For the greater good; a defence of mandatory vaccinations – Liberal Article
The pandemic has become the latest battleground for the 21st century’s biggest social reckonings. As we get closer to effective vaccinations, one such reckoning will move centre stage: how to tackle misinformation.
Since the outbreak began there have been a plethora of false claims and ‘facts’ about COVID-19. From ‘miracle cures’ containing bleach to ‘plandemic’, most have had little consequence other than unfounded anger at the powers that be.
While misinformed debates over mask effectiveness may have provided some entertainment, the dangers cannot be understated. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found that at least 800 people have died and 5,800 people admitted to hospital as a direct result of COVID-19 misinformation.
This is a precursor to a far more dangerous future. One where people refuse to get a vital vaccine for fears of government control, for fears that the government is stealing your DNA, for fears that the vaccine is actually the cause of infection.
Vaccines only work when the uptake is sufficient to prevent the spread of disease – remember ‘Herd Immunity’? You can never vaccinate 100% of the population. Those who are allergic to vaccine components, who have weakened immune systems, who have underlying health conditions or who are pregnant can’t always get vaccinated, and so are vulnerable to infection. They are often the most susceptible to that infection being fatal.
That is why everyone who can have a vaccine should, and why anti-vaxxers and others who choose not to vaccinate pose such a threat. They put the lives of others at significant risk, which cannot be allowed.
The incorrect linking of the MMR vaccine to Autism scared parents throughout the world. One scientific paper spawned a ferocious movement to abandon vaccinations. The scientific community clambered to disprove this paper but the damage was done.
The West was on the brink of eradicating measles, but in recent years has seen a dramatic upswing in cases as the numbers vaccinated slipped. In response, some of our European allies introduced mandatory vaccinations. Italy and France, for example, imposed fines and bans on school enrolment for unvaccinated children, with the UK considering similar measures.
Measles highlights the importance of a widespread vaccination program and the influence of misinformation. Unlike measles, which is most dangerous for infants through to teenagers, the vulnerable population for COVID-19 is much larger and older; they are pivotal to the function of society. So, while a mandatory vaccine for measles is up for debate as uptake is already high, swift COVID-19 coverage would require mandatory vaccinations.
There are already significant hurdles that public health bodies will have to overcome to ensure the required coverage is met. The UK has achieved high vaccination rates for infants because vaccines have been effectively integrated into post-natal care. At regular intervals, doctors check on infants and provide their immunisations. Adults do not see their doctors at regular intervals, nor do they attend state institutions regularly such as schools.
Relying on individuals to make time to get vaccinated will limit the uptake. Some simply do not feel at risk (look at flu-vaccination rates), others just do not have enough hours in the day. Included in the mandate should be a requirement for employers to provide the time or facilitate the vaccination of their staff.
We cannot afford to waste time trying to win over a sceptical population. That is not to say a vaccination push will not require a widespread and comprehensive public information campaign. The government must be clear, methodical and most importantly united. While social media platforms should not stifle free speech, they should tag any post relating to COVID-19 with an intrusive disclaimer that the information is not verified.
Government mandates at the expense of liberties are – and should be – a last resort. The task of vaccinating the population is too great, too complex, too vital to allow room for low uptake. The caveat of this argument is that the vaccine is safe and effective. I have no doubt that with the eyes of the world upon the developers and every public health agency working together, a vaccine presented to you will be safe enough. While I would prefer to rely on people’s good nature and common sense, I’m not sure we can.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Daniel Jones
Point of Information
Public health matters must transcend personal freedoms – A Labour Response
I agree wholeheartedly with Daniel here. The pandemic has highlighted just how prevalent misinformation surrounding vaccination is. It is vitally important that as many people as possible are vaccinated. So long as the vaccine is safe, something which is checked rigorously before distribution, it should be taken.
In this vein, I think that any potential vaccine for COVID-19 must be mandatory, else we risk a significant number of people refusing it. According to a study conducted earlier this year, both mandatory vaccinations, as well as harsher fines, are associated with higher vaccination coverage. This suggests that mandatory vaccination can, therefore, be an effective policy.
My concern, however, is that COVID-19 has unearthed a far more damaging anti-scientific narrative. I worry that this will lead to mandatory vaccination being largely ineffective, due to how polarising information surrounding COVID-19 has been. At the end of the day, if people believe that a vaccine will kill them or their children, making vaccinations compulsory or threatening fines may not change much.
A survey last month in the US showed that only 50% of Americans would definitely get themselves vaccinated. This is simply not a high enough uptake rate. To me, this proves that mandatory vaccinations do nothing to solve long-term misinformation. More must be in place.
As such, funding should go into conveying to the public just how vital a part of public health vaccination is. To do this, researchers must first understand what drives vaccine acceptance. This will allow governments and scientists to effectively market the right messages to people who are not yet convinced.
In the meantime, there is little time to waste on running campaigns which seek to convert the unconverted. It is fundamental that public health is prioritised over personal freedoms. Failing to vaccinate yourself or your children – without extenuating circumstances – directly affects other people. That should not and cannot be accepted.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe
Think of your peers, not your government, nor your civil liberties – A Conservative Response
Like Jack, I too cannot help but agree with Daniel’s argument. He outlines a premise which makes logical sense if we are to stand any chance of defeating COVID-19. To disagree with mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations – once a safe and reliable vaccine has been vigorously tested – is mindlessly responsible.
Daniel’s acknowledgement of the weak state of vaccine implementation policy is one I greatly appreciate. One that seeks to convert the infamous ‘anti-vaxers’, yet succeeds minimally in doing so. For us to move forward with progressive vaccination rates we must first begin to understand what drives their societal uptake and acceptance.
The article points out a lack of trust in government as a contributor to low vaccination rates. This is an issue I see more apparent in the US than in the UK; distrust of government is constantly headlined and continually aggravated by the corruption of the Trump administration.￼￼
In the UK, I see the issue of laziness more apparent. Here we remain relatively ‘chilled out’ when it comes to issues concerning medical treatment. We know that our NHS will always have our back when we require it. This (widely generalised) lack of urgency surrounding COVID-19 proves evermore why the vaccine must be mandatory for all those who can receive it. Otherwise, we risk an even greater wave of the virus than previously.
Daniel’s global scope of consideration is essential￼. To truly beat COVID, both vaccine acceptance and availability need to be targeted globally, not solely in the UK nor US. It is mandatory that public health is prioritised over personal freedoms, although I am doubtful that this point will ever be effectively reached.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Emily Taylor