R. M. Huffman is a physician, author, and observer of culture. Find him on Twitter at @Huff4Congress
The world has entered the third year of the pandemic. By and large, the same players are still making the same dire pronouncements and demanding the same expanded powers as they have throughout the initial spread of the virus, then Delta, and now Omicron.
But the end must eventually come, because of – or despite, perhaps – public health initiatives, medical interventions, and the natural epidemiological course of the disease. And as it does, it’s important to recognize the potential risks that governments have unwittingly presented to their populations, especially among young people in good health.
Myocarditis and pericarditis – inflammation of heart tissue – have been known complications of mRNA vaccines since the therapies’ emergence, even prompting some countries to temporarily pull some from the market. The people most at risk of this debilitating and, in some cases, fatal, complication are males in their teens and twenties. From the first few months of data from around the world, authorities have known that Covid-19 is a disease that primarily endangers the elderly, the obese, and the chronically ill.
Why has there been such an effort expended to convince the young, fit, and healthy that they must take the same preventative precautions as those cohorts? Invariably, when a claim is made that children are at higher risk of death from the vaccine than the virus, ‘fact checkers’ at major news outlets respond with unequivocal ‘pants on fire’ ratings and subsequent explanations that no children are at risk of death from the jab.
While the US’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database of post-vaccine problems is a self-reporting system and isn’t meant to be used as a source of experimental data, it seems irresponsible to discount such reporting altogether. Why, otherwise, does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration bother to co-maintain VAERS at all? And if adverse outcomes are vastly undercounted, as some caution, then journalistic insistence that kids aren’t at risk is highly inappropriate, especially as reports certainly do exist in international news that children have died after Covid vaccination.
Whatever the final tally of healthy minors whose lives will be debilitated or cut short from being vaccinated for a disease they may not ever have contracted and almost certainly would have survived without sequelae, the number will not be zero, and ‘fact checkers’ have no epistemological means to claim otherwise.
In Britain, physicians are warning of cardiovascular consequences of ‘post-pandemic stress disorder’ that could affect hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people aged under 45. These numbers are troubling. The virus itself has been a source of stress, no doubt, but much of the pervasive mental anguish that’s settled into the psyches of under-40s like pea-soup fog is due to heavy-handed government mandates and restrictions, not the threat of illness. What or who, then, deserves the blame for this looming wave of infirmity? The coronavirus itself? Or the authorities who, well-meaning or not, closed schools, shuttered stores, set curfews, and upended life in general?
The Western world has battled a weight problem for decades longer than Covid has existed, and for many, unfortunately, obesity has been the difference between survival and mortality. Rather than serving as a klaxon warning to put down the pizza and go for a jog, the pandemic has turned the slow growth of the world’s waistline into a sudden bloated bulge.
Obesity rates have risen over the past two years: gyms have been forced to close, food delivery services have exploded, and many people, for much of that time, have been obliged to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. Most concerning is the trend in children, in whom the increase in body mass index has doubled since the start of Covid. Two years (and counting) of poor dietary and exercise habits can be hard to break, and obesity, of course, has always been linked to heart disease, as well as sleep apnea, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Is the medical community ready to treat the (shortened) lifetimes of chronic diseases resulting from the pandemic generation becoming the most overfed in history?
In this discussion of actual, physical hurting hearts, let’s not forget the metaphorical. Coronavirus – or, more accurately, governments’ responses to it – has also prompted a loneliness epidemic. Social isolation is affecting millions of people, cut off from employment, bars and restaurants, schools, and even holidays with family – and those in their teens and twenties are feeling it most acutely. It isn’t simply a psychological matter: studies have found that loneliness can affect cardiovascular health to the same extent as smoking or obesity. At what point must a demographic at low risk for poor Covid outcomes decide that the ‘protections’ they’ve been told are for their own benefit are causing more harm – mental, emotional, and even physical – than good?
Thousands of tickers around the globe have become ticking time bombs, thanks in large part to measures intended to combat coronavirus. But governments and pharmaceutical companies have collectively agreed that none of them should bear responsibility or assume liability for any of these outcomes. Much of what’s discussed here can be mitigated with individual choices, of course. Lose weight if you need to; reach out to friends and family, in person and online; be informed about the statistical benefits and risks of vaccination versus Covid infection for people in your age and health demographics. For what can’t be changed, though, it’s up to us to remember who’s been in charge during Covid-19, what plans they made and powers they executed, and what the outcomes were, for good or for ill.
For some, however, such a reckoning will come too late.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Urmia.com