I feel compelled to write in response to Kathy Noort’s letter.
As an RN, who has worked on the frontlines during COVID, there are several points I would like to respond to regarding her concerns with vaccine passports.
First, what does Kathy mean when she says that the vaccine is experimental? I have heard this term thrown around a lot since the vaccine was released, and while Pfizer now has full FDA approval (and the other vaccines have gone through multiple clinical trials), we will continue to study the vaccine and its effects.
This is no different than the majority of other therapeutics in medicine. Medicine, in general, is studied even long after is has been approved by various regulatory bodies. Science is inherently experimental, and this argument against vaccines as experimental reveals, I believe, an underlying anti-science worldview. This is territory where I would caution people to tread carefully. Modern medicine, while experimental, has relieved suffering, improved quality of life, and extended life, among many other feats.
Second, this is not the first time that a vaccine mandate has been implemented in a democratic country. Interestingly, the first vaccine mandate I could find recorded was by George Washington in 1777, when he ordered his troops to be vaccinated against smallpox.
Several vaccine mandates in North America have occurred over the past few hundred years – and they have also been very effective. Smallpox was eradicated. Polio deaths dropped quickly and sharply. We no longer have the “iron lung.” In fact, many of my generation may not even know what the iron lung was.
Surprising to me, was the fact that anti-vaccination campaigns also existed when smallpox vaccines and polio vaccines were first released. This led to US Supreme Court cases, which upheld the government’s right to mandate vaccination for the greater good of public health.
Kathy asks, “why the heavy handed, coercive approach to requiring vaccination to unwilling parties?” I would answer, from the perspective of one singular, lone RN, that unfortunately at this point in COVID, it has become necessary. We all hoped that enough people would choose the vaccine on their own to get to herd immunity. But unfortunately that has not happened.
Hospitals are once again filling up, businesses are once again being affected, people’s lives are being upended as they have to quarantine and deal with being ill.
And that’s not to mention the nurses and doctors (and housekeepers and physiotherapists and respiratory therapists) who have all worked and are exhausted after a year and a half of wave after wave of COVID.
So, in order to try to avoid, or postpone, or lessen another lockdown, a vaccine mandate might just be enough to tip the scales toward a functioning society in the fall. I use the word might cautiously, as I recognize that it is a race against the variants of concern (VOCs), and there is a chance that a vaccine mandate might not be enough.
My third point will be short and sweet. As the vaccine mandate was announced this week, there were many who argued that their rights were being taken away. I would ask, what are your rights? What are your privileges? Making a distinction between rights and privileges will help us all gain perspective.
Those of you choosing to remain unvaccinated – yes, that is your choice. But with that choice, come consequences. The consequences this fall will be forgoing eating in at a restaurant, going to a gym, or going to a theatre or concert.
Thankfully, we have delivery services for food, home exercise equipment, and Netflix.
I do hope that is the least of your concerns though, and that you do not end up in hospital ill with COVID. But, if you do, my colleagues will be there to care for you.
So I encourage all reading this to do your part: mask up, socially distance when you can, get tested and stay home when you are sick, and please get vaccinated.
Amy Olson, RN, MScN, Walnut Grove
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