|Dr. Nancy Glick, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital, prepares for its first round of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations. (photo by Ashlee Rezin Garcia for the Sun-Times)
Welcome to the Chicago Sun-Times Latin Lockdown Workshop. Please direct your attention to the chalkboard, where I’ve written: “Post hoc ergo propter hoc.”
Let’s say it together and remember to trill your Rs. Ancient Romans called “R” the “littera canina,” or dog letter, for the little growl in it.
“Post hoc, errrgo prrropter hoc.”
In English: “After this, therefore because of this.” It’s what we pointy-heads call a “logical fallacy,” the faulty circuit that connects you to a wrong conclusion when two events occur close together.
I mention it now because the joy of getting millions of vaccines to millions of American arms will be quickly followed by a backlash of imaginary bad results. That isn’t a crystal ball prediction; it’s a take-it-to-the-bank certainty. With the exception of a few extremely rare allergic reactions, the most common vaccine side effect will be passing soreness. But some getting the vaccine will blame it for later being hit by a bus. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
“With the vaccine, you’ve got to be careful when you hear side effects,” said Dr. Michael Ruchim, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medicine well-versed in pharmaceutical trials. “The question arises, ‘Are they cause and effect? Or something random the person getting the vaccine was going to get anyway?’” On average, 730 Americans per 100,000 die every year. About two a day. So if you give everyone in a random group of 100,000 a teaspoon of water, expect 14 to die over the next week. From heart attacks. Cancer. Hit by buses.
Now give them a vaccine. A week later, another 14 deaths. But in public perception, the vaccine is now deadly. Two people died the very next day! Don’t laugh, this is how the anti-vaxxer movement started. “Timmy got a polio shot, and now he’s autistic!”
Especially since vaccines will be given to seniors first, who are not a random slice of the population but a group already more likely to get sick.
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