This is what we do about anti-vaxxers: No job. No entry. No NHS access
May 19, 2021
Kevan James responds with his own view to an article for The Independent, in which Sean O'Grady offered the opinion that those who do not get vaccinated should be cut off from society.
The response follows the original article, which is reproduced in full first.
What shall we do about the anti-vaxxers? A presumptuous question, I know, because they’re human beings, same as the majority of the population who choose to take the Covid-19 vaccines, and we’re all entitled to do what we will or won’t with our own bodies.
But the time has come when the hard choices are looming closer. If we don’t want this Covid crisis to last forever, we need some new simple, guidelines: No jab, no job; no jab, no access to NHS healthcare; no jab, no state education for your kids. No jab, no access to pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, stadiums. No jab, no entry to the UK, and much else. Who wants their grandma looked after by someone with coronavirus, or teaching in a school full of kids sneezing the Indian variant everywhere, or to watch a football game with someone coughing their viral load all over you? That’s not my idea of freedom.
Society always needs to balance rights against obligations, and, with rare exceptions (on problem health grounds) those refusing a vaccine need to accept what everyone else does, or face the consequences. It is a critical moment, a point where we can either win the war with the virus, and keep it down to endemic but minimal levels, or lose the struggle forever. So we either get the vaccination programme done, to borrow a phrase, or risk many more lives lost, and never-ending stop-go, on-off lockdowns every time some new variant appears and starts to “spread like wildfire”, as the health secretary graphically puts it.
Herd immunity cannot work unless the great majority of a population is inoculated. In the earlier stages of the programme, it didn’t matter so much that there were some who were reluctant, for whatever reason. Now, with the appearance of the more infective Indian variant, and with the willing soon to be vaccinated, the tougher, stricter choices have to be taken. They need to be taken by those individuals who need convincing about the safety of the vaccine – and millions of successful jabs should prove that point – but decisions have also to be taken by the community as a whole.
Fortunately, no one’s fundamental human rights need to be violated. No one should ever make vaccination compulsory, for that very reason. It would be a violation of their human rights. But those who decline to accept their societal obligations, as is their right, cannot expect life to be just the same as it ever was and they can just go around spreading the virus to other people, vulnerable or not. The rest of us have rights too, including the right to life.
We have to protect the wider population from ill-health, death and the lingering social impact of a fractured economy, stuttering month-to-month in and out of tiers and restrictions. Who wants that to go on forever? Of course, we could try to “learn to live with” the virus and the succession of more vicious variants, but it would cost many lives, and tear society apart and break the NHS – full-on waves of the plague, like in the old days.
As the Tory MP Mark Harper tweeted recently: “Concerning to hear Govt is entertaining the delay of the 21 June unlocking – causing massive problems for many people’s livelihoods – because some people won’t have a jab. Wider society’s fate can’t be sealed by the actions of a small group of people, whatever their reasoning.”
Quite right, which is why the doubtful need to be persuaded and encouraged to do the right thing. There should be far more mobile, drop-in vaccine centres, door-to-door outreach, public information, debunking campaigns, choice of types of vaccines and so on to reach individuals and communities who have missed out on this life-saving jab.
But, if they really are so insistent that the vaccine is dangerous or an instrument of mind control or whatever, then they are free to go vaccine-free, but not to go around infecting, hurting and maybe killing their fellow citizens with impunity. It is discriminatory, certainly, but it is fair discrimination, just as we only allow qualified drivers to be employed as train drivers.
If we discourage irresponsible people from drink-driving, as Andrew Lloyd-Webber argues, or from smoking indoors, or polluting the environment, then surely we can discourage them from spreading a potentially deadly disease? As I say, with rare exceptions of genuine medical justification, everyone who refuses a vaccine could be a killer on the loose, and should be judged accordingly.
© Sean O'Grady / The Independent 2021
Image - provided by The Independent
Everybody is of course, entitled to their opinion. Equally, they are entitled to express it, as Sean O'Grady has above.
But what nobody is entitled to do is force those views on others - which is what Sean is attempting to do, and what ostracising those who do not want a vaccine against COVID-19 will do.
It helps if truth and accuracy are the byword, particularly in matters of national importance. However, I would also argue that it is of equal importance that matters of a personal nature are given similar credence and as Sean rightly points out, we are all human beings and "we’re all entitled to do what we will or won’t with our own bodies".
So let's start with accuracy. Although using the right name to begin with, Sean goes on to use the term 'Covid' and 'Coronavirus' to describe the disease. Granted, we should by now all know what he means by 'Covid' and the same shortened version is now commonly used and by almost everybody. Why?
I believe it is of vital importance to use the right name for something that has swept the world. The full name of 'COVID-19' must be correctly used, always. By doing so, there is no confusion, no ambiguity. The same applies to use of the term 'coronavirus'
I have no idea if Sean knows the difference between them, or of he knows how many coronaviruses there are. I do know that the word 'coronavirus' has been in blanket use by, again almost everybody, including the government and the NHS, along with various other official bodies. So to borrow a phrase myself - how dare you.
How dare you misinform and thus mislead untold millions of people as to what a condition, a disease, actually is.
I know I have written this before on the pages on KJM Today but I will repeat it and carry on repeating it until the uninformed (including I hope, Sean as well as many of my fellow journalists) actually listen and learn.
There are thousands of coronaviruses, of which just seven are known to be capable of infecting humans. Of these, three can result in the common cold (note; can. Not will). There is no cure for the common cold, which can also be the result of a rhinovirus. Not only is there no cure but no vaccines for the common cold either, despite decades of trying to find them. There is nothing that we have so far been able to do to suppress, control, reduce, flatten or eliminate the chances of catching a cold or the viruses that cause one. So we have to live with it. We do that via our own immune systems, which mostly do an impressive job of keeping us free of a cold. However, a cold is a hugely infectious condition, spreads very rapidly, very easily and there are very few who don't get one at some point. Some people can be very prone to them, others much less so. But we are all, without exception, vulnerable to getting a cold because of the virus that is the cause.
Although the symptoms are broadly very similar, 'flu does not come from a coronavirus but a family of viruses known as Orthomyxoviridae. Influenza - to give it the correct name - is an infectious illness of the upper and lower respiratory tract, characterised by sudden onset of fever, cough, myalgia, and other symptoms. Many patients however, do not exhibit the full set and 'flu can lead to more serious illnesses. Pneumonia is the most common complication and it is this that kills, rather than orthomyxoviruses themselves. The same applies to coronaviruses - by themselves they are not fatal. What they lead to might be, and only one of them, specifically SARS-CoV-2, can result in a disease, COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2 is indeed a coronavirus and yes, you could have it for a while and not know anything about it. In such cases, the body's immune system deals with it quite well, as it does a multitude of other potentially serious attacks. These include other coronaviruses, rhinoviruses and orthomyxoviruses, not to mention any number of additional assaults upon our bodies. We are, on a daily basis, assailed by things that can harm us. Occasionally, even frequently, we fall ill because of them. Some of those illnesses can beat us and we die. But the cause of death is not 'The Coronavirus!' as screaming headlines and governments would have us believe. The cause of death will not even be COVID-19 (by itself)...what kills is what this disease - COVID-19 - can lead to or otherwise trigger. Just as influenza 'can' lead to pneumonia, which is what kills.
No human has ever existed who is in absolute perfect good health. Everybody, without exception, has things that don't work quite as they should. Most of the time, even for the entire duration of our lives, these things do not have any effect and we carry on feeling just fine. But for some people - and for no apparent reason - something sets off whatever isn't right and they collapse. This is why seemingly healthy and fit people go down unexpectedly, as professional footballer Fabrice Muamba did in 2012 in front of a huge TV and stadium audience (and as other lesser known sports participants have, unseen except by those present at the time). This is also why an apparently healthy airline pilot, who passed all his fitness checks, suddenly died at the controls of his airliner back in 1972 at Staines, just after take off from Heathrow. Muamba survived. 117 passengers and crew on the airliner died when it crashed with an already dead pilot at the controls.
Death is not new and neither is sudden, unexpected, unexplained death - at least unexplained until afterwards, when post-mortems reveal a hitherto undetected and unknown health problem. And it is that which kills; it is that unknown condition which COVID-19 can lead to, as well as conditions that are already known. Not COVID-19 itself, or for that matter, any coronavirus either.
But for all the longevity, durability and robustness of coronaviruses and the rest, including the sudden deaths, we've never shut down the world because of them. We've never found ourselves divided into those who can and those who are not allowed. Yes Sean, I agree - if vaccines are safe, have little adverse side effects, then fine. Have the jabs but the key word there is 'if'. No drug or medicine has ever been invented that doesn't have some kind of unpleasant reaction for somebody and as long as that situation exists, you cannot coerce people into having them.
Herd Immunity does not come from vaccines. Vaccines can help undoubtedly but herd immunity comes from our own ability to ward off infections and we aren't bad at it. If humanity wasn't, we would have died out eons ago. People in India are not dying from COVID-19; in all probability triggered by it however, they are dying from a host of other conditions, including those under which so many live; cheek-by-jowl, crammed together in little more than shacks with no running fresh water or toilets. Much like substantial numbers in Brazil and elsewhere.
Sean - you wrote: 'no one’s fundamental human rights need to be violated. No one should ever make vaccination compulsory, for that very reason. It would be a violation of their human rights.' You are quite right. But aren't all those things you would deny the unvaccinated also rights, both human and in every other respect? And yes, including the right to life as well. And yes once more, that includes the right to live a life.
Before COVID-19, we routinely sneezed, snorted and hacked around and over each other every day and people have been 'coughing their viral load all over you' Sean, since you were born (children have always done so, in and out of school). Politeness and consideration mostly meant covering our mouths and noses, then washing our hands when we did. But the 'fractured economy, stuttering month-to-month in and out of tiers and restrictions' you refer to are the result of government panic, lack of thought and their desire to 'be seen to be doing something' rather than of necessity. Lockdowns are the result of an over-reliance on, in all probability, political motivation among certain scientists who have come to like the power they now have and do not want to let go of it. As to the Health Secretary and his inflammatory remarks, a more irresponsible set of comments you cannot wish to find. And it is this, as you put it Sean, that is tearing society apart.
The numbers of people who do not want to wear a mask, who do not want to have the jab, are far greater than is acknowledged. But many are complying because they feel they have been forced to - not, as you say Sean, 'choosing' to do so. That is what is divisive.
You would deny healthcare to somebody? You would deny them a job (and by extension therefore as they would then put themselves out of work, no benefits either - no food, light, heat, water)? You would deny children an education because of their parents? You would lock them in their homes permanently - or would you even let them have a home?
That's not my idea of freedom Sean. Because there is no such thing as 'fair discrimination'.
© Kevan James, 2021.
Image - Kevan James
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