17 June 2020
As if the bushfires weren’t bad enough, we’ve since had the world economy shut down, millions infected with COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands dead. This pandemic feels like we’re in the middle of a real-life Hollywood blockbuster.
Like all good movies, this one will leave us fundamentally changed well after it’s ended. Our world will look and feel very different once the show is over. But not for the better.
Thankfully, the possibility of a vaccine for this virus is looking more plausible. Unfortunately, like a diabolical plot twist, the day the vaccine arrives, so too will the inevitable chorus of those who object to being vaccinated. But unlike hapless movie heroes, we can be prepared for this.
To anti-vaxxers, I have one message: our tolerance for your wilful ignorance is over. We cannot afford, morally or economically, to give any ground to those who choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that we vaccinate people against their will. That would be wrong. We must ensure that the safety of our community is the number one priority. That means that participation in everyday life cannot put others at risk. If you do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, you ought to bear the consequences of that decision.
As a community, we should consider to what extent we allow organisations to prevent those who object to being vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter their premises, participate in their activities and, in some circumstances, seek their employment.
Governments have gone some way to doing this by implementing policies such as withholding family tax benefits and preventing children from being accepted into childcare unless vaccinations are proven. Further restrictions would be a natural extension of these policies.
Restaurants could be allowed the right to refuse entry to those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Businesses, especially those involved in the care or service of vulnerable communities, might be allowed the right to refuse employment to those without a COVID-19 vaccination. Organisers of mass gatherings could deny the sale of tickets on this basis.
No doubt there would be logistical issues to overcome. However, the health and safety of our population should be any government’s primary concern, and the infrastructure to implement these changes exists.
We already have an Australian Immunisation Register in place that tracks a child’s vaccination history. We could expand this program to track what would be the most important vaccination of this century to the population.
There are those who for medical reasons cannot receive vaccinations and would rightly receive an exemption. There are already government guidelines in place that would allow for this to occur.
For the rest who claim they are conscientious objectors, the excuses don’t stack up anymore. There is too much at stake. I know after writing this my office will be inundated with correspondence from anti-vaccination activists demanding to be heard. For those of you who do contact me, know this. I have no interest in your alternative “facts” or your conspiracy theories.
Your views are fortunately in the minority, and that’s how they will be treated. Today’s media landscape is such that you will probably receive attention for your ill-informed comments, but that doesn’t mean you are right. It just means you have been noticed.
The truth is we’re not living in the plot line of a movie. It’s not a story that can just be rewritten, and we won’t just walk out having spent $30 on a movie ticket and popcorn.
This is the real world with real consequences, and more than ever we can’t afford to put lives at risk.
This piece was originally published by The Age.