Comment: Are mandatory vaccinations reasonable? The Charter says no

A commentary by a Victoria resident with an interest in current affairs.

Whether to vaccinate or not is pretty much a scientific debate, and the preponderance of evidence is that it is generally a great idea, for both the person and the community.

You should probably give your head a good shake if you don’t want yourself and those around you to be vaccinated. But should it be permitted to make it mandatory? That is a legal and philosophical argument, and I would judge that it should not.

The Charter grants us fundamental rights and freedoms that must only be impinged upon under carefully described conditions. That is the first guarantee in the Charter.

Before considering the specific case of COVID-19, consider the general case of the state commanding you to surrender your rights and perform or refrain from some action.

What could those be that are so paramount you must acquiesce? Some might be urgent, such as forcing evacuation, some might be obvious, like not shouting “fire” in a theatre.

But the case has to be compelling for the state to intrude upon your rights. There has to be a clear and overwhelming argument that there are no other “reasonable” courses of action before the fundamental rights are voided.

And the state has to, not just should, consider the least and less numerous of its constituents, lest the mob rule of the majority overwhelm those ­“others.” This is fortunate, given the current court of social media where fortunes are made and lives ruined on the power of a terse tweet.

The state passes laws and regulations ostensibly to preserve us, and more than a few of them get overturned because they have gone a step too far. Laws restricting abortions, segregation laws, etc. Even though the majority (at the time) supported such state interference, the courts, with their generally deeper knowledge, saw otherwise.

There are several major problems with a “popularly” called for and instituted mandatory edict. One of the major ones is that they tend to be contagious, and if one legislative body enacts it, others tend to follow suit, without due regard to all the consequences.

“If it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, and they set the precedent so how will we get in trouble?” This can quickly escalate so that nowhere is free from a pernicious rule. A knock-on consequence of that is it removes choice from the citizenry. If “everywhere” adopts a canon, you have nowhere left to exercise choice.

Another is the pressure that pushes out dissenting voices and discussion. “It’s the law” is not an argument; it is just a convenient way of avoiding having to back up your beliefs.

Such a rule needs to withstand the tests of “reasonable,” and reasonable should be decided by informed minds, but public opinion seems less and less able to rise to the level of reasonable, and remains just populist, and we know how that turned out recently. Dissenters are vilified, insulted, and repressed.

Specifically with regard to something like a vaccine, we need to be very sure that we must go to mandatory before we do.

Have we done all the other steps before we start stripping away freedoms? Did we properly educate about all the consequences, for and against? Are there alternative ways that are nearly as efficacious?

And how much of our personal safety can we impose on others? If we are vaccinated, we are significantly safer from both contracting and suffering from a disease. The few who don’t get it (literally) are far worse off, and we’re not too likely to freely associate with them, so our exposure is significantly reduced.

We have a lot of workplace rules and regulations involving procedure and PPE, however, at the end of the day or the job, we take that equipment and those restrictions off, and return to our free selves.

An injection does not have that release, it is in you there ever after. And at this early juncture, we cannot know all the future effects. Remember ­thalidomide?

And you have no recourse, because the governments have removed your right to sue on this one, so if there are consequences down the road, the government and Pharma are held harmless.

Not that I think there will be. I strongly doubt it, and got both my shots as soon as I could. But that was my choice, given to me under the Charter, and I wish that we all could continue to exercise our informed choice.

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