It’s seldom that conservatives get me frowning as much as regressive progressives do, but quite a few are arguing that people should not take coronavirus vaccines if they don’t want to, and the frown is forming permanent wrinkles.
They frame the issue as a matter of rights when in fact it’s a matter of everyday morality. By the calculation of most of the world’s medical scientists, not taking a vaccine increases the chances of infection with which you may kill yourself, your parents, your grandparents, your next-door neighbors, your fellow workers, the stranger you sat next to at a bar or the last person you held hands with. It’s not just about you and your rights, but about the immediate and even long-term harm you may do to others, a question of basic human decency.
Look, cancel culture is out there, and conservatives may visit it soon, too, so let me concede a right for people to be unenlightened on this score. Yet about all that right means is that you are not going to face criminal penalties for avoiding a needle pushed into your arm. At the same time, private businesses have a right to fire you or not to hire you if you don’t get shots. Shots make it a lot easier get rid of lockdowns. After all, those in charge are obligated to protect other workers and customers as best they can, as in letting you know you cannot come to work with grenades, arsenic and a Bowie knife strapped around your waist.
A supervisor could tell you to take that stuff off, just as airlines, subways, buses and other modes of transportation are perfectly entitled to refuse rides to people who have not had shots because, here again, they could either infect others or be infected themselves.
It’s true that a minority of scientists may think vaccines unnecessary right now, and if you’ve dug into this and arrived at what seems an impenetrable truth, you probably haven’t; science seldom works like that. An unpleasant truth, for example, is that new virus variants are on the march. Certainly, there are exceptions about vaccines like everything else; given the statistics, I myself am convinced there is next to no case where children under 12 should have them. But it appears undeniable that vaccines have made an enormous difference in saving lives and that the pandemic is getting close to at least a conditional surrender if we fight on.
That is not the same as saying we should go on forever in a desperate fear-the-virus mode. Your chances of being infected may be slim and the chances that you would die or actually kill someone are unbelievably slim if you or the other person aren’t at least over 60. But given the reach of the pandemic and even the non-fatal harm it can do, that is still not argument enough at the moment for no more vaccines.
I have no wish to end this trying to sound as if I am the last word on a technical issue, but here is what I would say. If you have not had shots, visit a physician and ask him or her whether you should. I would also argue that the government should issue certificates to everyone who has had a shot and they should be as obliged to carry them as auto drivers are to carry a license. If you believe without consultation that shots will sicken you or that they are some kind of metaphysical curse, fine. Proceed with your life in whatever way works for you, but don’t get on airplanes and fight with flight attendants who recognize obligations in this life.