Dr. Farber’s COVID-19 update 36

Coronavirus 36

Vaccines are now available for children 5 and up, and they will be coming for younger children, probably in the next few months. I know that the risk for children is, fortunately, much less than with adults. However, if we are to bring the pandemic under control, we will need to achieve herd immunity, and that means vaccinating as many people as we can, children included. Therefore, if not just for their sake, but for the sake of others, please get them, and yourselves, vaccinated.

Today I am going to look at the concept of vaccine mandates. It should not surprise readers that I am in favor of them, and I will give some insight into why I feel this way.

Some people do not want to be vaccinated because they are afraid of needles. As a pediatrician, I can certainly understand this, but I do not consider it a strong enough reason for avoiding vaccination during a public health crisis.
Some people do not want to be vaccinated because the vaccine is neither 100% effective nor 100% safe, (although it is clearly more effective and safer than not being vaccinated), and they do not fully grasp the concept of risk reduction. Again, I understand this, but it is again not a strong enough reason to avoid vaccination.

However, the largest group of people against mandates, which includes people who themselves have been vaccinated, do so because they feel it is a matter of personal choice. Which brings me to drunk driving.

When I was a child, drunk driving was legal in this country, and was a major public health crisis. It was true that if you, for example, killed someone while drunk driving, you could be tried for murder. However, since you were not necessarily legally responsible for your actions if you were too drunk to understand them (similar to temporary insanity), a good lawyer could often get you off. The idea that you were responsible for getting drunk in the first place did not always carry much weight with a jury.

Most drunk drivers make it home safely. Similarly, most people who are not vaccinated will not get COVID, or be very ill if they do (this applies to vaccinated people as well, but the risk is vastly less). Some drunk drivers do have serious injuries, and wind up in the hospital or dead. Similarly, some unvaccinated people do get seriously ill with COVID, and wind up in the hospital or dead. Finally, some drunk drivers can seriously injury or kill non-drunk drivers (and pedestrians). Similarly. some unvaccinated people will give the disease to others, resulting in those people’s death or hospitalizations.

A major difference between drunk driving and COVID is that COVID is a much bigger health menace than drunk driving ever was, killing and injuring inordinately more people per year than drunk driving ever did.

To put this all together, if you believe that not being vaccinated should be a matter of personal choice (even if you yourself choose to be vaccinated), I do indeed understand that. However, if you do not also believe that drunk driving should be legal, and also a matter of personal choice, then your world view is inconsistent, and that I do not understand.