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Posts Tagged ‘vaccination

How do you balance the need to create a headline good enough to get readers to click through and getting an important message across? These should not be on opposite sides, but they are in a CNA news article.

This was the tweeted headline from CNA (screenshot below, in case the original tweet is deleted).

The actual article reported this:

First, ask yourself: How many people bother to click through, i.e., read beyond the headline?

Next, if readers do not read the article, they are left with the information that there are at least 2,700 reports of adverse vaccination effects among 2.2 million doses.

The potential impact of the headline is the attention paid to the 2,700 reaction cases. This creates or reinforces fear that fuels vaccination hesitancy. 

How many then learn that the adverse effects were classified into not-so adverse (common reactions) and actually adverse (serious reactions)?  The latter was represented by 95 cases.

That number of cases is 0.004% of doses administered (95/2,213,888 x 100). The article stated 0.04% which is 10 times higher. The same article has a table which reports the correct figure of 0.004%. The percentage in the main body of the text and the table do not match.

Finally, how many rationalise that 0.004% is a very small incident rate? How low is this chance? You have a 1 in 25,000 random chance getting a severe reaction to vaccination.

How unlikely is 1 in 25,000? I found a summary site of statistics maintained by someone who mined NSC and CDC data. If we were in the USA in 2002, each person had a 1 in 25,000 chance of being murdered with a gun.

If that is hard to relate to, then you get my point. The tiny chance and the large number of doses are difficult to rationalise. Suffice to say that the chance of reacting severely to the vaccination (or being gunned down) is very small.

Think of it this way: If you were in the USA and not terribly afraid that you were going to get shot, you should not be afraid that you are going to react severely to the vaccination.

The issue that writers and editors of newspaper headlines do not seem to understand is human psychology. People tend to focus on the part of the headline that screamed “reports of suspected adverse effects”. The headline also includes the initialism HSA, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. So it might come across as a warning. The number of cases could have been 27 or 270, but the focus would have been on the authority and the adversity.

The messaging is important. Recipients have a right to know the possible side effects of the vaccination. The HSA was transparent with its statistics. However, the news agency was irresponsible with the clickbait headline and the wrong calculated figure of the severe cases in the main body of its text.

I am thankful to have received my first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

I am particularly thankful to the education partner who nominated me. I work with more than one partner and the others did not do so even though I conduct courses for their educators or students.

Now I have a rant about a first-world problem. 

I received email notification from my education partner on 16 March that I was on a shortlist. I had to wait for an SMS that would invite me to schedule the two injections.

Eight days after that notification, I read the news that vaccinations were open to those aged 49-59 in the general population. Those who wished to get vaccinated could register here to get the same SMS.

As I had not received notice for the first (nominated) registration, I decided to try the general route as I belonged to that age group. The registration system at the time required me to verify my mobile number via a one-time password (OTP). 

The problem with that was the OTP took longer to arrive than they were valid for. This meant I could not register via the general invitation. My guess is that the registration system was swamped with requests.

I waited two days and tried again. This time the OTP requirement was no longer on the registration form and my request went through (see first SMS, below).

Later that same day, the nominated invitation arrived (see second SMS, above). I scheduled my vaccinations immediately and received the SMS confirmation below.

Strangely enough, I received another SMS six days later thanking me for my interest and assuring me that I would be notified if there were slots for booking. This was jarring given that I had already reserved my slots. 

We have a Smart Nation initiative. Have the administrators of the vaccination notification system read the memo? This was not the first round of invitations, registrations, and confirmations. According to this news report, 80% of 50,000 workers in the education sector had previously registered for vaccination appointments. How smart is the sub-system if it did not learn from the previous experience and improve the next one?


I received my first anti-SARS-CoV2 jab on Friday. I was reminded that I am mix-handed.

I bring this up because I had to decide which arm to get the shot in. For the record I chose the left.

I use my left hand for fine motor tasks like writing, shaving, and tooth-brushing. I rely on my right for racquet games and stabbing people. Just kidding. I don’t kill people by stabbing them. I bore them to death with stories like this.

In vaccinations past I switched between the left and right arms. This was after we had a choice. I recall a time when we were all given the mandatory BCG on the left because no thought was given to exceptions. Perhaps people are beginning to realise that the exception is the rule now.

My reaction to yesterday’s news: It’s about time! If there is any frontline worker as precious as our “precious”, it is teachers.

The article lists the types of schools whose teaching and non-teaching staff will get inoculations. They range from pre-schools to madrasahs, but somehow exclude higher education institutions. Why?

Video source

As we start to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV2, it is worth learning about this history of vaccines. This SciShow video tells a less common but no less important account.

When learning about vaccines, most will be taught about Edward Jenner. They will not likely be taught about how the ancient peoples of China and Africa practiced what Jenner “pioneered” (variolation).

I learnt that about 300 years ago, the Brits adopted this practice by observing variolation in Turkey. But they did this only after testing the process on prisoners and orphan children. This was about 30 years before Jenner was born. Jenner figured out a safer way to do this and coined the term vaccine.

Fast forward to today and here are two lessons that some have yet to learn (start at this point in the video). The first is about how we relate history: We oversimplify and forget nuance.

The second was put plainly in the video:

Power dynamics between white men and everyone else have historically minimised the contributions of anyone who was not a white man.

Might we be seeing evidence of these two unlearnt (or difficult to learn) lessons right now? The press seems to conflate vaccine efficacy with efficiency instead of explaining it to the masses. The mRNA vaccines are a technological marvel but there is still so much misinformation about them. Powerful and advanced countries like to pit the COVID-19 statistics of some countries in Asia and Africa while not embracing ideas, mindsets, and practices to control its spread.

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