Vaccination: Moral obligations and the freedom to choose

I’ve said before that Sinovac wasn’t my first choice. I remember conversations around the development of vaccines, their possible side effects, and which ones were better suited to people with different health issues. I remember thinking, anything but Sinovac or Sputnik please.

I can absolutely understand that people do not want to get vaccinated with Sinovac. It makes perfect sense that we should have the freedom to choose what brand of vaccine we’re getting, when and where we get vaccinated, and so on.

But these are difficult times, and getting vaccinated–now, as always, really–is a concern not just of individual health, but public health. There’s a reason vaccination is mandatory for children, and why vaccination programs, especially for infectious and potentially fatal diseases, like measles, polio, hepatitis and others, are high on the priority list of pediatricians, hospitals and the Department of Health. In getting vaccinated, you protect not only yourself, but those around you, especially children and the elderly, and those who are more likely to suffer worse consequences from getting sick, like those with asthma, diabetes, and other grave–and often lifelong–health conditions.

I got vaccinated because I belong to the A3 category. I have asthma, which was a concern when I was pregnant, and is a concern when the weather changes or I am anxious.

The inability to breathe is terrifying, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows it can be fatal. If you do not know what it means to gasp for breath, to struggle to inhale, to be light-headed for lack of air, you are blessed indeed.

My mother is not only a senior citizen, but she also has diabetes. My husband is in A3 because he has diabetes and psoriasis. People like me, my mom and my husband, if we get COVID-19, it could easily get so much worse for us, so quickly.

So on the one hand, I absolutely encourage everyone to get vaccinated, no matter what brand it is, unless your health requires a specific brand.

On the other hand, I absolutely abhor those who think the need to get vaccinated justifies lying, cheating and stealing. I have seen reports of the illegal sale of vaccines, or of slots in vaccination schedules. I’ve seen the reports of the crowds at the Pfizer vaccination sites.

I have heard of accounts of people looking for connections just so they can skip the line, and people faking co-morbidities so they can list themselves as A3. I’ve heard of people refusing to get vaccinated, and even dissuading others, even if they already have a schedule, because they didn’t want Sinovac. I have seen the screenshots where the exchange of messages includes the cost of the vaccination slots, the details of when and where.

Worse still, despite the support of the United States, India, South Africa and many developing countries, the European Union refuses to back the TRIPS waiver in the World Trade Organization.

But the European Union and other vaccine-making countries have raised doubts, saying that the removal of U.S. export restrictions on vaccine raw materials, the transfer of know-how and voluntary cooperation among vaccine makers would ensure a much quicker ramping up of global production.

Reuters, May 18, 2021

It seems, to these people and these entities, that profit, personal gain and self-interest are still far more important than serving the greater good, than ensuring vaccine equality, than helping those in greater need and with significantly lesser means. Getting vaccinated, protecting yourself and your immediate family, I completely agree that these are important concerns. But denying another person who needs it too? This I cannot condone, but this is exactly what these people and these entities are doing in their selfishness.

This is abominable. This I detest. The world is suffering. Far too many have died. Far too many are suffering. When you are surrounded by sickness and death, how can you choose to do anything but what is right and just? How can you live with yourself and your selfishness?


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