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Lawrie McFarlane: Refusing vaccination isn't just playing COVID roulette with your own life

Among survey respondents who’ve refused COVID vaccination, one third said COVID-19 is not a serious health threat — despite the fact that more than 29,000 Canadians have died of the disease.
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An anti-vaccine-and-mask rally in front of the B.C. legislature this summer. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A recent Angus Reid opinion survey ­produced findings that beggar belief.

Among respondents who’ve refused COVID vaccination, one third said COVID-19 is not a serious health threat. This despite the fact that, to date, more than 29,000 Canadians have died of the disease.

What these people really mean is that they don’t think COVID is a serious threat to them personally. More than 80 per cent of them believe their immune system is good enough to fight infection.

And 75 per cent say the side effects of the vaccine are more serious than the virus itself.

As for the claim that COVID is not a ­serious health threat, readers should look up Cindy Harnett’s piece in the Nov. 7 edition of the Times Colonist.

In her story headlined “Thirty-, 40- and 50-year-olds shouldn’t be dying at this level’: A day in the ICU,” Harnett quotes ICU ­physician Dr. Omar Ahmad: “A lot of young or fit people have a false sense of security they can beat COVID, but we’ve ­unfortunately seen many people with that description becoming very sick and going on to die.”

The numbers tell the story. The large majority of COVID patients in ICUs across the province are unvaccinated. On Nov. 5, 59 of 64 COVID patients in B.C. ICUs aged 59 and younger were unvaccinated.

What about the claim that the side effects of the vaccine are more serious than the virus? Health Canada reports that serious side effects from COVID vaccination are extremely rare — around 0.01 per cent of all doses administered.

But the issue I want to focus on is the claim, made by nearly two thirds of ­respondents in the Reid survey, that ­“personal freedom” is a justification for refusing to get a shot.

This shifts the discussion from a debate about health concerns to an assertion of ­individual rights.

Now if you’re stranded on a desert island, by all means refuse the shot. You have that right, and more importantly, you’re no threat to anyone but yourself.

However, assuming you live in or near any sort of community, that changes. Now you’re not just playing COVID roulette with your own life. You’re putting the lives of ­others at risk.

Basically, we’re talking about situational ethics. What may be morally acceptable in one situation may not be in another.

As with any medical procedure, you have the right to decline a vaccination. But you do not have the right to wander through city streets and malls spreading the virus.

There are degrees of wrongdoing here. An unvaccinated person who walks his dog in the park is less culpable than those damn fool students at UVic who partied outdoors in the hundreds.

But even the latter pale in significance compared to the crowd of anti-vaxxers who showed up at a minor league soccer game in Chilliwack yelling “We have rights” and demanding to be let in.

Security staff refused, but a team official opened the gate.

And now we have a Port Alberni ­pediatrician stripped of his admitting ­privileges at the local hospital for refusing to be vaccinated. Here is a doctor, whose oath of office is “First do no wrong,” ­proposing to treat young children while knowingly taking the risk of infecting them.

Admittedly, there are situations where it can be difficult to know the right ethical choice. Refusing COVID vaccination is not one of them.