COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy associated with increased risk of a traffic crashes in Ontario: study

Those who have not had a COVID-19 vaccine have an increased risk of being involved in a traffic crash in Ontario, a new study suggests.

In the study, published in The American Journal of Medicine, researchers tested whether COVID-19 vaccination was associated with the risks of traffic crashes in Ontario.

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Lead investigator, Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, a University of Toronto medicine professor and physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said investigators “theorized that adults who neglect health recommendations may also neglect basic road safety guidelines.

He said COVID-19 vaccination is an “objective, available, important, authenticated and timely indicators of human behaviour — albeit in a domain separate from motor vehicle traffic.”

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“Whether COVID-19 vaccination is associated with increased traffic risks, however, has not previously been tested,” Redelmeier said in a press release. “Simple immune activation against a coronavirus, for example, has no direct effect on the risk of a motor vehicle crash.

According to the release, investigators conducted a “population-based longitudinal cohort analysis” of adults and used “linkages” to individual electronic medical records to determine COVID-19 vaccination status.

“Traffic crashes requiring emergency medical care were subsequently identified by multicenter outcome ascertainment of 178 centers in the region over a one-month follow-up interval,” the release read.

Over 11 million people were included in the study. Sixteen per cent of whome had not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The study found that the cohort accounted for 6,682 traffic crashes during follow-up.

A total of 1,682 — or 25 per cent — of the crashes involved unvaccinated individuals, which is equal to a 72 per cent increased relative risk compared to vaccinated individuals.

“The increased traffic risks among unvaccinated adults extended to diverse subgroups (older and younger; drivers and pedestrians; rich and poor) and was equal to a 48 per cent increase after adjustment for age, sex, home location, socioeconomic status, and medical diagnoses,” the release read.

“The increased traffic risks extended across the entire spectrum of crash severity and appeared similar for Pfizer, Moderna, or other vaccines.”

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Read more: Free rapid COVID tests to be available at Ontario stores through to next June

Investigators found the increased risks collectively amounted to an extra 704 crashes.

Redelmeier said traffic risks were 50 to 70 per cent greater for adults who had not been vaccinated, compared to those who had received their shots.

“These data suggest COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is associated with significant increased risks of a traffic crash, however, this does not mean COVID-19 vaccination directly prevents crashes,” Redelmeier said. “Instead, it shows how adults who do not follow public health advice may also neglect the rules of the road. Misunderstandings of everyday risk can cause people to put themselves and others in grave danger.”

Redelmeier said the authors “don’t want unvaccinated people to feel persecuted” and are “not suggesting they stop driving.”

“Instead, we suggest they drive a bit more carefully,” he said. “Physicians counseling patients who decline COVID-19 vaccination could consider safety reminders so their patients do not become traffic statistics.”

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