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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.