Dial NON-VAXX For Murder
Is deciding to get or not to get vaccinated against COVID a collision of rights, as anti-vaxxers are claiming? Do they have the right not to get vaccinated, because it is a human right to decide what to do with one's own body?
Maybe so. But balancing rights is what a lot of our laws are about. Is the balancing of rights really difficult in this case?
I think not. I think the balancing of rights in this case is a rather open and shut case. The biggest problem is just visibility of the agent of injury.
If you drive drunk, it's pretty clear that you are a menace to others. When you have your accident and injure others (not to mention yourself), and it's clear that others suffer as a result of your inappropriate self-indulgence, then the cause and the victim are right there for all to see. You drank, you drove, you killed. It's not much of a leap for laws to be enacted to prevent these events by forbidding you to do something to your body – drink alcohol to excess – and then commit and act – driving – that may injure others. Note that it's a preventive law, that you “may” injure others. A certain percentage of the time, you will injure others, not every time, there's just a chance. The law weighs in on competing rights in favor of the potential victims, and there are few who will challenge that societal judgement.
Likewise, do you have the right to step outside your house and fire a gun wildly down the street? No, society says not. You must give up your right to do what you want because it may be injurious to others, possibly, some of the time, there's a chance.
In fact, some laws go even further than that. Motorists must wear seatbelts; motorcyclists and bicyclists must wear protective headgear. In these cases, the potential harm isn't to others, but to oneself. Society has judged that the universal law of seatbelts and helmets not only protects the individuals who are protecting themselves, but also protects others, who are influenced by the universality of the laws to follow the societal law-enforced custom. The law protects against the social influence of defiant self-absorption.
It has long been recognized that children must be vaccinated to attend school, and here in California we recently followed the example of West Virginia and Mississippi to strengthen that law. The anti-scientific, spurious reasoning, socially-defiant anti-vaxxers were defeated by reason. Once again, “violation of body” has been judged to be far-outweighed by the social good of resisting epidemic disease.
So, the point – is COVID vaccination different from these examples, or does it fall into the same pattern of other regulations of personal behavior in favor of public safety? The one technical difference, that the vaccines still have only “emergency approval,” was erased for the Pfizer vaccine and will soon be erased for the others, and hundreds of millions of doses have proved their safety.
No, the only difference between non-vaxxing and drunk driving is visibility, the ability to identify the culprit, the agent of death and disease. The arguments against mandatory COVID vaccination are not rational, they are rationalizing. The rationalizers treat the vaccinating decision as one of taste, choosing to support the A's or the Giants, not as a choice between reason and folly. That is sad.
Not vaccinating is like playing Russian Roulette with the gun pointed at someone else's head. It is not dictatorial to choose reason and public safety in COVID vaccinating, rather than prostrate ourselves before specious arguments. We need to mandate vaccinating for any public gathering, including schools and shopping, just as we mandate no driving while drunk.