As a veterinarian, I vaccinated tens of thousands of animals. I’ve also been vaccinated many times myself. I get a flu shot every year and was vaccinated a few years ago against bacterial pneumonia, which stopped secondary chest infections whenever I had a cold. I’ll never know whether the other shots were needed but that one probably saved my life.
Obviously, I am not opposed to a vaccine against COVID-19. Indeed, if a vaccine brings an end to the hysteria from which we are now suffering, it can’t come soon enough. All I ask is that it is fully evaluated for adverse reactions; COVID-19 has an overall death rate of just 1 in 500, so a vaccine needs to be extraordinarily safe by comparison.
Vaccines not only protect those receiving them but, if enough people receive them, unvaccinated people as well. An infectious organism transmitted to an immune person can go no further. That’s what’s known as herd immunity and is the reason diseases such as chickenpox and measles are uncommon. Only when not enough people are vaccinated do they reoccur.
Calls for a COVID-19 vaccine to be made compulsory, including a brain fart by the Prime Minister which he later retracted, are motivated by this. If virtually everyone is vaccinated, herd immunity is guaranteed.
Such reasoning is characteristic of public health doctors, whose expertise in disease control is only matched by their ignorance of everything else. Things like personal choice and the economy are irrelevant; to them, there is no price too high for saving lives.
Normal people understand there is a trade-off, that there is a limit to how much other people should pay to save a life. It’s the reason speed limits are not 10 kmph, for example. While it would save lives (over 1,100 a year in fact), it would cripple modern society. Normal people also know that forcing people to do anything against their will does not usually end well.
In fact, there is no legal power available to the government to force us to be vaccinated. Even if it had such a power, it could never get away with using it. Passive and obedient as we tend to be, Australians would undoubtedly rebel, probably with bloody consequences.
Nonetheless, most people will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if herd immunity is to be achieved. While some studies suggest as few as 20 percent may be sufficient, nobody really knows – there has never been a coronavirus vaccine before. If it’s like many other diseases, more like 70 or even 90 percent may be needed.
The government has hinted that it will adopt similar methods to those it currently uses to promote vaccination – parents now lose access to Family Tax Benefit A and the Child Care Subsidy if their children are not protected. Other welfare payments might be included and there are suggestions that eligibility for public sector jobs may require vaccination.
State governments, which have become quite authoritarian during this pandemic, could go further and restrict the use of public transport and access to public buildings to those who are vaccinated. Even the private sector might join in, limiting access to retail outlets, gyms, restaurants and bars.
For those of us who strongly favour choice, this will pose a real challenge. A majority of the public is likely to welcome vaccination, as I do, so perhaps gentle coercion might be tolerated. But leaving people jobless, without benefits or transport due to refusal to get vaccinated will cause genuine hardship. The public will especially not tolerate suffering of children. There will be civil disobedience and protests, with some willing to go to jail and become political prisoners. And, at least for now, we are still a democracy with politicians seeking re-election.
But we should not get ahead of ourselves; there is currently no vaccine and many unknowns. All we can say for certain is that we live in interesting times, coincidentally a curse from the same country that gave us the virus.
David Leyonhjelm is a former senator for the Liberal Democrats