COVID-19

To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate, that is the question

What gets me most is the growing belief today that everyone’s view is as sound or important as the ‘experts.’

Without the vaccine, we pro-vaxxers argue, we would all still be locked up. There would be no freedom for anybody…

To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate. That is the question that has bedevilled a significant minority of the globe since vaccinations against Covid-19 first became available around the end of 2020.

The vulnerable, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions appeared thrilled to have the jab and in the UK  79 per cent of the population has had two doses with 87.7 per cent having had a least one.

But behind the scenes around the world – much more visible in street protests, lately – a noisy minority (particularly in countries like Australia and NZ) have been taking to the streets to rail against what they perceive as a Government conspiracy to remove their freedom.

And currently we have the bizarre situation in Australia which sees Novak Djokovic ‘imprisoned’ in a slum immigration detention centre because the Federal Government revoked his visa – issued on the grounds of an exemption – within hours of him landing in Melbourne.

The decision on Djokovic, surely the most famous anti-vaxxer on the planet (who believes he can transform water into a mystical substance merely by using his energy) was handed down by a court in Australia today. But despite winning the latest round in his visa battle, it still remains to be seen if he will compete at next week’s Australian Open.

Is the debacle the fault of his arrogance? Did he really have Covid-19 on December 16 and if so why was he photographed in the subsequent days at public events? Why did Tennis Australia and the government issue the visa if the minimum requirement for entry was to be double vaccinated. These questions and more need to be answered before the 20-time Grand Slam winner is either allowed to take to the court or flung back to whence he came.

But what is the great debate over vaccinations? I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and freedom of choice. But how can you demand that you have that freedom, while screaming that it’s unfair that you can’t then take part without following the rules. The objections, it seems to me, are less about any concerns over wobbly science – or a fear that you might grow a second head – than simply resisting for the sake of a practice that appears to be the only light at the end of a tunnel in a pandemic that has curtailed our liberty for the best part of two years.

Without the vaccine, we pro-vaxxers argue, we would all still be locked up. There would be no freedom for anybody.

But there’s a wider point at issue here – the complaint that we are being forced to do something simply because the Government makes it virtually mandatory. It is NOT compulsory. Though it’s true that in some areas your options are limited if you don’t follow the guidance.

(And some of the anti-vaxxers are clearly nuts: in the UK Piers Corbyn, brother of erstwhile Labour leader Jeremy, who has gathered thousands of fans amongst the gullible young, went so far as to include in his anti-government anti-vax claims a theory that Climate Change was invented by Margaret Thatcher as an excuse to close the mines.)

What got me so interested in this particularly modern rebellion, however, was how different things were in the past. In the 19thCentury you couldn’t be a nurse in Britain unless you had the smallpox jab – nor could you apply to be a tenant of the revolutionary new and modern housing being offered to the poor by the Peabody Trust. For a population whose ancestors had been devastated by the Plague, with no remedy in sight, it was no contest. They didn’t need much encouragement to roll up their sleeves. In fact it must have seemed a significant improvement.

What gets me most however – and this is a somewhat lateral argument, so bear with me – is the growing belief today that everyone’s view is as sound or important as the ‘experts.’ I agree with Voltaire that everybody has a right to express an opinion with which I may disagree, but so much of what is happening now flies in the face of learning, education and science.

And ironically, when the iron door slams shut – with those on the other side of it refusing to countenance an opinion different from their own – it is often the ‘experts’ who are victims. In these woke times it is no longer relevant whether you hold a university degree in the subject being discussed: or that you have spent a lifetime being paid for that expertise. Your view is no more important than Joe Bloggs who lives on the corner and has no qualifications in anything.

If it wasn’t so laughable it would make you want to cry.

So what is the solution? I’m not sure I have one but I have stopped telling anti-vaxxers, for example, that I don’t want to discuss their opinions or hear their views (even if one of them likened forcing someone to have a vaccine to forcing a woman to have an abortion). I did this to avoid enraged debate to which I saw no solution. But me shutting down the argument appeared to make my opponent even more engorged with rage.

And in truth, I shouldn’t. For however ludicrous I may regard their comments, and however infuriated they make me, they do, after all, have the right to make them. But surely all of us have the right to debate. That, after all, is the ultimate freedom.

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Jo Knowsley

Jo has held senior staff writing roles on some of Britain’s leading newspapers including the Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday, and is now a freelance writer. She has reported on major breaking stories around the world and has written for magazines and newspapers in Britain, Australia and New Zealand in publications as diverse as Marie Claire, the Daily Mail, Metro, Saga and Grazia. In the past she focused primarily on news-lead reports and interviews. Today she writes across a number of platforms on subjects ranging from property and travel to theatre and features. She grew up in New Zealand and has made her home and career in London since 1990.

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