefighters are planning on refusing it, over half of staff at a Riverside, California, hospital will be refusing it, as will over 40% of Chicago hospital workers, and 20-40% of LA County frontline workers. These are large numbers in areas where the pandemic is running rampant, and areas where Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately affected by the virus (65% of fatalities, according to one study). 

In more general terms, a December poll in the US showed that vaccine hesitancy is more pronounced among healthcare workers (29%) than among the general publc (27%), which is a strange turn-up.

These are all American studies (and I can only hope that these people have re-thought it since), but the situation in Canada is probably similar. For example, one BC study found that only 57% of long-term care workers were keen to get the vaccine.

Part of the issue seems to be that healthcare and frontline workers in North America tend to be Black or Asian, and people of colour in general are much more reticent to get the vaccine. In one large survey, less than 43% of Black people say they are definitely or probably going to be vaccinated. Among some of the stated reasons for this in America are a perceived lack of Black and Latino involvement in research and testing of the drugs, a distrust of Donald Trump and his accelerated rush of the vaccines (as though he was the only person looking to expedite the process!), and in some cases a belief that Trump and his administration is actively trying to harm certain segments of society in some way. Most of this is firmly in the realm of conspiracy theories, but nonetheless firmly believed.

Often, in America at least, the Tuskagee Syphilis Study is referenced as an example of the "culture of medical exploitation, abuse and neglect of Black Americans". Why people would assume that the same thing is going to happen with the COVID vaccine as happened in that particular egregious case of unethical and racist surgeries, I have no idea. Be that as it may, some see the push to get healthcare workers first as evidence of a negarious experiment on people of colour, not a commonsense protection of those most at risk. There is very little that can be done in the face of this kind of suspicion and mistrust.

Interestingly, some studies suggest that vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers is often a temporary thing: they are not refusing it outright, but would like to see si months or a year of results in the general public before they get rhe shot themselves. There is also some evidence that education (or lack of it) plays into the decision: most healthcare workers who say they will definitely get the vaccine have at least a college education, and over half of those who say they will definitely not get the vaccine have not been educated beyond high school.

Even in Canada, healthcare workers seem to have an innate distrust of governments. But it's not just governments that are making the assurances here: do they also distrust the pharmacare compamies that have spent months testing their vaccines, and the federal agencies throughout the world that have re-tested and approved them. Do these people distrust everyone? And anyway, what viable choices do they really have? Do they want to continue laying themselves and their families open to the virus. After all, as one Canadian nurse laconically quipped about the vaccines, "it's safer than COVID".

But anti-vaccination sentiments are, almost by their very nature, not logical, not science-based. A straight comparison of the possible risks and benefits would leave no-one in any doubt about the best way to proceed. But risks and benefits are just two of the factors at play here. 

Be that as it may, if the general public sees healthcare workers refusing the vaccine, then you have to know that the already high rates of vaccine hesitancy will only get worse. Maybe it's not fair to ask even more of healthcare workers, but I do believe that they have a responsibility to lead on this - many of them have been quite outspoken in this regard - I'm not sure how we will get to herd immunity otherwise.