Matthew Lesh, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, argues YES
People who refuse to get vaccinated are selfish.
Getting the jab is a tiny cost to you. It’s free, conveniently available and takes a tiny amount of time. The most likely negative consequence is some temporary arm discomfort and tiredness. Even for a younger person, the serious risks of getting vaccinated, like blood clots or heart issues, is minuscule compared to the health risks from getting the virus.
By contrast, taking a vaccine shortens the pandemic. It results in less pressure on the healthcare system from people getting sick, fewer demands for lockdowns and all of the associated misery. Life getting back to normal takes vaccinations.
Vaccination also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to someone who cannot get the vaccine or is immunocompromised. That means fewer hospitalisations and deaths. The latest Israeli data indicates that the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is 41 per cent effective against the Delta variant. In the context of an exponential pandemic that’s a substantial reduction in opportunities for onward infections.
A vaccinated individual is also less likely to pass along the virus if they become infected. That’s because the vaccine reduces an individual’s viral load (the amount of virus in your system) and symptoms, such as coughing, which makes it harder to pass along. Another Israeli study suggested vaccinated people who get infected are 78 per cent less likely to spread the virus to household members; a Public Health England study, including 365,000 households, found the jab reduces onward transmission by 40-60 per cent.
People should not be forced to get a vaccine. Nor should the state require private businesses to introduce vaccine passports. Nevertheless, we should highlight the consequences to individuals and the broader community from not getting vaccinated. We have obligations to other people in a consenting society.
Refusing a vaccine is not just putting you at risk. It puts everyone at risk.
Emma Webb, political and social commentator, argues NO
In a free and safe society, one very basic thing must be protected from the state or the force of the demos – sovereignty over your own body.
Yet the sands have shifted, excused by the pursuit of a public health objective.
Parliament has passed legislation mandating vaccinations for care home staff. Our ostensibly liberal conservative government may extend this mandate to students, by introducing ‘vaccine passports’. Likewise, for large venues and events come Autumn. The rational is clear: incentivise vaccine take-up with the threat that ‘refuseniks’ will be excluded from participation in key areas of social life.
Those who do not take up the vaccine, according to Michael Gove, are ‘selfish’ for putting others’ lives at risk. Chasing the target of a fully vaccinated population, the government fails to respect the individual’s right to make their own medical choices, even if the majority disagree. It is not an ‘anti-vaxx’ position to acknowledge the dangerous precedent this sets and that we are already, ethically, plummeting down a slippery slope.
By way of an addendum, though the vaccine may reduce transmission, the vaccinated can still get infected and infect others. So, it is not just the unvaccinated that pose a risk to others. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, this is besides the point.
Is it ethically acceptable for the Government to pressure and shame citizens to take a medical action? Is it ethical to require disclosure of medical information in exchange for basic social freedoms and access to services?
The sovereignty of the individual to make their own medical decisions is something that must be respected, regardless of other public health considerations.
Vaccinated or not, is it not a more selfish decision to use a vaccine passport simply to have that pint, see that concert, watch that football game? To sacrifice the long-term wellbeing of society for a short-term jaunt?