Like Angela Merkel, I’d back mandatory Covid vaccinations

Personal choice cannot and must not be a sleight of hand for the abdication of responsibility for the lives and wellbeing of others

Katie Edwards
Friday 03 December 2021 14:03
<p>‘Your ‘personal choice’ could kill my loved ones’ </p>

‘Your ‘personal choice’ could kill my loved ones’

My mum and dad aren’t just my parents, they’re my best mates – and I’m not just their daughter, I’m also their primary carer.

They both deal with various conditions and disabilities and are considered clinically extremely vulnerable. Last year, I was part of the Covid exodus: one of the masses who left full-time permanent employment for a more flexible, less all-consuming career.

I was a university academic and – pre-pandemic – I wouldn’t have considered leaving my job. But, like so many others, Covid gave me cause and opportunity to rethink my life and what’s important to me, which is my family. So now I’m a freelance writer, which allows me to work while looking after my mum and dad.

I like a bit of background noise while I’m working. My noise of choice is that bastion of daytime television, Loose Women. I can keep up with Denise Welch and Coleen Nolan while I’m earning a living: what’s not to love? The other day, Denise et al were discussing Covid vaccines. The debate became so heated that the panel were no longer white noise.

Some of the panel repeated: “It all comes down to personal choice – it has to come down to personal choice.” I can understand that because the issue of “personal choice” has become something of a mantra throughout the pandemic.

When the government are unwilling to put restrictions in place – or are seemingly unwilling to maintain them once they are in place, as is the case with masks – the ball is kicked firmly into the public’s court. It’s personal choice, folks!

In other words, we’re abdicating responsibility for mortality rates: if you die, then it’s your own fault for not following guidelines. What guidance! Boris the Bewilderer has contradicted medical experts and gone brazenly maskless in clinical settings. What message does that send during a pandemic? To me, it suggests the hubris of someone who doesn’t give a monkey’s for anyone else – and unfortunately, he is leading our country and setting the tone for the public.

Now look where we are: the pandemic’s still raging and mutating. We still don’t know much about the new variants that pop up every few months. Masks have been brought back as mandatory in England in shops and on public transport yet far fewer people are wearing them in public than the last time they were compulsory.

I wonder why? Could it be because the government have offered messages that are – at best – lukewarm, and at worst, shambolic?

From, “we don’t need to wear masks because we know each other” to going mask-free during a debate about…erm…wearing masks and railing against the idea of face coverings as “a sign of virtue”, as Gillian Keegan did, Conservative MPs have really jumped the shark when it comes to responsible leadership.

And now they’re trying to get the public double-jabbed and boosted to slow the virus. This, from a government that’s already proved itself to be about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Never mind if you put someone else’s life in jeopardy, as long as you’ve made your decision, is the government’s message. No problemo if you prefer to protect your own personal choice about vaccinations above the safeguarding of other people’s lives.

But this idea of personal choice isn’t as gaily libertarian as it seems at face value, especially when it comes to vaccines and masks. Your “personal choice” could kill my loved ones. When a minority of vocal anti-vaxxers are compromising the lives of others, I think it’s time to consider why they think their preferences should be given privilege over the wellbeing of others.

This isn’t a case of, “we’ll agree to disagree”. This isn’t an, “everyone has a right to an opinion and this is mine” subject. This is a, “you will harm and possibly cause the death of others if you refuse to get vaccinated” issue.

To suggest, as some have, that the Covid vaccine is potentially divisive – creating a two-tiered society – is disingenuous. The freedoms of those who choose not to vaccinate are already restricted. Try travelling without necessary vaccines and see how far you get.

And that’s right and proper. Why should we feel free to globe-trot – or even go to a busy pub – if we’re potentially spreading a deadly virus? Vaccines have been around for years and we accept most of them as second nature. It’s daft, and inordinately selfish, to use the Covid jab as a lightning rod for issues of personal liberty.

I can see why Germany is thinking of making vaccines mandatory; Angela Merkel has said people who are not vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential shops, cultural and recreational venues, while the country’s parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate. It’s the only way to safeguard the population.

Personal choice must not be a sleight of hand for abdicating responsibility for the lives and wellbeing of others. It’s one thing to have the personal choice to compromise your own health, but it’s quite another to have that choice endanger the people around you.

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