Omicron or family Christmas?

Picture of By Lea Teigelkötter

By Lea Teigelkötter

Another year is coming to an end, the Christmas festivities are right around the corner. But like last year, there is a dark shadow hovering on the horizon, letting those who’ve decided to care about the situation, wonder what Christmas this year is going to look like. And without wanting to sound pessimistic, anyone who’s kept up with the news knows that the ‘numbers’ are not looking good. Especially thanks to yet the new Omicron variant about which the information seems to be rather scarce.

I could have written this article a year ago, expressing my and everyone’s weariness of the situation, of yet another lockdown, but maybe something would have held me back: the thought of protecting the more vulnerable groups in society. Back in 2020 – almost at our second anniversary-, life took a drastic turn. However, I understood – at least to a certain extent – why we had to lock people indoors. Because there were some of us whose chances of surviving the virus were more fragile than for me, a healthy twenty-year-old.

The endless lockdown spiral

Today, my point of view is different. I no longer want to accept any new lockdowns- and no, I neither belong to the violent protestors who have chosen a questionable manner to voice their dissent nor to the conspiracy theorists who think COVID is a joke. When it came to protecting the old and sick of our society I was ready to suppress my own needs. Now, however, I’m supposed to protect those citizens who did not want to be protected in the first place – by receiving their free vaccination. And frankly, I am too egoistic to do so.

The past two years have taught us two important things: COVID is not a one-month situation but will probably stick around for the foreseeable future and there are only a few ways to protect ourselves and others. The effectiveness of vaccinations has been proven repeatedly, yet many countries remain hesitant towards introducing mandatory vaccination passes. 

One major argument is that one of democracy’s fundamental pillars is free choice. But free choice has its limits, namely where one’s free choice hurts another person. Imagine the following scenario: you drive your car on a highway and witness a car accident in front of you, all people involved are hurt and unable to help themselves. Was the accident your fault? No. Do you have the ‘free’ choice of simply continuing your car journey without taking any action? Yes, but not without legal consequences.

Covid is not a car accident, but not getting vaccinated increasingly puts other people’s lives in danger. And this is why I believe that governments should follow the Austrian example of introducing a mandatory vaccination pass rather than starting one mini-lockdown after the other. 

Making vaccinations mandatory

For starters, getting the vaccine is about protecting yourself and others. And, so far, it’s our only key to winning our ‘normal’ lives back. This is by far no longer a personal decision but one that affects our society as a whole. A recent study from the US shows that people who are unvaccinated are five times more likely to be infected and 18 times more likely to be hospitalized. Citizens over the age of 65 are 11 times more likely to die from the virus compared to fully vaccinated seniors. 

Secondly, the benefits of a mandatory vaccination pass outweigh the risks. Some people argue that forcing someone to inject a substance into their body by law seems contradictory to democratic principles. But so did cancelling cancer operations to treat Covid patients, or in some countries, deciding between saving an old or young person’s life. Extraordinary circumstances require difficult steps. Surely, it would have been best if, through logical argumentation, everyone could have been persuaded voluntarily to vaccinate him- or herself. Unfortunately, scientists’ and politicians’ words weren’t enough. And frankly, we don’t seem to have much more time to waste with friendly appeals to the vaccine-sceptics, conspiracy theorists and co.

Additionally, existing laws from the past show that mandatory vaccinations are indeed possible – even under democratic regimes. There are multiple countries across the globe that require vaccinations for children to enter schools. In 2020, Germany made the measles vaccine compulsory for all children attending school or daycare, as well persons employed at schools, daycares, and medical or community facilities. EU commission chef von der Leyen strongly urged countries to consider mandatory vaccination passes. 

A couple of months ago, I read an article from a high school student describing her final year of high school spent online learning at home. Many of my fellow students have had the same experience – not to mention those who are still in school and who continue to lose valuable opportunities to effectively learn in a school setting. Under that article, a man commented: ‘Stop complaining. When we were younger, we didn’t have the option to take gap years either. All you’re asked to do is stay home, it’s really not that difficult.”

Well, I disagree. But my personal opinion has little influence on which measures the government takes or not. Nonetheless, the arguments in favour of a mandatory vaccination outweigh the counterarguments by far.

Cover: Nataliya Vaitkevich/Pexels

Edited by: Katrien Nivera

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