Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Letter of the Day | COVID-19 vaccine – Coercion versus freedom of choice

Published:Tuesday | August 3, 2021 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

All over the world now, people are being told that they must take the vaccines. Yet in some countries, there are people who can’t get the vaccines, and ironically, they are craving for them. But there is strong resistance in many countries, both developed and emergent ones, against taking the vaccines.

However, politicians and medical professional are not only recommending that people get vaccinated, but governments are now issuing decrees or mandates that people must get the jabs.

Basically, the different measures being pushed by political leaders range from shaming and naming, appealing to altruism, offering incentives, and granting financial rewards to vaccine resisters to get vaccinated.

This is all very well and good – perhaps a necessary evil. But it seems to me that some of these measures being mandated to get people to take the shots are reminiscent of decrees that resemble those of the biblical Ten Commandments. So the new commandment is: “Thou shalt be vaccinated or else.”

This ultimatum “or else” commandment, if not observed, means exclusion from ordinary and daily human activities. Not taking the vaccines means that a person becomes persona non grata, ostracised or socially isolated – a modern-day COVID-19 leper.

The intensity of this new commandment, and the refusal to obey it, now places the blame on the non-vaccinated for the spread of the virus. In fact, even worse than that. For virus atheists, agnostics, and sceptics are now the new scapegoats – the new originators of the virus and its variants – not bats or other wildlife creatures. That the virus supposedly didn’t originate in Wuhan, China. Nor is the “gain-of-function” research supposedly conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology responsible for the origin and the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. None of these epidemiological events are the actual cause of COVID-19, but the real originators and transmitters of the virus are the unvaccinated.

So in short: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated? That is the question.

Whether to get vaccinated or not, we will have to depend more on science and less on emotions, fears, and myths. For clinical research has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines – well, at any rate, some of them – are more effective than others and that they are critical tools to aid and control the virus.

Clinical evidence and field research so far have shown that COVID-19 vaccines prevent most people from getting COVID-19 illness.

However, here is the caveat: So like most other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are not 100 per cent effective. So some fully vaccinated people will still get infected with SARS-CoV-2. Such infections are called “breakthrough”.

But clinical data seem confident that our better option is to take our chance with science, and although science is a human endeavour, and its methodologies are still evolving, it, however, gives us a fighting chance against COVID-19.

Now, COVID-19 is unprecedented and is global in scope. It has already claimed millions of lives. It has caused incalculable harm to economies, and to people’s emotional and social well-being, and this harm is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

So ultimately, coercive measures may have to be employed to get people vaccinated. But coercion must be balanced with humanity and compassion.

The vaccines and their inevitable successors, plus observing reasonable COVID-19 protocols, like mask wearing and proper sanitation measures, seem be the most effective tools at the moment in the epidemiological armoury to bring under control the devastating effects of COVID-19 and its mutations.

GEORGE GARWOOD