Vaccine or seeding: could be a tough choice this spring

One of the worst photography assignments at The Western Producer is being sent out to take photos of farmers seeding.

It’s not the taking of pictures of farmers actually seeding that’s the problem. It’s getting them to stop for a moment, come out of the cab, and pose for a pic, while providing a handful of details about who they are, what they’re seeding and how things are going.

If there’s one thing the average farmer hates to do at seeding time, it’s to stop and do something that doesn’t lead to the next acre being sown.

That’s why this spring a lot of farmers might face an excruciating choice: focus on seeding and ignore everything else, or stop seeding for a few hours to run to town to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

That’s a choice that might appear before thousands because the vaccine roll-out schedule appears to be coinciding with when a lot of younger farmers might be on their tractors.

It’s impossible to know when vaccines are going to become available. There are still so many questions and concerns about whether or not vaccines from Europe will come in on schedule or be delayed by the toxic European Union-United Kingdom squabbling over the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the slow progress of the overall vaccine campaign across the EU.

There are also wildly oscillating reports and rulings within Canada about the AZ vaccine, with seniors initially being prevented from receiving it, then that being flipped to the under-55 set being kept (at least in the week of March 30) from getting it. Will that vaccine be part of the vaccine roster for most farmers a few weeks from now? Who knows? Whatever happens, that will affect the date when an individual’s turn comes up to get their shot.

Any delays could knock the vaccine schedule further down the road toward the hopeful Canada Day target for completing most adult vaccinations, and push working farmers into the window when seeding and vaccine availability coincide.

I took to Twitter to see how some farmers might react to that unfortunate coincidence, if it hits them.

There were some vaccine skeptics, who don’t see it as an issue.

But the farmers I spoke with privately, and about half who replied to my Twitter poll, were mostly planning to get their shot whenever it becomes available.

If that’s on a beautiful day of seeding, which it easily could be for farmers in their 30s and 40s, I imagine there will be lots of vexation and frustration on the drive into town, in the queue awaiting a shot and on the drive back.

That’s for the farmers who drop everything to go get a shot.

I imagine there will also be a lot of anxiety for farmers who decide to skip the shot until they’re done seeding. That will be an anxiety-inducing situation for some of those who choose that path because it will be a gamble on avoiding the virus and hoping to not get too sick if they get infected, until the delayed shot has been administered after seeding.

I’m glad I don’t have to make that choice. Even if I’m assigned to head out to the fields to get photos of farmers busy seeding on a certain day, if my turn to get the vaccine comes up at the same time, I’m heading for the jab. I’ve got asthma and am pretty keen to protect myself from this nasty bug.

I can delay seeding photography for one day without causing much damage to my newspaper or affecting my income.

It’s not such an easy choice when you’re a farmer and all your income potential is out there on the unseeded fields, depending on you to get it in at exactly the right time.

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