Good news came out of Olympia last week, as well as Boise more than two weeks ago. COVID-19 vaccine availability has increased to the point where basically anyone who needs to get the jab can. It’s paid for as well, so in order to do my part to get back to normal — and I mean REAL normal — I rolled up to Rite Aid to get my own shot. Considering all the crazy vaccines I’ve had stuck in my backside, I’ve got no problem.
But at the same time, there’s a whole lot of talk about things like vaccine passports — which are about one of the worst ideas to come along yet. At the same time I have no problem getting my vaccine, I adamantly oppose people being ostracized for deciding to not get the vaccine.
If you force someone to get a vaccine to participate in society as an adult, this is what psychologists call a boundary violation. When someone violates the sanctity of your person, they’re violating the one thing you are supposed to be able to control. While certainly of lesser intensity than something like prohibiting abortion, the principles are actually the same. People should be able to control their bodies, unless there is some compelling reason for state survival.
And COVID-19 ain’t it. We’ve already engaged in a year’s worth of wildly authoritarian activity, whose price was paid by a couple of classes in society — the independent business person and the essential worker. We’ve been screamed at to wear masks, which may have been appropriate at the beginning of the pandemic, due to the precautionary principle, “better safe than sorry.”
But the precautionary principle is not applicable when we have plenty of information to make decisions. And that’s where we are now. States with mask mandates have done about the same, COVID-19-wise, as states without mask mandates. And all the apocalyptic predictions of the Tony Faucis of the world have not come to pass. The most recent work I’ve seen from John Ioannidis, the very data-driven epidemiologist out of Stanford, has pegged COVID-19 just a little worse than a bad flu season.
So COVID-19 is not an existential threat to our society. Sorry if you need the fear.
But our response to it is turning into an existential threat to our democracy. And a stable form of representative government has been the thing that has delivered not just prosperity, but good health to all of us. Considering how empowered jerks on the street, as well as various police departments have responded to mask ordinances, the last thing we need is a computerized piece of paper that says who gets to do anything — work, eat, and move freely about. If you’re worried about COVID-19, you can get the shot.
Anyone choosing to not get the shot is little or no threat to you. And trust me — Big Pharma is making a ton of money off these vaccines. There will be an update that you can queue up for next respiratory illness season. And I’m willing to bet, dollars to donuts, that that particular shot will not be free.
We’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the idea that if you don’t conform to society’s immediate wishes, ostracism and starvation ought to be your fate.
This has been a policy on the left for the last 10 years, and it’s nuts. If we had a little more faith in our civilization, we’d see that we’ve been evolving out of certain unpleasant anachronisms across the board. Gay marriage is a great example. But a biosecurity state is in no one’s interest. Well, except, perhaps, the rich. Interested in their death minimization, barring no expense, we now have at least half our nation locked down and believing their neighbors are trying to kill them.
The last thing we need to do is institutionalize this every respiratory illness season. No to vaccine passports — and the rest of the malarkey we’ve put up with. That’s what the data is telling us. As well as the Constitution.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical andmaterials engineering at Washington State University.