Musing about the alternative to vaccination

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Persons choosing not to receive a vaccination to protect against Covid-19 need to consider the moral meaning of their choice. If vaccination is a sacramental act (cf. my last Ethical Musings post), then what is the spiritual or ethical meaning of not being vaccinated?

Among the several reasons that may lead a person to refuse vaccination are:

  • Suspicion of rapidly developed and government approved vaccines, seen from the perspective of historically justified distrust of prior government medical experimentation on members of certain racial or ethnic groups without first obtaining a person’s informed consent
  • Membership in a faith community, such as Christian Science, that rejects all medical treatment
  • Having an actual medical condition that makes vaccination against the Covid-19 virus hazardous
  • Believing one or more lies regarding the virus (e.g., Covid-19 is no worse than the flu) or the vaccines (e.g., the vaccine contains a microchip or the vaccine permanently alters the recipient’s DNA)

Example setting, information and medical personnel developing a trusted relationship with potential patients can overcome suspicions about the vaccine. The number of members of faith communities (or philosophical schools) that object to medical treatment and who actually refuse medical care is relatively small. Vaccination campaigns can safely ignore these groups. Society rightly accepts diverse religious and philosophical beliefs without demanding each group establish a scientific basis for its beliefs. Similarly, the number of persons who actually have a medical condition that makes inoculation against Covid-19 dangerous is also small enough to pose no threat to the larger community. Vaccination with significant risk of injuring or killing the recipient is illogical.

Shockingly, some estimates suggest that a third of the U.S. population opposes being vaccinated because of a lie(s) they accept as fact/truth. These individuals have failed to perform due diligence about the virus and vaccines. Assertion, not fact, determines their belief. If researchers are correct, presentation of facts and what science currently knows about the virus and vaccine will not convince a substantial majority of these individuals to change their thinking about Covid-19 and vaccination.

Every culture imposes limits on the practice of diversity. Two limits many cultures impose on tolerance are (1) prohibiting cannibalism and (2) banning pedophilia. Limiting cultural diversity is reasonable when the absence of limits will probably create significant harms on costs for others.

Refusing widespread vaccination against Covid-19 because of lies exceeds the limits of reasonable tolerance for diversity in two ways.

First, humans thrive best in communities that value all of their members. Those who irrationally oppose Covid-19 vaccines de facto espouse “culling the herd.” That is, let those with weak resistance to the virus or to developing severe cases die. High-risk groups include the elderly, those with underlying conditions such as diabetes and obesity, many communities of people of color, healthcare workers and those living in close proximity to others (nursing homes, assisted living, prison, etc.). Ironically, those who oppose vaccination and who regularly fail to practice social distancing and mask wearing are themselves among the high-risk.

Second, healthcare is a basic human right. Prevention is far, far cheaper than treatment. Therefore, logical consistency demands that persons who irrationally refuse vaccination, ignore social distancing and don’t wear a mask should also refuse to help fund medical care for high-risk persons. A few persons may fully pay for their individual health care. But, for most Americans, many other people share the cost of one’s healthcare’s (taxes pay for Medicare and Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of insureds help underwrite treatment costs for insured persons, etc.).

The generally unacknowledged presumption implicit in arguments based upon lies about why to refuse vaccination and not practice social distancing or mask wearing is that allowing high-risk persons to catch and then die from Covid-19 would strengthen the human race. This position shatters the moral limits of tolerance and resembles ethically abhorrent eugenics efforts such as the one Nazis devised to purify humanity by killing the disabled, mentally challenged, gay, non-Aryan, Jewish, and politically incorrect.

In sum, getting vaccinated is a sacramental act. Irrationally refusing to be vaccinated, to practice social distancing, and to wear a mask is irresponsible and a moral evil.

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