COVID-19: It’s not all about you. Get the vaccine, and save someone else’s life

It’s seldom that conservatives get me frowning as much as regressive progressives do. But quite a few are arguing that people should not take coronavirus vaccines if they don’t want to. My frown is forming permanent wrinkles.

They frame the issue as a matter of rights when, in fact, it’s a matter of everyday morality. By the calculation of most of the world’s medical scientists, not taking a vaccine increases the chances of infection with which you may kill yourself, your parents, your grandparents, your next-door neighbors, your fellow workers, the stranger you sat next to at a bar or the last person you held hands with.

It’s not just about you and your rights, but about the immediate — and even long-term harm —you may do to others. It’s a question of basic human decency.

Let me concede a right for people to be unenlightened. Yet about all that right means is that you are not going to face criminal penalties for avoiding a needle pushed into your arm. At the same time, private businesses have a right to fire you or not to hire you if you don’t get shots.

Getting vaccinated makes it a lot easier get rid of lockdowns. After all, those in charge are obligated to protect other workers and customers as best they can, as in letting you know you cannot come to work with grenades, arsenic and a Bowie knife strapped around your waist.

A supervisor could tell you to take that stuff off, just as airlines, subways, buses and other modes of transportation are perfectly entitled to refuse rides to people who have not had shots because, here again, they could either infect others or be infected themselves.

It’s true that a minority of scientists seems to think vaccines are unnecessary right now. But unpleasant truth is that new variants of the virus are on the march. Certainly, there are exceptions about vaccines like everything else; given the statistics, I myself am convinced that there is next to no case where children under 12 should have them.

But it seems undeniable that vaccines have made an enormous difference in saving lives and that the pandemic is getting close to at least a conditional surrender if we fight on.

That is not the same as saying we should go on forever in a desperate fear-the-virus mode. Your chances of being infected may be slim, and the chances that you would die or actually kill someone are unbelievably slim if you or the other person aren’t at least over 60.

But given the reach of the pandemic and even the non-fatal harm it can do, that is still not argument enough at the moment for no more vaccines.

I would say, if you have not had shots, ask your physician whether you should. If you believe, without consultation, that shots will sicken you or that they are some kind of metaphysical curse, fine. Proceed with your life in whatever way works for you, but don’t get on airplanes and fight with flight attendants who recognize obligations in this life.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.

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