Carroll County Times Opinion

Blubaugh: Whether getting a vaccine or walking under a coconut tree, all of life is risk assessment | COMMENTARY

A funny thing happened on the way to COVID-19 immunity. A week or so after proudly posting to social media that I’d just received the one and only dose I would need, and a few days after calling folks who refuse to be vaccinated foolish, the news came across that experts were calling for a halt to the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Maybe I was the fool? After calling my wife, who had also been jabbed with J&J, I started to process the information — that six people out of the nearly 7 million vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson had come down with a rare and serious blood clot, one dying.


Sad, certainly, but not even a one-in-a-million proposition. That’s a pretty low rate. I noted while doing a little research — and then heard repeatedly the rest of the week — we have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

Then again, my dad was struck by lightning. So was my grandmother. And a neighbor’s house, four doors down as I was growing up, was struck twice.


Still, even forgetting the lightning analogy, six in 7 million really isn’t statistically significant, as the scientists say. Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer reiterated what he has said several times: There is some risk in every vaccine.

In fact, there is some risk in pretty much everything. All of life is risk assessment. Should I slam on the brakes or speed up for that yellow light? Should I eat pizza again tonight? Should I pick a fight with that bouncer?

We have to mitigate risk on a daily basis. But if you go down certain rabbit holes on the internet, you’ll never leave your house. Risk is everywhere. According to a Daily Mirror article ...

· We have a 1 in 250 million chance of being killed by a falling coconut. There are more than that many people living in the United States so, apparently, one of us going out that way.

· We have a 1 in 5 million chance of meeting our demise after being scalded by hot water. No wonder people sue fast-food chains for the coffee being too hot.

· We have a 1 in 3 million chance of dying of food poisoning. My propensity for finding leftovers in the back of the fridge, looking them over, sniffing and saying, “seems OK,” probably makes my odds a bit higher.

· We have a 1 in 2.3 million chance of our lives ending due to a fall from a ladder. And my wife asks me why I avoid doing things around the house.

· We have a 1 in 2 million chance of dying by falling out of bed. And that isn’t even the most dangerous thing we do in bed.


· We have a 1 in 685,000 chance of drowning in the bathtub. That is why I take showers. That, and an aversion to sitting in dirty water.

· We have a 1 in 43,500 chance of being killed in an accident at work. Maybe the best reason I’ve ever seen to avoid getting a job.

· And we have a 1 in 8,000 chance of being killed in an accident on the road. In all seriousness, that’s scary. And a great reminder that the really dangerous thing I did the day I was vaccinated was driving to Hagerstown for the shot.

I’m glad they took a pause on the J&J vaccine to look into this more. That shouldn’t scare people, it should make them trust the process. If the government really had sinister intent, no way they would stop, right?

The bad part is that this will undermine confidence. Maybe some who were on the fence about being vaccinated will use this as an excuse not to. And we’ll be stuck with COVID-19 even longer. Wonderful.

Keep one thing in mind, though. Many of those who will use this 6 in 7 million statistic as a reason not to get vaccinated are the same ones who believe two deaths per 100 cases of COVID-19 is no big deal.


Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears every Sunday. Reach him at