Opinion: Religion? Policy? Freedom? These are not valid reasons to refuse a COVID vaccine
One of the most confusing and disturbing aspects of the coronavirus pandemic for most Americans is the refusal of a substantial minority to get vaccinated because of religion, politics, or a desire for personal freedom.
Why would a reasonable person with no specific medical condition refuse a safe, free vaccine that could prevent death and protect their immediate family?
It’s like refusing to fasten your seat belt, turning off a smoke detector, walking on train tracks with earphones or leaving loaded guns around the family home.
Adding to the confusion, a new ad campaign from Irvine-based TRAFFIK not only opposes vaccination mandates, but celebrates frontline workers who refuse them.
“These frontline workers are sacrificing while standing up for freedom, and we must take action to ensure that discrimination has no place in any industry.” said Anthony Trimino, CEO of TRAFFIK.
Religion, politics and freedom are important to most Americans. But none of this is a good reason to take a stand against personal safety.
Take religion. It’s hard to see how a benevolent God would want mankind not to protect themselves from a new virus, and mainstream religions all support vaccination. There are individual religious leaders who oppose vaccination, just as there are fringe religions who support everything from witchcraft to LSD. All religious beliefs are not of equal gravity.
Political opposition to vaccination is a strange shift in Republican thinking during the pandemic. President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed succeeded in rapidly developing effective vaccines. Now he is implying that taking these vaccines is unfair. Republican governors in Texas and Florida have seized on this and are working to end vaccination mandates. It’s like the Republicans want their constituents to die.
Freedom is the most problematic reason, and for anti-vaxxers, that’s a college conception of freedom – freedom from restraint. It may have worked in a sparsely populated ancient America, where your actions had little impact on your neighbors. But it’s a recipe for calamity in the 21st century America of 330 million people.
An unvaccinated individual’s stance for freedom puts many at risk and imposes costs on others. When you catch the virus, you put others around you at risk, especially children. And if you’re hospitalized, you — or society if you’ve decided health insurance is an attack on liberty — face hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to save your life. And then there are the exhausted, overworked caregivers who have to try to save you when you wouldn’t make the effort to save yourself. They won’t be very understanding.
Not being vaccinated is not freedom; it is a dangerous self-centered selfishness.
Most Americans, especially in California, would be okay with that. Just look at how easily Governor Gavin Newsom beat the recall despite some of the toughest lockdowns and one of the most aggressive vaccination programs.
So if the top three reasons for refusing to vaccinate don’t make sense and most Americans want to protect themselves, why are some people doing this? It all comes down to resistance to change.
For these Americans, 2020 started with everything OK. The economy was booming, Trump was president, and life seemed good. Why did a pandemic have to take it all away? It was not “fair”, and some would even deny the existence of a pandemic.
But like it or not, a virus has evolved into something deadly, just as it happened a century ago in the aftermath of a disastrous world war that left many bewildered. Science didn’t understand viruses in 1918, but at least recommended masks, and some Americans rebelled.
When we look back on the pandemic a decade or two from now, history will not be kind to the anti-vaxxers. They will not be remembered as heroes, but as sad and lost characters in contradiction with reality.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of the Times of San Diego. He is fully vaccinated and received his Moderna booster on Friday.