Ethically, it is time for the vaccine to count
There has been a lot of reference recently to the ethics of allowing certain privileges for vaccinated people versus unvaccinated people. It would be most certainly unethical to allow the vaccinated any privileges if the vaccine were available only to a select few, or at a cost that might make it prohibitive for some. That is not the case in Bermuda. Vaccinations are freely available to all.
Apart from the very small percentage who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons — and who must be treated as special exceptions — we are at, or very nearly at, the point where all unvaccinated adults in Bermuda are unvaccinated by choice. They have had the opportunity to be immunised, but have chosen so far not to take that opportunity. It is at this point that the ethics argument falls away.
Vaccination should remain a free choice, but so long as people choose not to be vaccinated — a choice that goes against the good of the community as a whole — they cannot argue that it is unethical to deny them certain privileges, such as the ability to travel without restrictions, which may be afforded to the vaccinated.
All choices have consequences. We accept such consequences for the safety of others in many aspects of our lives. For example, if you wish to have the privilege of driving a car, you must have a driving licence. You can choose not to take a driving test, but then you cannot legally drive a car, in order to ensure the safety of others.
As soon as we are at the point where all adults in Bermuda have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, the ethics question actually flips the other way:
• It is unethical to prevent an immunised hairdresser from serving immunised clients, so that she can keep her business afloat and feed her children, just because those who have chosen not to be vaccinated think it infringes their rights. They made a choice
• It is unethical to deny an immunised wife the right to visit her immunised husband in hospital, thereby helping his mental health and clinical outcome, just because those who have chosen not to be vaccinated think it infringes their rights. They made a choice
• It is unethical to refuse a restaurant owner the right to open his restaurant to immunised clients served by immunised staff, thereby keeping the business from going under and saving the livelihoods of many, just because those who have chosen not to be vaccinated think it infringes their rights. They made a choice
In short, once everyone has had full and equal opportunity to be vaccinated, it becomes unethical to deny those who are immunised the opportunity to get on with their lives without restrictions. They are no longer at threat from serious illness because of Covid-19 and they are far, far less likely to pass on the disease to others. They have made a choice that benefits society. Meanwhile, the unvaccinated have made a choice that is putting huge stress on our health service, which has forced the cancellation of routine operations and impacted primary healthcare for all.
We simply cannot afford as a country to maintain restrictions on the immunised that are crippling our economy, for the sake of the minority who have made the choice not to be vaccinated, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is beneficial for the community as a whole.
It is time for some clear thinking and testicular fortitude from our government to ensure that we take the quickest route back to normality. It is time for the vaccine to count.