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JUST SAYIN’ – COVID-19 Vaccination And The Social Contract

Op-Ed By Steven Bezaire

It is as mournful as it is disconcerting that such a large segment of our population is disinclined, or outright refuses, to avail themselves of any of the free COVID-19 vaccinations supplied by our government to fight this pandemic.

Taking the vaccine is the right, and patriotic, thing to do.

Failure or refusal to do so, without medical justification, however, is not merely a matter of personal choice, a simple “I’ll do me, you do you” proposition — it is the narrow-minded and ungenerous act of people who do not understand the privileges and commitments of democracy.

Weren’t we all taught the notion of the Social Contract somewhere early in high school — at roughly the same time as the relative merits of democracy were compared to the tenets of communism, socialism, and totalitarianism?

Isn’t it, still, one of the biggest influences on our modern democracy — the concept that, in a civilized society it is necessary for individuals to voluntarily renunciate their individual freedoms for the sake of the greater collective good?

In other words, democracy is never free, but requires commitment, sacrifice and compromise. So it is that we all agree to drive on the right side of the road, pay our taxes, or, albeit solemnly and sorrowfully, honour a nationwide conscription of our young sons, husbands, and brothers to defend democracy on another continent.

The contract portion comes in the form of an expectation that my sacrifices will be matched by my countrymen and women — that my efforts at collective collaboration will be no greater, or lesser, than that which I would expect of my peers, and vice versa. It turns out human knowledge and improvement are not linear.

So much for naively imagining the arrival of the Internet, bringing near-instantaneous access to such abundant stores of human scholarship and intelligence would increase both humanity’s, and every individual’s, knowledge, and wisdom. Alas, the higher tide does not raise all boats. Truth is everywhere under attack.

Sadly, apparently it is now possible for “alternative facts” and multiple “truths” to coexist with logic and deduction.

So it is that in the heart of the largest city in the world’s most profitable country a measles outbreak in New York in 2019, threatened to make the United States only the second country in the Americas without a WHO “measles free” status 20 years after the disease was effectively eradicated through vaccination.

The pervasiveness of misinformation on the Internet, especially the disdainful memes which are reposted endlessly on social media sites, is nothing short of astounding.

Ignorance is as human a phenomenon as hunger. Pure ignorance — being born into it — is unavoidable. I get it, but willful blindness to the truth is not the same thing — it is not as blameless as pure ignorance. And, assuredly, willful blindness and defiance are terrible roommates.

The old PT Barnum saying “There’s a sucker born every minute” has been around for a long time and is easily invoked to describe the gullible. Yet it is Noam Chomsky who captured our particular dilemma best when he said: “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

These are the facts: real, confirmed, and indisputable.

Amid a world-wide pandemic, for the inconvenience of attending an appointment, bearing a momentary needle prick, and potentially a few hours of mild nausea, Canadians can obtain overwhelming protection from a disease that has killed over 4 million people and more than 26,000 Canadians (efficacy rates of Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations are approximately 95%).

And yes, there is a mathematically negligible chance of becoming ill or even dying from a vaccination. Twenty seven Canadians, out of two million, suffered CVST (a cerebral blood-clotting issue), and five of them died of it — a number dwarfed by those who died in car accidents or drowned over the same period, to say nothing of the 26,000 who succumbed to the disease itself.

In every country where vaccinations are increasing the case counts are decreasing.

One would think that the benefit of such relative protection would, alone, merit braving the comparably small risk of an adverse reaction.

It follows then, doesn’t it, that reasonable, self-interested people, armed with this knowledge, would take the requisite simple, free, step to protect themselves? And, in so doing, those same reasonable, self-interested people will also be protecting their fellow Canadians who either have not had a chance yet or are too young or immunocompromised to get the benefits of vaccination themselves. Because you do not have to be or feel sick to transmit the virus to others — after all, that is how the majority of transmission occurs.

Your vaccination directly protects you AND the members of your community, your country. It serves to reduce the number of potential hosts for the virus, thus contributing to a quicker eradication of the disease (which means, frankly, less people die and more freedoms are restored quicker). It is admiringly patriotic.

Maybe we stopped teaching the significance of the Social Contract part of democracy, but did we also stop teaching logic and deductive reasoning?

If it were the case that anti-vaxxers’ decisions hurt only themselves there would be no reason to appeal to the Social Contract: the problem would solve itself over time.

I know that free riders are to be expected. I can tolerate those born of pure ignorance, as long as they try to become informed. But the willfully blind and militantly defiant are insufferably self-righteous and annoyingly misguided.

So, if your worldly wisdom, Internet research, misplaced “wokefullness”, American-style rights mentality — or whatever you think suffices as suitable rationale for not getting vaccinated in the face of pure logic — compels you to shun all of the available vaccinations, please at least avoid shouting it from the rooftops and antagonizing those Canadians, currently and historically, who have sacrificed for the very democratic principles that allow you to take such a imprudent and self-indulgent stand.

Steven Bezaire is a local lawyer, humourist, and accomplished napper, and loves all puppy dogs and babies in the world. *If you have a comment on his column and want Steven to see it, please visit the “Biz Blog” section on our website where you can have your say on the topic too!