Yesterday, in central Stockholm and Gothenburg, a huge anti-vaccine pass demonstration took place. Thousands of people, assumed unvaccinated, crowded together in a public square and marched the streets.
One demonstrator was interviewed on tv and said ‘I want the right to my own body, I believe in freedom, I don’t want to be forced to take a vaccine’.
Last I checked, the vaccine was voluntary and nobody’s forcing anybody.
We have the freedom to do what we want: take the vaccine or don’t. I have had Covid and do not want to experience it again. So I choose to take the vaccine to protect myself from serious illness if I get re-infected. However, that is only a part of my choice. I also choose the vaccine to protect others in society, to try to reduce the spread of the virus and out of solidarity for our exhausted health care workers.
If somebody else does not want to get vaccinated, that is their liberty. They are in the minority in Sweden, at roughly 15%.
There is a confusion between pro- or anti-vaccine and supporting the existence of a vaccine pass. The demonstration seemed to mix up both issues. They are very different.
However, the ironic truth is that if more people got vaccinated, the fewer restrictions we would need. The more who are vaccinated, the less likely it is we need a vaccine pass.
Many people dismiss these demonstrators as ‘tin foil hatters’ – a pejorative term for people with paranoid, persecutory delusions. However, this diminishes an important and valid concern. The debate around vaccination really is a tricky one. There is a conflict between the right to make one’s own decisions over what happens to one’s body – versus the collective level of safety necessary to protect vulnerable people and the healthcare system. What we need to figure out is how to strike a balance between individual rights and the public good. The question is who’s rights weigh the strongest: a person denying a vaccine, or a vulnerable at-risk person who cannot take the vaccine?
I am sure most of us agree that safety is the basis of freedom. That’s why I see the vaccine pass as a temporary way to protect the public, while still enabling us as individuals to live a freer life.
It will hopefully enable us to protect ourselves and each other, and alleviate the burden carried by our health care workers. And it will hopefully lead to a quicker path out of the pandemic. For me, that is worth trading off against a small restriction on my personal rights.