DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical healthcare professional. Please read our disclaimers page here)
With the obvious exception for those who have legitimate medical reasons, I believe that making vaccinations mandatory for COVID-19, in the current climate, can be ethically justified.
Now, to be clear, there’s a difference between mandatory vaccinations – where certain penalties are levied on you for not complying – versus compulsory vaccinations – where someone forcibly jams a needle in your arm.
My argument is for mandatory vaccinations, not compulsory vaccinations.
In ordinary times I would have said that education and encouraging people through other incentives is the best course of action – especially in the long run. And we certainly shouldn’t stop trying to do that, but we don’t live in ordinary times do we?
We live in extraordinary times.
Refusing to get vaccinated is like drink-driving.
I believe that getting vaccinated is the covid equivalent of wearing a seatbelt. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get in a car accident – it doesn’t mean you won’t die as a result either – but it’ll give you a MUCH GREATER chance of survival if you do.
To give you some numbers, this summer approximately 100,000 people died from covid in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified just 2,900 people who were vaccinated among those 100,000. During the same time period vaccination rates surpassed 50%.
Another study from the C.D.C. that was published in September found that after Delta became the dominant variant, unvaccinated people were more than 10 times as likely to die of the virus as the vaccinated were. (Check out his article for more details.)
Now, it would be one thing if refusing to get vaccinated only put your own life at greater risk. But that’s not the case. If you kill yourself because you refuse to wear a seatbelt, it probably won’t cost others their lives. But if you catch covid because you refuse to get vaccinated, it may well cost others theirs. In this respect refusing to get vaccinated is more like drink-driving.
I would argue not getting vaccinate is worse than refusing to wear a seatbelt for this reason.
And those who refuse to get vaccinated are making it worse for everybody else. Transmissions, hospitalisations, severe illness and death are all higher among the non-vaccinated. The chances of mutations are also higher in the unvaccinated. And so, of course, we have renewed waves and lockdown measures.
But if the plan is to stop everyone from driving every time we have one of these wave, why are we letting drunk-drivers off the hook?
Now, I agree that stopping people from driving before the seatbelt was invented was the right move. But now that seatbelt has been invented? Now that it’s been well tested for safety standards? Now that we’ve had the time to administer them to the majority of the population? (I believe this is true for most affluent nations)
Has the time not come to make them law?
Article 2 of the Human Rights Act in the United Kingdom is the right to life. It states “the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk.”
Mandating vaccinations would achieve exactly that.
A zero-crash policy where seatbelts are optional
The main argument against is one of personal liberty. The argument that making them mandatory would be an infringement of one’s rights.
It’s worth pointing out, the same argument was made by those who opposed the introduction of seatbelt laws in the 1980’s.
But what about our collective rights? What about our collective freedoms?
Strictly speaking, any law that tells you to do or not do something is an infringement of one’s personal liberties. But there’s a reason why driving under the influence isn’t allowed by law. That’s because it puts other people’s lives at risk.
There is no greater infringement to one’s freedoms and rights than death.
Ironically, the only individual choice that people have left here in Hong Kong, when it comes to fighting COVID-19, is whether we choose to get vaccinated or not. With this odd exception, we have some of the strictest measures in place anywhere in the world.
I almost wonder if that’s not deliberate?
The pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity to enact some extremely shady laws here. It’s allowed the government to put the shutters up at the same time. The government have said they won’t open up without higher vaccination rates. But those rates – like elsewhere in the world – are starting to plateau.
It seems to me, without making vaccinations mandatory, we are stuck in limbo.
We are imprisoned.
It’s disheartening to know that many of my fellow prisoners are happy with this arrangement. They say, “Why would I wear a seatbelt if there are no accidents here?”
But the only way to maintain what is, effectively, a zero-crash policy where seatbelts are optional, is to severely restrict the liberties of the aircrew body. The very drivers those prisoners depend on.
Of course, vaccinations are mandatory for aircrew. I got mine as soon as I could back in March this year. I just had my third booster shot. I naively thought this would lead to greater freedoms. Sadly, the restrictions imposed upon us have only gotten worse.
Recently over 200 people – made up of crew plus their families – were thrown into a government isolation camp after three pilots tested positive on return from Germany. These were the first pilot’s to test positive this year following 140,000 negative test results.
Despite this exemplary record, the government decided to impose a host of new restrictions on top of our existing ones. To the point where it’s now getting very hard to have a life outside of our own apartments.
I might add that trio who tested positive were later fired for what was deemed a “serious breach of protocol.”
When you refuse to take responsibility for your freedoms you lose them.
I don’t bring this up for a vote of sympathy, but to give you an idea what things are like when your freedoms really have been impinged.
But also, to make a point about equality.
Mandates are already in place in much of the world. They’re nothing new. Many frontline workers – medical care professional and the like – have already been mandated. I am part of that group.
Although I do object to many other draconian measures my Government have placed on the aircrew here, mandating vaccinations is not one of them. They don’t want aircrew to be drinking and driving on the job. I felt that was more than fair.
But, so long as our misery persists, so long as a significant proportion of the vulnerable remain unvaccinated, so long as we are made to wait for that to happen, I feel like the aircrew and other frontline staff have been extremely hard done by. I don’t believe it is fair, in light of the circumstance, in light of a pandemic where we are all drivers, that the mandate should only apply to frontline workers.
I think those who protest their right not to get vaccinated would do well to remember all those frontline staff – those worst affected by this thing, those worst affected by those who refuse to get vaccinated, those who are are simply getting on with it and trying to save lives – who have had already had mandates issued against them.
In my eyes, in the name of equality, a mandate that is applied to the whole population is fair. One that is only issued to those groups who are worst affected isn’t.
I’ll make one final point: Getting vaccinated is a vote for freedom.
If you ask me, those protesting the right to not get vaccinated aren’t fighting for freedom. They’re fighting for a false idea of what they believe freedom means.
Many people mistake freedom for this idea that they can do whatever they like. But the paradox of freedom is that you must take responsibility for it, otherwise you lose it.
If that choice only relates to your own freedoms that’s one thing, but when they effect everybody else’s, we’ve got problems.
If you drive without a seatbelt you risk the consequences, but if you drive while under the influence… I think we can all agree that’s unacceptable.
We should try to protect as many lives as we possibly can. But, in the name of freedom, I believe we must protect the right to drive as well.
That choice should be given to those willing to do so responsibly. But for those who refuse, perhaps they deserve to have their licenses revoked?
What do you think?
You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com
Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot