Freedom and responsibility in the context of the pandemic

Some countries now require proof of vaccine for entering public spaces like restaurants and movie theaters. In response, some vaccine skeptics say: “I am in control over my own body. Nobody can tell me I can’t do certain things just because I chose to be unvaccinated. It’s a violation of human rights.”

To me, it’s a weak and partly nonsensical argument.

We live in a society, and in a society, we have certain freedoms and responsibilities. That’s required for society to work reasonably well for as many as possible.

We already accept a lot of restrictions to our freedom. We accept laws against driving drunk. Killing people. Stealing. Damaging other people’s property. And so on. We accept these restrictions because we know they benefit society as a whole.

Requiring proof of vaccine is one of many of these restrictions. In this case, it’s temporary. And it benefits society as a whole in moving through the pandemic and avoiding some of the worst consequences of the pandemic.

We know that those vaccinated are less likely to be infected and seriously ill. That means they are less likely to pass it on to others, and they are less likely to end up in a hospital, take up valuable spaces there, and cost society money. The more people are vaccinated, the sooner we can get through the pandemic, and the less risk there is of new and more transmittable mutations.

Requiring proof of vaccine for travel, entry to restaurants, and so on, is one of the least invasive measures we can take to limit the impact of the pandemic.

And personally, I am very happy to accept a limited (very small) personal risk by taking the vaccine, if this can help society as a whole. It’s the least I can do.

Note: It’s almost not worth mentioning, but it’s not a “human right” to enter restaurants and movie theaters. And it’s not a “violation of my body” if someone requires me to be vaccinated to enter those places. Even if a vaccine is mandatory, it’s not a violation of one’s body since we still have a choice. We can choose not to take it, and instead take the consequences.

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