Bhatt, Newman & al. (2020) argue that societies have to intelligently address the question “how much risk is acceptable?” as the consequences of a wrong answer, i.e., an attempt to eliminate all thinkable risks, would have devious effects, setting up larger ones.
Eventually, their observation has never been more actual than in today’s world. Countries are so focused on zeroing Covid-19 infections’ numbers, that the “how” doesn’t matter, and the democratic costs of this battle do not seem to enter into account.
One may understand the first lockdowns and restrictions imposed at the beginning of 2020. People were dying of an unknown, albeit easily transmissible disease. Doctors did not know what to do. Hospitals and their ICUs were overcrowded; PPEs were missing. Thus, borders were closed to prevent further spread. People were asked to stay at home, where they camped their offices. People were obliged to live with a mask on when in public. Private congregations were limited in scope. Visits to the elders were tightened up. Human activity was curtailed.
More than one year later, though, with mRNA vaccines, the possibility for those who so wish to prevent (at least for themselves) the seriousness of Covid-19’s illness is there. Societies, in general, should be opening up. Life should be going back to normal. Right? Interestingly, instead, the contrary often happens.
Governments worldwide seem to be searching for, and aiming at, a situation where Covid-19 becomes something of the past and no more cases (i.e., number of infections) are counted within their borders. Unfortunately, while searching for such a net-zero, they seem to forget the price they are making citizens pay, thanks to a so ill-placed risk aversion (see, e.g., Miller, 2021 ).
Disturbingly, more and more governments - through hard and soft powers - are pushing for mRNA’s vaccines’ mandates, forgetting that, at least at the beginning, they were cautioned against doing so.
E.g., the EU Parliament’s Resolution 2361 urged member states and the European Union to “ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is NOT mandatory and that no one is politically, socially, or otherwise pressured to get themselves vaccinated, if they do not wish to do so themselves” (s. 7.3.1.) The same resolution aimed at ensuring that “no one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated, due to possible health risks or not wanting to be vaccinated” (s. 7.3.2).
In one of the historical beacons of freedom (France), Mr. Macron is mandating the vaccination for specific categories (e.g., doctors, nurses...). No one can board a train without a green pass to demonstrate that s/he has taken the jab (or a Covid-19 test). The same happens in Italy, where people can’t eat inside a restaurant without these requirements. People can’t go to the gym. Social life, for the unvaccinated, is curtailed. Pressure on doctors to get vaccinated is high and, should they decide not to, they may lose their job. Switzerland is slowly taking the same authoritarian route by placing restrictions on the unvaccinated social life and having people pay for their Covid-19 test.
Interestingly, as the research on the subject of mRNA’s vaccines grows, it becomes clear that those vaccinated can still become infected and spread the virus to others (Centers for disease control and prevention, 2021). Therefore, if one worries about its spreading, the logical requirement should be to ask both vaccinated and unvaccinated to get a Covid-test and refuse entry to anyone who tests positive. However, a different way of doing is being followed, putting pressure on the unvaccinated. Until they do not take their jab, they can’t live normally and are discriminated.
Some caution is also scientifically required. Medicines and vaccines, in general, have a standard route before commercialization, and, for the time being, Covid-19 vaccines are offered on an emergency use authorization. This is to say that the one who’s being jabbed is part of a large clinical trial. If any, his/her reactions to the vaccine will build up the study for vaccine safety and immunogenicity.
Ethically speaking, one can’t see how a government’s clamping on rights could and should be the deciding factor to be part of a scientific study.
The blog author clearly hopes that these vaccines will live up to their fame and are what the world was waiting for and needs to come out of the pandemics, but she’d like to see more transparency and a proper debate. It’s, in fact, through dialogue that societies evolved. Certainly not by curtailing dissenting voices or accusing those filled with doubts or fears of being stupid, egoist, or generic anti-vaxxers.
However, prudence doesn’t seem to be a virtue anymore, albeit some scientists caution against rushing too much. Time is needed to verify if the vaccine could cause long-term autoimmune illnesses.
White observed “in the understandable socioeconomic rush towards mass vaccination without longer-term safety testing, it would seem that an essential stage in any vaccine licensing process should involve careful analysis [...] This should minimize the risks both of acute autoimmune reactions to inoculation and future chronic autoimmune pathology” (White, 2020).
Others petitioned the American FDA to approve mRNA vaccines (outwith the emergency route) solely after consideration of specific measures, whose aim is completing safety assessments that demonstrate that vaccines’ benefits outweigh harms in the short and long term (Coalition Advocating for Adequately Licensed Medicines, 2021).
As Mr. Ménard wrote, “[...] replacing the COVID-19 pandemic by a man-made autoimmune disaster would be the ultimate victory of this most devious virus. I welcome reassuring thoughts, scientific data, clinical observations or comments” (Ménard, 2021).
Those are serious questions that demand common sense.
Yet, governments (and mainstream and social media) have no hesitancy and minimal common sense. Governments ask or mandate you to get the jab through hard or soft measures. Mainstream media deviously push the narrative. Social media curtail those who have differing opinions.
In this worrying context, it’s worth remembering that all dictatorial systems begin and behave in the same way by slowly eroding rights that were once given for granted. Also, they silence dissenting voices. Democracy, though, requires a different ethic, sadly of a type that doesn’t seem to be written in today’s governments’ DNA.
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Bhatt, U., Newman, D., Carreras, B. and Dobson, I., 2020. Understanding the Effect of Risk Aversion on Risk. In: Thirty-eighth Hawaii International Conference on System Science. [online] Available at: <http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/papers/Risk_hicss05.pdf> [Accessed 12 December 2020].
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Miller, J., 2021. Liberté, égalité, vacciné. The Spectator, pp.16-17.
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