Confusion. Anger. Despair.
Those things aren’t, typically, the sort of things that expert governmental bodies are expected to generate. But the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is truly unique, isn’t it?
Before the pandemic, nobody had really heard about the committee, now often referred to by its acronym, NACI. This writer actually had, because I was the Chief of Staff to a federal Liberal Minister of Health. But most other folks didn’t know much about NACI. That’s no longer the case.
NACI has become famous – or, more likely, infamous.
On their Government of Canada website, NACI describe themselves as “a national advisory committee of experts in the fields of pediatrics, infectious diseases, immunology, pharmacy, nursing, epidemiology, pharmacoeconomics, social science and public health.”
“Experts.” We’ll come back to that in a moment.
NACI has been around since 1964. It says its main task is to “provide ongoing and timely medical, scientific and public health advice.” During the pandemic, the “experts” say they “make recommendations for the use of vaccines.”
So let’s take a look at those, shall we?
Months ago, NACI not only proclaimed that AstraZenica and vaccines like it were completely and totally safe, they actually encouraged Canadians to venture out get one. Canadians could and should do so, said NACI, “rather than wait for an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna).”
Well, that was then, this is now.
On Thursday night – when the rest of us were busily watching the Green Party self-immolate, and the Prime Minister of Canada excuse himself from the sort of quarantine rules he’s imposed on everyone else – NACI slammed the policy brakes, and attempted to execute a whiplash-inducing about face. Again.
On Thursday night, NACI reversed course and declared that Canadians shouldn’t now get AstraZenica and similar vaccines, as a first or second dose. Said these self-professed experts: “An mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna) is preferred to start a vaccine series…(and) an mRNA vaccine is now preferred as the second dose for individuals who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine.”
Get that? No AZ for first or second doses, now. So says NACI.
But what should those two million-plus Canadians who have received AZ – including the Prime Minister of Canada and his wife, the federal Minister of Health, the leaders of the opposition parties, and lowly mortals like Yours Truly – now do? Previously NACI didn’t just say AZ was safe – it encouraged everyone to get it if they could.
Now it’s saying don’t get it at all.
Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, a family physician and medical researcher in Toronto, is one of the many who are fed up. At the time of the last NACI flip-flop, Gorfinkel said: “NACI’s mixed messaging [is] hard to fathom.”
So too the respected physician and health commentator, my friend Dr. Brian Goldman, who excoriated NACI in a tweet: “It pains me to say this, but it’s past time to take NACI recommendations with a grain of salt. For the good of your health, DO NOT be choosy when it comes to #covidvaccines. Take the first one you’re offered.”
Hear that sound? It’s the distant but unmistakable sound of class-action lawyers, sharpening their pencils for a possible lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of those with AstraZeneca coursing around in their bodies. All two million of them.
Here’s some free communication advice, NACI “experts” – when in a hole, stop digging.
And: when you claim to be an expert?
Start acting like one.
[Warren Kinsella was also special assistant to Jean Chrétien.]