Posted in Current Events & Politics, Health & Medicine, Insightful, Opinion

COVID-19 and Vaccines: A Guide for Skeptics and Conspiracy Believers Alike

Skeptics. Antivaxxers. Antimaskers. Conspiracy believers. Why do we still have them in today’s technologically advanced world? A part of it, we believe is the lack of information or excessive information obtained from the internet. While pieces of information from the internet provide comfort at times, it may also provide uncertainties and skepticism. You might be reading facts or hoaxes. How do you decipher that? What are the tools that one can use to sort out facts against hoaxes and conspiracies? Fuel your brain with factual information from verified experts and professionals. Interestingly, we’ve found this article from Ponyter about 8 must-reads detail how to verify information in real-time, from social media, users. This article mentioned three different points that just make so much sense on verifying and delivering information from social media and internet:

I find it helps to think of curation as three central questions:

* Discovery: How do we find valuable social media content?
* Verification: How do we make sure we can trust it?
* Delivery: How do we turn that content into stories for a changed audience?

We say, when you read a certain content, compare it against a peer reviewed research or better yet, against a published book with references and cross references. Research is undeniably a great deal of work, but you can only discover the factual answers to your questions by verifying the source. It is very meticulous given that researchers and scientists alloted their time and effort to come up with data that were tested and peer reviewed. Sadly, these works are discredited due to propagandas and short-sightedness of internet users.

The goal of this article is to guide skeptics into finding out what is factual and fictional. In today’s world where our health is mostly at risk, it’s imperative to verify the information. While I’m providing you some links to videos and articles that may change your perspective, feel free to conduct your own research. In return, it may provide the readers a more appropriate choice that would benefit personally and intellectually. We’re not here to argue or prove who is more politically correct. We want to open your eyes as it has been blindsided with overflowing information that can be overwhelming.

We’re all in the middle of this COVID-19 storm. What do we really know about this virus and the vaccine? I’m attaching some verified sources that may help. Read and verify at your own risk.

As explained by a doctor from Johns Hopkins University

So, as the vaccines begin to be procured and roll out from a scientific clinical trial, it fueled so much debates and arguments. But what do we really know about vaccines?

I found this video narrated by a professor from Harvard University.

A professor from Harvard University explaining how vaccine works

And another professor from Cambridge University.

A pathologist from University of Cambridge explaining the COVID-19 vaccine
ZDOGGMD debunks all conspiracies and ding dong comments.

Understandably, some readings may be too much to fathom but this is the only way to quench your thirst for knowledge. If you have to negate the scientists, physicians, researchers and nurses’ advices, you might want to think it over. Everything around you is a product of enormous research by professionals through years of study and hard work. One who discredits these works are contradicting themselves.

After all, Daniel J. Boorstin once said, “ “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” 

Posted in Current Events & Politics, Health & Medicine

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Explained From the FDA Document Released

A huge wave of skepticism and resistance against the COVID-19 vaccine flooded the internet a couple of days ago when countries began administering it to patients worldwide. Uncertainties continue to dominate as this new feat in medicine unfolds. Back when the pandemic hit a few months back and fatalities were increasing month after month, everyone wished for a vaccine. Everyone prayed that scientists could develop one to end this madness. So, here it is, I believe this extraordinary milestone is to be celebrated as the much awaited vaccine has started to rollout.

Hence, why the skepticism? Misinformation and too much information. As a result, it created another worldwide havoc. The death rates continue to increase and hospitalizations rise daily. Also, mental health issues and economic struggles engulf mankind. Where do we go from here? It starts with research. Although Google provides a lot of data, we should be keen in deciphering which information is factual and evidence-based. So here’s what we know about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and FDA briefing document released. This is what we found out.

The vaccine efficacy outcome was more than 93% across demographic subgroups. Approximately 44,000 participants is currently ongoing to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. They used randomized and placebo-controlled trial for the vaccine trials. Additionally, a two-month follow up after the completion of the full vaccination regimen will allow identification of potential adverse events that were not apparent in the immediate post vaccination period. Adverse events may start 6 weeks of vaccine receipt.

ADVERSE EVENTS

  • Localized reactions: Injection site redness and swelling occur after each dose on participants 18 to more than 55 years old and lasted 1-2 days.
  • Systemic and unsolicited adverse events: Most common for ages 18 to more than 55 years old: fever, fatigue, headache, chills, vomiting, new/worsened muscle pain
  • Bell’s palsy was seen in 4 participants that appeared after 3, 9, 37 and 48 days after vaccination. One resolved in 3 days, and the others with a duration of 10, 15 and 21 days respectively.
  • Appendicitis appeared in 8 participants.
  • Three participants reported shoulder injury, ventricular arrythmia and lymphadenopathy and are considered by the investigator to be vaccine related.
  • Another participant between ages 16 to 17 years experienced facial bones fracture which was not considered related to study intervention.
  • A total of 6 of 43,448 participants died which account for 0.01%. 2 from vaccine group and 4 from placebo group. 2 of the vaccine recipients who died were >55 years old, one has baseline obesity and experienced cardiac arrest 62 days after vaccination #2. The other died of arteriosclerosis 3 days after vaccination #1. Of the 4 participants in the placebo group, 2 died of unknown causes and 2 died from myocardial infarction and hemorrhagic stroke.

DOSING REGIMEN

  • Administered intramuscularly, the vaccine is off white, sterile, and preservative free.
  • The vaccine is supplied as a multidose vial (5 doses) containing a frozen suspension (-80 to -60 degrees Celsius) that must be thawed and diluted with 1.8 mL of sterile 0.9 sodium chloride.
  • The 5 doses allows 0.3 mL each.
  • Administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

With this data yields a lot of uncertainties. Seeing deaths as a result in a vaccine trial is not plausible and that’s fully understandable. We’re scared. We don’t really know how it will affect us or how it will change our lives. The deaths resulting from the vaccine trial is 0.01%, which I don’t discredit. However, we have a known data that experts could work on and possibly find alternatives to counteract those adverse effects. This is very promising and exciting. We finally have a vaccine! As I’m writing, there are 12,867 deaths in Canada from COVID-19. Although humanity is still treading rough waters in the fight against this virus, one must look into the benefits and risks of this vaccine. For years, infectious diseases has been the leading cause of death worldwide. In Canada, they cause less than 5% thanks to immunization programs. We have to make a choice as to what really benefits us.

Understanding the true value of vaccines is difficult when a lot of misinformation, hoaxes and conspiracies are readily available. We know what’s more difficult: social distancing, mask wearing, plexi glass divisions, business bankruptcies, foreclosures, rise in mental health issues and suicide rates, overflowing hospitals, healthcare worker burnouts, travel bans and lockdowns; this virus has created horrific problems and it’s about time to change that. So, what is it going to be?

Posted in Current Events & Politics, Health & Medicine

The COVID-19 Vaccine is Coming To Canada This December

With the COVID-19 worldwide fiasco, pharmaceutical companies are racing against time to develop a vaccine that would settle the pandemic crisis. Today, the prime minister announced an important update on vaccine procurement and allocation to Canada. On his speech earlier he mentioned that Canada teamed up with Pfizer for the early procurement and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. The government has been working very hard on securing the most diverse portfolios of vaccines available and finally, it was successful.

The prime minister mentioned that the Government of Canada through the National Operations Centre, are working tirelessly with the provinces and territories to procure the said vaccine. There are 249,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine coming this December with pending Health Canada approval. He mentioned that it will arrive next week and will begin to roll out as soon as approval has been established. He also added that shipments will continue to arrive with millions of doses in 2021. This milestone is a continuous effort of the government to protect its people from the deadly virus. Pfizer, public health agencies, provinces and territories are working hand in hand to prepare the first 14 vaccination sites this week. The prime minister wants to assure the public that any vaccine approved in Canada is safe and effective. While the regulatory process is ongoing and experts are working around the clock, Canada’s gold standard for medical approval is upheld to protect Canadians.

Posted in Current Events & Politics, Health & Medicine, Own Story

Nurse, can you get me a warm blanket?

Throughout history, nursing was regarded as a female dominated profession. From the works of Florence Nightingale to that of Jean Calista Roy, the pioneers were female and that along, yields a problematic history of misogyny and sexism. Women who were primarily caretakers and nurturers were responsible in taking care of the aged, sick, children and disabled; that was the expectation. When healing roles such as nursing became lucrative and technical, it was met with resistance since it promoted departure from women’s roles but it was viewed as a competition to men who were in the work force. In 2019, 91% of regulated nurses in Canada are female according to Canadian Nurses Association.

To date, we’re still fighting for our wages and fair treatment as a work force and profession. Male dominated professions are still paid higher compared to nurses which I find reprehensible, to say the least. In late 2019, the controversial Bill 124 in Ontario was passed and set a cap of 1% on registered nurses’ wage, which definitely was a slap in the face. In fact, male dominated professions are exempted from this wage cap such as the police. To add, they’ve reached an arbitrated settlement that guarantees up to 3.5 percent for 4 years. What is wrong with this equation?

I suppose the obvious reason of the above predicament is gender bias. It baffles me that up to this modern day and age, nursing is poorly represented politically and rarely have a voice in changes that not only affects them professionally but undermines their gender.

With the onslaught of the pandemic and as nurses continue to work harder in unsafe work conditions, institutional sexism is insidious and deeply ingrained in the profession. It remains a lost cause. Moreover, as Nursing remains stoic and powerless over proving its capacity to develop, adapt and innovate, the dynamic didn’t change over decades since Nursing doesn’t confront and remains busy proving how capable of a profession it is. In the public eye, nursing is still subservient to the physician and one a patient can call and ask, “Nurse, can you get me a warm blanket?”

Contrary to some popular belief, nurses don’t just get you a warm blanket when you’re cold, or get you some water when you’re thirsty or make you toast when you’re hungry. Or worse, nurses are not a physician’s assistant. We’re already in the 21st century where nurses are the glue to your health care journey. Nurses work tirelessly to protect and advocate for the individual in our care. Beyond this reputation for compassion lies a highly specialized profession that continues to evolve to cater the needs of the society. From ensuring standardized care to continuous education of the public’s health issues, nurses are indispensable. They deserve all the credit and that starts with revamping the wage cap, but one can only dream.

Nursing and its attempt to prove its worth to society is still an issue. Unfortunately, nurses are hailed as heroes, treated like dung. More importantly, nurses are continually to be belittled, and disrespected even as they provide the most compassionate and exceptional care to the society. In fact, the wage caps just proves how nursing doesn’t have a voice and still yet to be hailed as heroes, to say the least.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Own Story

The Plight of Internationally Educated Nurses in Canada

For most internationally educated nurses (IENs), Canada & United States are the top destinations for a nursing career in North America. With the high demand of health care and very favourable wages, it’s undeniably “too appealing”. Equipped with various skill sets and experiences, internationally educated nurses migrate to Canada as the country’s warmth and multicultural workforce invites each aspiring nurse to pursue their career and live the Canadian dream.

In 2013, according to Canada’s Regulated Nurses: A Look at Internationally Educated Nurses in Ontario and Canada publication, the top countries of internationally educated nurses in Ontario were from the US, UK, Poland, India, China and the Philippines. There was a significant decrease of  the growth in the supply of IENs in Ontario from 2009 to 2013. Additionally, in 2013 about 64.6% of internationally educated registered nurses (RNs) were employed at a hospital compared to Canadian educated nurses which was 63.4%. Moreover, internationally educated registered practical nurses (RPNs) who were employed at a hospital was 25.1% as opposed to Canadian educated nurses which was 43.5%.

Now, let’s go back to the part where there was a decline of IENs growth in Canada. The reason being was the assessment process became more expensive, lengthy and biased. The launch of the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) added a fair amount of difficulty to IENs who were willing to reciprocate their international licenses to a Canadian nursing license and integrate into the workforce.  In fact, the proficiencies of these professionals are wasted instead of getting utilized as a work force asset in Canada. For those who are unfamiliar, NNAS is an assessment body that evaluates the equivalency of IENs’ education with that of the Canadian nursing degree. In short, they will tell you if your education is up to par or not. With a fee of $650 for the main application, IENs have to pay this amount upfront and fulfill the documentations needed for the assessment of their international nursing degree. Let me tell you, that’s just the beginning of never-ending fees. Along with this application comes a huge number of requirements such as English test, licensure verification and transcripts certification. UNDERSTANDABLE. They have to protect the public and that’s just fair.

What doesn’t sink in to me is for the price that the applicants have to pay, they’re not getting their money’s worth. What’s worse is the lengthy wait times. The application process came to a point when IENs have to wait 2-5 years of completion. RIDICULOUS! And after years of waiting, unfortunately, a few received an offensive evaluation such as, YOUR EDUCATION IS NON COMPARABLE OR SOMEWHAT COMPARABLE TO THAT OF THE CANADIAN EDUCATION, enough to crush one’s spirit trampled the years of professional experiences in highly acute areas and disregarded their almost perfect English test. By the time they receive their result, they have been stagnant for years from their practice waiting for a process that’s cocktailed with ineffectual arbitration.

I have met various IENs who have worked in ICUs and highly acute areas overseas who received a non-comparable result. Some of them have master’s degrees, numerous years of experiences and specialized skill sets. Surprising, isn’t it? The inconsistencies with the process to obtain a Canadian nursing license have to be terminated. I’m not complaining but it’s certainly a case of unfairness in plain sight and one has to speak up. I understand that the gaps for knowledge can be corrected by refresher programs  and they’re setting the bars high however, when does this systemic unfairness stop? Systemic unfairness or systemic racism? Internationally educated nurses are discriminated because English is not  their first language despite the fact that they have passed the NCLEX, met the requirements, have worked in highly acute areas and PASSED AN ENGLISH EXAM. What are we missing here?

I bumped into an open letter by the canadian-nurse.com where it tackled some few interesting points. It says that regardless where we came from, we are all Canadian nurses and opening up about racism in nursing and healthcare must be addressed.  Systemic racism education is omitted in the nursing curriculum and workplaces. I agree. While cultural sensitivity is greatly emphasized, systemic racism among  health care staff and fellow nurses are not discussed. It is a touchy subject that most people fail to address and even refuse to acknowledge. It exists and it is real. So, how can we tell that each application from an IENs is not viewed by an adjudicator without discrimination and prejudice? There is no valid proof to this claim but there should be a better system of transparency and open communication between the applicant  and assessment bodies. Be more accessible, perhaps? After all, they’re not paying for cheap fees.

Additionally, I also understand that each province have standards of their own. I’m not saying to make it easier, MAKE IT FAIR. One does not realize that these IENs have a life to live. The emotional turmoil and stress of waiting for result is too much to fathom. This is unacceptable on all levels. Stop wasting their time. Stop making the application processes a money grab. Shorten the wait times. Establish a pathway so each case can be dealt with appropriately. Develop an effective system where applicants and nursing bodies can benefit from each other. We are in need of more nurses!

The questionable processes, amounts and timelines are the problems we have to solve as it strains the applicants financially and emotionally. To add, I don’t think anybody has questioned this because of possible repercussions. And I doubt change will happen soon because of extreme red tapes. It’s a life altering process for the applicant’s end and some lose their hope and confidence on what this country has to offer.

And as the pandemic continues to hit, the shortage of nurses is obvious. The health care system is overwhelmed with patient overflow and short staffing issues. This is the time to expedite applications. On the contrary, I still think that the standards have to be maintained to protect the public at all cost. After all, we’re all in this together. Or, are we really?

Posted in Health & Medicine

The Ugly Truth About the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the pandemic hits and continue to take over everyone’s lives, we question every information that we read and watch on social media, newspaper or any news for that matter. Technology has its benefits but it can also lead to destruction when used inappropriately. While clicking each link on our devices became more of a second nature, the  pieces of information that appear before our eyes can be clouding our judgment or deviating us from the truth. 

Now, the health care workers are fatigued, burnt out and have reached the breaking point. Some may think that this is another conspiracy theory but it is not. Hospitals are overflowing with patients not because of COVID-19 but of sicker patients. Remember the lockdown when all surgeries and clinic appointments have to be stopped? Yes, those scheduled appointments have been stopped to accommodate an “expected” large influx of COVID-19 patients. The hospital beds were made clear. The first wave was an appetizer. And now we’re getting the first bite of our main course, as we speak.

After a few months of lockdown, the hospitals opened and began catering to patients’ delayed surgeries or treatments. From surgeries to appointments to clinic visits. In the mean time, the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. From reopening of gyms, restaurants and other business establishments, there was a huge price to pay, increasing number of COVID-19 cases. From health care workers to ordinary people, everyone was engulfed with fear, panic, confusion, misinformation and frustration.

Those who were submerged with fear may have their own medical  issues. They could be immunocompromised. On the other hand, another person might be fearful that their family members would contract the virus and may potentially lead to death. And then you have another one who fears the whole idea of having a pandemic. Who doesn’t? I bet most of us were not born before 1918 to witness the Spanish flu pandemic.  Moreover, health care workers who work in outbreak areas fearing about their health and contracting the virus, infecting their family members or significant others or giving it to their patients. From mask deficits to unsafe working conditions and staff shortages, it was rather a difficult time to work in the health care field. I’m not saying that it’s easier now, I would say it’s more challenging than before.

Kudos to all health care workers!

Panic, fear and anxiety create a tunnel vision.  And for some individuals, they lose their decision making skills and sound judgment. Some have the audacity to question the known facts of a profession that took years to be mastered, thanks to Dr. Google. A few don’t care and are just complacent in general. Some are irate and hostile towards health care staff and disregard warnings and suggestions to prevent the spread of the disease. Too much complacency and conspicuousness became acceptable. In fact, respect and tactfulness were nearly forgotten. Unfortunately, everyone is a doctor or a nurse now or an epidemiologist, insert sarcasm here.

The fear about this global pandemic is real, we get it. To live in such an era where the internet is a super highway of information, fake news and clickbaits, we are collectively vulnerable to internet vultures. A part of the population became defiant against the rules and norms. Our society has unquestionably changed and continuously changing. On a sore note, some of us are not willing to adapt to it and our behaviours are seriously affecting how this pandemic saga is going to play out. Here are the ugly truths about this pandemic that we may have to live with for a while, at least in Canada:

  • Online degrees and programs will continue to be the norm. 
  • Mandatory mask wearing, everywhere.
  • Zoom meetings in replacement of face-to-face meetings in various settings.
  • COVID-19 swab tests every now and then. Our poor noses will be so traumatized.
  • Buffets, clubbing and parties are a tale of the past.
  • More job losses and foreclosures.
  • Less doctors and nurses because of burn out.
  • Ubereats and SkipTheDishes continue to thrive.
  • You need to wash your hands with the sticky, sometimes sour-smelling hand sanitizer at the store.
  • Travelling to other countries is such a hassle.
  • People who argue about wearing masks and think everything about the pandemic is still a conspiracy. Worse, wearing masks causes oxygen deprivation. Okay, Karen!
  • Some still don’t wash their hands. 
  • Everyone will look at you weirdly when you cough or sneeze. 
  • Violence and upheaval continue to rise because of misinformation.
  • The vaccine has yet to be proven effective and ethical issues must be addressed before mass immunization.

And the list goes on and on. Despite the negativities, we should continue to look into our values and what’s important to us. Stop being self-centred or selfish. In this case, we will find a way to cope and thrive in this unprecedented era. It would be a story to tell to our grandchildren. Additionally, we must act maturely and responsibly so our society can go back to a place where the pandemic seems like it never happened. After all, we’re a history in the making and it’s up to us which road we’re going to take. A path to greatness or a path to destruction. Choose.

Sorry, just ranting. 🇨🇦

Posted in Health & Medicine, Own Story

On Nursing

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I definitely miss working in a hospital. For four years, I did endure all the hardships of Nursing school just to finish my degree. After passing the Licensure Exam, it seems perfect. You got your license and you’re ready to go.

You think you can practice your profession immediately and then have a permanent job. Philippines then has a huge amount of nurses, it was at its peak. We have to undergo volunteer-ship for 6 months and get a certain kind of certification that says you practiced your profession and you can put on your resume. I went for the volunteership program, I did it with the provincial hospital in our town. Unfortunately, I was not able to finish it, for some personal reasons, I dare not tackle here.

Nursing is a profession that is suitable not only for the skilled ones, but to those people who has the heart to help other people. Maybe, in our country, it was a profession for people who can afford the expensive tuition fees.it’s so funny because you spent thousands or millions in your education to finish Nursing school and after getting all licenses and certificates you end up not getting a job or just going for a different field, or worse, practice your nursing profession with just a tiny amount of salary.

Working to care for others not only boost your pocket, but your soul as well. Not in the Philippines. Yes, we know for a fact that we need to help people, we swore to aid those who are ill and suffering from different kinds of illnesses. That was in the past. The reality is, we need to live. And to live, you have to work. And when you work, you have to be paid good. This is the scenario. You work as a staff nurse in a certain ward. Let’s say, you have 20 patients. You get paid about a minimum of 14,000php , that’s about $340 a month. Yes, a month! So in 30 days you are getting a total of $12 a day and you are looking after a lot of patients. How will you live with that? Other graduates resort to getting a job as a telemarketer in a call center and mostly leave the country.

Physicians will treat you as their slaves, forgive me, but not all. I am talking through experience. They talk to you as if you are such a lowlife and you’re being enslaved. Some will embarrass you when you didn’t carry out a specific order (Yeah, you have 20 patients, I know we are dealing with lives but, minor mistakes are just ok, right?). And they call themselves professional doctors, yeah right.

I love this profession. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Aside from the fact that it pays so good especially when you practice it here in North America, I can grow as a person( or let me rephrase that, it pays your bills good). Helping others enriches your being. Every gratitude that you receive from your patients wipes all the tiredness away, there’s a sense of fulifillment. I hope I’ll be able to practice my profession soon.