The government is perplexed about vaccine hesitancy, which the WHO (God bless their little hearts) defines as “a delay in acceptance or refusal of a vaccine despite the availability of vaccine services.” There are some true nut-job, tin hat, Alice-through-the-looking-glass stories about the Covid-19 vaccine. But is it possible that there are some legitimate reasons for vaccine hesitancy? Such is the defense I will mount today, but first…
I am not trying to convince anyone to refuse the vaccine. From the start of this pandemic I have tried to advocate for a broad range of acceptable behaviors based on individual circumstances. The vaccines available for Covid-19 fall into the realm of adiaphora: issues to which the Bible does not speak specifically and thus, over which we must not judge one another.
My defense will fall into two broad categories, based on my axiom (or did I read this somewhere?) that whenever the government tries to do something, it is actually doing two things. The first thing the government is doing is what the government is doing. So in the case of vaccines, the government funded and is lobbying for as many people as possible to get vaccinated. But besides the thing that the government is doing, the government is assuming and exercising some kind of authority. This is the second thing the government is doing. As a conservative, I don’t always disagree with the government’s aim, but I take exception to the power grab that ensues as a result of that aim. With that in mind, here we go.
Defense #1 – The Risk Benefit Ratio
In clear violation of Sowell’s profoundly accurate law that there are no solutions, only trade-offs, the government has delivered oracles of certainty that lasted about as long as the average American’s commitment to eating healthier. Nothing has been certain. All measures taken against the virus have turned out to be mitigating efforts, and there is a long history of contradictions, corrections, revisions, and addendums. Ted Cruz famously refused to wear a mask to the capitol building because he had received the vaccine and was therefore immune. Turns out you don’t get unqualified immunity from the vaccine, as the sick and hospitalized could tell you. This is not to say that the vaccine does not provide some level of immunity, it’s just to point out that it lessens the risk of having severe symptoms. See the word “risk” there? That’s what we’re talking about. Not cures. Not certainty. Risk mitigation.
So put yourself in the shoes of a healthy twenty-five year old guy who has probably been exposed to Covid-19 and has either had it and been asymptomatic or whose immune system simply fought it off. At this point, what does the risk benefit ratio look like for him? With a survival rate far above 99% for his age bracket and with immunity being conferred by getting it, he may decide that his risk is pretty low of seriously suffering from the virus and the immunity he would receive from getting the virus would be as good or better than the immunity he would get from the vaccine.
But what about the risk to others? As the delta variant has ravaged my neck of the woods, the data is trending in a way that suggests that the risk of transmission would not be eradicated by being vaccinated. Officially, we are being told that the most severe hospitalizations are from the unvaccinated. But the hospitalized people I know are all vaccinated. The viral potency level is just as high in those who have been vaccinated as in the un-vaccinated, and asymptomatic virus transmission is still a threat. In other words, vaccinated people can spread the virus to others, and vaccinated people can get the virus. Future data will show more clearly what the delta (no pun intended) is between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, but it’s at least a question mark right now.
Let’s not kid ourselves: there is no way anyone can guarantee anything. Remember the “murder scene” tape around the playgrounds? Remember 15 days to flatten the curve? Remember masks don’t work and then masks do work and then double masking is best of all? Remember travel restrictions don’t work and then travel restrictions do work? Remember that anyone who thought the virus started in a lab was a total whackadoo and now it turns out there’s a 50/50 chance that’s how it started? Remember when vaccines provided unqualified immunity until the CDC started recommending that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors? We think and we speculate and we make education guesses, but we know nothing.
On the other hand, all medical treatments have risks associated with them. Some are very minute risks while others are larger. Is the vaccine safe? Again, this comes down to trust and competency. It’s not just paranoid nut jobs who are concerned about long and short term side effects of the vaccine: it’s doctors, paramedics, pharmacists, nurses, and even employees of the pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccines. The long term effects may not bother someone in their seventies, but someone who has yet to reach forty may have a different perspective.
To summarize, over the last two years the government has frequently and demonstrably contradicted itself, made promises it didn’t keep, predicted things that didn’t come true, and in general lost the trust of half the country. As such, individuals may come to the conclusion that the risk of a vaccine actually poses a greater threat than the risk of the virus.
Defense 2: The Limited Government Argument
But let’s say you have come to the position that all things being equal, you would be willing to get the shot. However, the threat of a government mandated vaccine is the push that sends you in the other direction. Does this mean that you are rebellious at heart? Possibly, but it could also be a strategic rejection of an authority being assumed by the government that you find foolish at best and dangerous at worst. You might remain unvaccinated in order to increase the demographic total of the unvaccinated from “manageable” to “we can’t arrest them all”.
I believe that this is a legitimate position to take in light of the events over the past year. Many churches have had to file lawsuits to protect their constitutional right to gather and worship. Can the government suspend this right in the event of a crisis? Yes, but it has to be legitimate. So if you look around and the local beer joint, and joint joint, and abortion clinic is merrily opening its doors every day, you might start getting the idea something illegitimate is going on. A “double standard” would be scaling back on the number of standards we have seen in the last eighteen months.
The application of Romans 13 in a pagan empire is radically different than the application of Romans 13 in a constitutional republic. The attitude of a citizenship coming out of slavery is different that the attitude of a citizenship in danger of going into slavery. If you are free, then you must act like you are free or your freedom is worthless. So if certain government officials are assuming an authority not given to them (or specifically prohibited from them) by the constitution, they are the rebels, not the ones refusing to obey. It is not a violation of Romans 13 to continue to assemble on the Lord’s day as this is a right given to American citizens. It is not a violation of Romans 13 to refuse a vaccine mandate.
(As a quick aside, the vaccine may be required for travel to other countries and you’ll either have to get it or forego visiting those countries. It may be required by your employer and your refusal may cost you your job. I think those are different issues and I am not addressing them here.)
So you may be the type that thinks there’s some benefit to getting the vaccine, but the threat of a vast government authority over your health scares you more than death by Covid.
The calcification around specific Covid narratives by the government and the MSM has been counter-productive because those narratives cannot bear the weight of the actual evidence (you know, SCIENCE!). Rather than force a particular course of action on others, we should debate respectfully and desist in judging others for coming to different conclusions about matters that are adiaphora. In this post, I have tried to push back against the narrative that all vaccine hesitancy is caused by misinformation or paranoia. I believe there are legitimate reasons for and against getting vaccinated based on individual circumstances. In time, we will see who was right. In the mean-time, let us live as free men and women.
2 thoughts on “Vaccine Hesitancy: An Apologia”
The best explanation of vaccine hesitancy and reasoning I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot!).
The best explanation and reasoning on vaccine hesitancy I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot!).
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