Mandating vaccination or manhandling by vaccination? | By Pieter Smits
Updated: Mar 14
For years now, we have been living with different forms of COVID-19.
If you remember: back in the early days, the end of 2019, Europe gradually got pictures and clips of people laying on the streets of Chinese towns, with many bystanders, but no one helping them up.
Some of us were outraged, but all of us were shocked by this sight.
The passiveness of those bystanders was to a certain degree understandable, as no one really knew what the disease that caused this kind of trauma precisely was.
When it came to Europe a couple of months later, we too were confronted with this mysterious disease. We all remember the reports from Northern Italy, and the desperate need of just about any medical personnel and material.
At this instance, it was perfectly understandable that governments took any precaution possible to at least try to contain the number of cases.
Even the lock-down was an acceptable measure in light of the uncertainty and emergency situation. Although this lock-down has been very restricting of our personal rights, it was acceptable in a period of uncertainty. Also -to be honest- who among us did not enjoy this short break in our often overly busy life?
As time went by, we got to know the virus more and more, and even each mutation did not hold to many surprises. It is typical for us humans to analyse a situation and bring order in any chaos.
One of the most recent evolutions was the creation of a vaccine or, rather, many types of vaccines by the end of 2020.
This was extremely fast, for the record. It shows to what height the human race can rise, should the occasion present itself.
On the other hand, with the vaccine there rose many questions.
First of all: is it safe? The use of the vaccines has shown that, on the short term, the vaccines have been proven as safe as other vaccines.
What we do not know, is what these vaccines will do on the mid-long to long term.
In normal situations, vaccines are being tested for 5 to 10 years (or even longer), before being distributed.
Now, using the vaccines on a large scale, does not give any indication on what they will do in the long run. Quantity is a different concept than timeframe.
This question is evermore important as several ‘boostershots’ are required.
This poses questions worth asking, without overdramatising the risk, but without over reducing it either.
Second of all: will the vaccines pave the road to freedom.
Here we see the difference between science on the one hand, and (overly eager) politicians and certain scientists on the other hand.
As people rightly shouted ‘Trust the science!’, they often reduced it themselves to ‘Trust the scientist’.
This has been a profound problem, which denounces over 300 years of experience.
It was Christianity, and Christian scientists that came up with the ‘scientific method’.
They were well aware of the fallen nature of man and the world, and were very cautious of their own senses, which could mislead them.
Therefore, they developed a way to observe and measure the object of their research, and come to reliable and objective results.
This method has shown its quality through the ages.
Unfortunately, from the moment the vaccines were ready, politicians and some scientists started to proclaim that vaccines -and only vaccines- would lead to freedom.
Adding more to the problems, politicians started claiming that initially one, but very soon only two shots would suffise to ‘regain freedom’.
Now, more and more ‘boostershots’ are claimed to be necessary, while the freedom is not ‘granted’ in equal measures: the COVID-passes are used more and more, and less and less actions are accepted as having a valid pass (for instance: having been tested is in most countries no longer sufficient).
Now, the most recent change is a fortunate one: the dominant variation ‘Omicron’ is revealing itself as being comparable to a normal seasonal flu, except for how contagious it is.
With this variant, it seems that this pandemic has reached its high water mark, and will become a mere bad memory in a very short period of time, after which only the mourning for the people we’ve lost will remain.
Still, it’s worth asking this question: is a mandated vaccination a good thing, or is it something to avoid.
The question must be asked, because some countries start to apply the obligation, but also other countries are debating in imposing the obligation even now, when the worst is behind us.
And the worst is behind us, if we keep the initial goal in mind: the goal was to protect the hospitals from an overload, a ‘flood wave’ of patients -and the hard choices they should have to make in those cases.
To be clear: ‘mandated vaccines’ points to having everybody vaccinated without any choice. This is something different than shutting people out of the public life, unless they’re vaccinated. Both are, in our view, reprehensible, but we’re talking about the mandated vaccination in a strict way (although some arguments can be used against the broader sense too).
The first argument brought in favour of mandated vaccines is the comparison to the other mandated vaccines. Some are mandated at birth, but others are mandated when Europeans travel to more exotic places in the world. They are accepted, and no one questions this.
This is true, but there are important differences.
The vaccines mandated for certain travel destinations still are voluntary in a certain sense: people have the choice of travelling there. For those that need to travel for work of course, the vaccine comes closer to a mandated vaccination as we’re talking about in this article.
Also, those vaccines ‘work’. It is to say: the vaccines against COVID-19 overall reach the goal of the politicians: keeping most of the vaccinated people out of the hospitals.
They do not, however, reach their target in light of what a vaccine should do: normally seen, a vaccination implies that you do not get the disease. This is an entirely different approach, and can, in very limited cases, argue in favour of an obligation.
The second argument is solidarity: people have to get vaccinated for their fellow humans.
The idea is not only to directly avoiding others to get sick, but also help the hospitals to keep room for the ‘standard’ patients, and avoid them being overflowed.
This argument is not very scientific.
Remember: scientists and politicians alike have repeatedly proclaimed that a certain degree of vaccination of people would generate ‘group immunity’. Initially 70% of the population, it grew to 80% and finally 90% in some estimates.
Even the highest number does not demand a vaccination of 100% of the population.
Although ‘group immunity’ clearly does not mean that no one will get the disease (see previous argument), it does keep people out of the hospitals.
On the other hand, for the weakest among us -the elderly and those with certain complaints- are very sensitive to such viruses (like any flu-virus, like COVID) in normal times too. That is why they get the flu shot.
The solidarity cannot go this far as to denying people their freedom of choice on their own body, all the more when other measures are effective too (mask, distance, open air, etc).
Finally two matters of principle.
First: most -if not all- of these vaccines are being made on strings of DNA of an aborted child.
To be perfectly clear: the child was aborted decades ago, and the DNA is just being used over and over again.
If you do not want to take this vaccine on moral grounds like these, who are we to deny them this right? We’re not asking people that hold other views on this to change their views, we merely ask them to accept this true moral objection -at least for them- as an objection, and not to brush it off as a fake reason.
The second principle is the relation between Society and the individual.
Humans are social beings, we need society to keep and expand our welfare (what welfare is, and what a good society is, is another question).
Still, society has no true ‘rights of its own’: it’s merely that what is necessary to keep society going.
We hold the view of ‘subsidiarity’: this means that everything has to be kept as close to the individuals, or smallest building blocks (i.e.: the core-family) as possible.
The further you take a competence, or an obligation, from the people, the more you need to argue for it.
In short: things people really can’t do themselves can be done by their municipality or city, if you decide to do things on a national level, you need to argue a lot. If you decide to do something international (eg UN), supranational (eg EU), etc. you need to argue extremely hard.
This goes all the more for mandatory rules and regulations.
An obligation on vaccination cannot be acceptable in any case, as it touches a person’s liberty and personal integrity in an essential way. The only mandated vaccine in Belgium is regarding polio.
There, the obligation maybe could be argued for by some, but it’s that different from the vaccines concerning COVID-19, that it cannot be compared in this article.
What do we propose then?
When all of this is passed, we will need to do a full review on all measures, without the advantage of hindsight. Still on this point, we can propose our opinion for the next pandemic.
This is important: for the next pandemic. For the phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where we have come to: the Omicron which is far less sickening than its predecessors does not support any mandated vaccination.
We feel society can make a difference between those who are vaccinated, and those who are not. This difference, however, is only acceptable if the consequence of having the disease is serious enough.
Our first parameters -though they can and probably will be changed as the debate is being held- are:
1) is it a deadly disease?
2) has the disease the potential of disrupting society as a whole?
3) does the vaccine end the disease and does it keep going if a certain number of the people (70%) gets the vaccine?
If the answer on all three questions is ‘yes’, a distinction can be made until the scientifically required number has been reached.
Mind you, we talk about a difference in how to deal with them, explicitly not about a mandated vaccination.
This distinction can be: mandatory mask, mandated testing, and the like.
A mandated vaccination implies such an intrusion in the personal freedom, that is cannot be mandated, save maybe for cases comparable to Polio, which in Belgium is the only true obligated vaccine… yet.