At a vaccine crossroad

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  • The NDP government recently made an announcement requiring British Columbians to show proof of vaccination in order to enter public establishments such as restaurants and theatres. Establishments that allow unvaccinated people to enter the premises will be fined. The scene sounds like one straight out of a George Orwell book, where Big Brother is watching, and he won’t allow one certain freedoms he allows others. Chaos ensues.

    On 24 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against issuing immunity passports because their accuracy could not be guaranteed. It stated that: “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” Vaccinated or not, the virus doesn’t care who it picks. So, the way people move, do business, work, or simply live their lives cannot be guaranteed by vaccination.

    In fact, no vaccination guarantees immunity from any disease. Most people get the necessary vaccinations as children, yet people still  get chicken pox, mumps, diphtheria, in one form or another. In addition to that, all of these vaccines have been tested, approved and proven for decades through longitudinal studies, of their efficacy and extensive use – there was no need to make scientific guesses. As of this writing, only the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine has been approved by the US FDA. So, how can a government insist on vaccination passports when a fully vaccinated person with a passport, can still carry the virus and still spread it among a population, while an unvaccinated person whose immune system is strong enough to avoid the virus, can’t get inside a theatre?

    Last month, thousands of Italians protested in cities across Italy against the government’s introduction of restrictions on unvaccinated people as Rome tries to slow an upturn in Covid-19 infections. Those who were vaccinated took to the streets and burned their “green cards” in solidarity with those who chose not to be vaccinated. Because of the pushback, the proposal to make the pass mandatory for travelling by train, coach or plane is expected to be re-evaluated in September.

    In this world where people prize inclusion, vaccination passports would do the very opposite. I can imagine it to be like how the lepers were treated during Jesus’ time. Now, people who are not vaccinated will have to look for places where they are accepted, avoid conversations and the judgment of the world coming down on them simply because they chose not to be vaccinated. And to think that a number of them may not have contracted the virus despite not being vaccinated, which means that their immune systems are what herd immunity needs for the vaccine to actually be effective for the population. The irony of it all.

    BC is only the second province to require a vaccination pass for most, if not all, public places. This requirement will continue to hurt an already hurting industry – the entertainment and restaurant businesses.  This prolongs the agony of many businesses that are trying to make up for lost income in the last year and a half. With limited seating capacity already, there is less income coming in on a daily basis. Requiring customers to possess a proof of vaccination doubles this income loss as those who are not vaccinated, for one reason or another, will just forgo going there and dine somewhere else where proof is not required. Yes, there will be establishments that will not require this, as shown  by some businesses who ignored by-laws that limited customer numbers in their premises. Fines will be meted out, but many businesses are already sick and tired of the calls the provincial government is making that tie their hands.

    And there is the question about a person’s right to choose for their own health. While it is true that in cases of a pandemic, the government can rescind those rights for the good of the many, some people cannot be vaccinated because it is detrimental to their health. What about them? What about their rights?

    Vaccinated or not, one must continue to ask questions and to not simply be a bystander or worse, one who succumbs to pressure to do something against their better principles. Everyone still has a right, protected by the charter, to choose what is best for them and to uphold their convictions, yet they also want to go back to what they normally do – dine out, travel, and even something as simple as working out at the gym – without being asked if they have been vaccinated or not. Others also have the right to be protected from the virus, thus vaccination may be necessary. So, which side do we take?

    This topic is divisive, and the virus and vaccine has compounded it to a higher level. What makes it more controversial is that it runs over peoples rights, both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The government has to do a better job balancing this equilibrium.

     

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