As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage, and as new variants emerge, we continue to debate the virtues of vaccines. Of especial concern is their impact on our personal freedom. Do they decrease or increase our right to live our lives as we see fit without hurting others? The vaccinated are simultaneously more likely to have more freedom, and less likely to take away the freedom of others.
I first wrote of my faith in vaccines to combat the pandemic in the spring of last year. I had in mind our success in eradicating polio and smallpox through worldwide vaccination.
I was surprised at the blowback I got. I quickly learned of every myth, legend, and crackpot conspiracy theory out there:
Vaccinations cause autism.
Vaccinations cause infertility.
Vaccinations are the means by which George Soros and Bill Gates are injecting us with thought-controlling microchips.
Vaccinations serve only to help Big Pharma make more profit.
Etc., etc., etc.
One argument has always stood out: To mandate vaccinations is to take away from people the right to control their own bodies. Unlike conspiracy theories and medical quackery, this argument deserves serious attention.
Mandates for the vaccination of particular groups may well be imposed, but it’s unlikely that a universal mandate will ever be politically palatable enough for governments to try to enforce. Nonetheless, vaccinations, whether mandated or not, may expand rather than contract freedom.
In general, I believe in the right of adults to control their own bodies, to ingest whatever substances they choose, to seek whatever medical treatments they want to combat whatever conditions they have or think they have—as long as they affect nobody other than themselves with their choices. Adults have the right to drink, but not the right to hurt others while drunk. Adults have the right to smoke, but not the right to make others inhale their smoke. Adults have the right to guns, but not the right to use them against others except in legitimate self defense. Each adult’s freedom ends when it begins to hurt others. So even if there’s a right to get sick, is there a right to make anyone else sick?
We’re learning that none of the vaccinations currently available is 100% effective. Small percentages of the vaccinated experience breakthrough infections, and the vaccinated still run a small risk of contracting a variant. But our current data also show that the vaccinated are less likely to either contract the disease or pass it on to others. Moreover, the vaccinated who contract the delta variant normally get a milder version, of shorter duration and requiring less hospitalization, than the unvaccinated. To date, 99% of those who die from the disease are unvaccinated.
As a general rule, the healthy are more free than the sick. The healthy can work, play, travel, and enjoy life much more. The sick may be confined to their homes or to hospital beds. Their freedom to do anything is therefore much more limited. In extreme and tragic circumstances, they may die—the absolute end of freedom. So the vaccinated are more likely to be more free to live their lives as they see fit, and less likely to make others ill and therefore less free.
Of course, those who have medical conditions that would make vaccination more dangerous should therefore not be vaccinated. Otherwise, vaccination will increase one’s health and reduce the health risks posed to others. More freedom for all will result.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.