Updated: Sep 7, 2021
We’re all going to die of something, but nobody has to die of covid. Because of human ingenuity, because of the covid vaccines. The covid vaccines don’t completely prevent covid, but all the vaccines prevent death from covid. And prevent hospitalization from covid that preserves finite beds for those with illness or injury that was unavoidable. Covid is avoidable for everyone because the vaccines are readily available to everyone, free for everyone.
For those who say it’s their free choice to go unvaccinated, it’s true, there are no forced vaccinations. And those who say it’s their individual right to go unvaccinated, that’s true too. What is also true is individual rights are not unlimited. As a society with many laws for many purposes, laws must balance competing rights and necessarily limit individual rights in some situations. A person’s individual right ends when exercising that right harms others, such as yelling fire in a crowded theater, where there is no fire. An individual’s right to free speech does not extend to speech that endangers others because that infringes on others’ right to be free from unnecessary harm.
Many legal privileges are conditional. To drive legally, you must pass a driving test and get a driver’s license. To send a child to school, several vaccinations are required. To work in various workplaces, such as hospitals, nursing homes or daycare centers, often requires a regular TB test and annual flu shot. To require a covid vaccine for people to safely engage in collective activities, such as attending, teaching or working in schools, eating in restaurants, socializing in bars, traveling on planes and trains, attending concerts and plays, visiting museums, businesses serving the public, large workplaces, healthcare settings, is a reasonable balance of the communal right to avoid death from covid over an individual’s right to go unvaccinated and unrestricted.
The choice of whether or not to get vaccinated not only affects the individual making the choice, but everyone they come into contact with, nobody lives in a vacuum. Everyone has the choice to go unvaccinated but like all choices, the consequences of that choice should be borne by the unvaccinated individual, not by others who are vaccinated, who risk covid from the unvaccinated or are deprived of medical resources being used by the unvaccinated who get covid. Nor should children, who don't have the choice to get vaccinated, suffer the consequences of those who go unvaccinated.
Other required vaccinations are not a secret, not subject to a right to privacy or the protection of HIPAA. If you went to school, everyone knows that you had childhood vaccinations. If I have to interact with someone, such as the nurse in my doctor’s office or a tradesman coming to work in my home, it’s prudent to ask whether or not that person is vaccinated. If they refuse to answer, claiming it’s confidential or their right to privacy, it does not override my right to safe interactions and it certainly isn’t confidential since their refusal to answer tells me that they are not vaccinated.
Every action has risks; step off curb, get hit by a car; drive, get in an accident. Nothing is risk-free. Whether consciously or not, we are always weighing the benefits and risks of every action we take. I’ll risk crossing the street, or driving a car, because there is somewhere I want to go. I took the miniscule risk of getting the covid vaccination because I want to avoid dying or being hospitalized from covid. It’s not a close call; everyone who is eligible should get the covid vaccine.