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When you assume…

Jody Vance: If we’re going to put COVID behind us, we need to set assumptions aside, and help the vaccine hesitant get past their particular barrier. This is one story.
Not anti-science – just a hurdle some need help to get past.

You should never assume. Because when you assume it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.

- Felix Unger, The Odd Couple, 1973

That quote resonated profoundly with me recently. Stepping back from assumption about those still unvaccinated taught me a lesson in humanity.

Many of us have been painting with a big fat brush these days – and we should put it away. Because not everyone feeling hesitant or anxious about COVID-19 vaccinations are wearing tinfoil.

Assuming that vaccine hesitancy is rooted only in antivaxx disinformation is all too easy – after all, those people are the loudest. With that in mind, today’s Middle is about seeing things on a spectrum.

I want to share a story that shines some light on some of the hesitant who may be a bigger block of the non-immunized than we might assume…er, think.

Trypanophobia. Needlephobes.

Back in August, as case numbers started ballooning after reopening, hospitals and ICUs reported an ever-growing number of non-immunized patients falling seriously ill.

Talk radio offered the opportunity to try and help. Talk to the hesitant, open some dialogue on disinformation, and have questions unpacked by great minds of scientists and infectious disease specialists.

Phonelines were jammed, every day.

The questions were fantastic. All welcome, nothing offside. The only rule was to have a question, and let the expert answer it.

Sure, there were a couple of trolls looking to muddy the waters and stoke fear. But our daily Q&A segments were all about listening to and talking through legitimate worries caused by disinformation and that same stoked FEAR.

The latter became a real thing.

Midway through the second week, I received a DM from a listener who suffers from debilitating needlephobia, which had kept him from getting immunized. He was looking for help.

He really, really wanted to clear that hurdle – but just couldn’t.

One who doesn’t suffer from trypanophobia cannot possibly understand the level of fear. Think of your personal fear, and then put the needle in its place. Snake, spider; height, flight.

It was a mind shift for me. My mom was a lab technician, a scientist who took my blood ANY TIME she wanted to see if I was faking my way out of school.

So yeah, I had a LOT of needles in my lifetime. For two and a half years of fertility treatments I would get daily blood tests. Again: daily.

So when this gentleman bravely shared his fear, I felt I might be able to help. Maybe. I made no assumptions.

We went back and forth on the topic by way of DMs. He shared how he doesn’t even get regular medical checkups due to the fear.

I made suggestions:

  • Talk to a GP over video conference.
  • See if there’s a way to manage the anxiety with some sort of medical assistance.
  • Maybe the vaccination clinic has resources to help.

I offered to drive him to the clinic and help him through, if he didn’t have family or friends at the ready.

He said he’d called Fraser Health.

I sent his plea to the Ministry of Health, all the way to Minister Adrian Dix.


Last week, he found a friend to take him on a scouting mission to eye-ball clinics. There was hope!

“I’ll be heading to one tomorrow as it’s a DRIVE THRU so I can remain in my car...a safe spot and not some clinic office. I think that’ll be a huge help mentally.”

The next DM? His vaccination card.

I cried.

To reiterate: I do not know this person. Until last Saturday, he was unvaccinated.  I might have assumed that he was full of disinformation or denial.

This story gets even better.

So proud of him, I tweeted out a congratulatory message, without identifying him – and my feed was flooded with similar stories of needlephobia.

My DMs filled again. Between my newly First Dosed Twitter friend and I, we helped others navigate their way to the drive-in clinic.

One dose at a time. One human at a time. One step closer to putting this behind us all, at a time.

That’s not an assumption. That’s a fact.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.