Disclaimer: all opinions and insight in this post are my own. I make no claims of statistic or scientific accuracy.
Some time ago, I wrote about my personal choice to wait and watch for a while before getting the COVID vaccine. Since I work from home, am not in a risk group, and am a natural introvert, this choice is viable for me.
But it is different for many other people in Israel. Quite simply, many will soon have to take the vaccine – regardless of their personal preferences or concerns – to keep their livelihood and avoid restrictions.
Israel has started its vaccination campaign in full force and, so far, has vaccinated about 1/3 of the total population and most people in risk groups. Despite this, COVID continues to spread rapidly, in a large part because of new variants that now target younger people and children as well.
There’s a big – and, in my eyes, very scary – trend of shaming and pressuring the people who are reluctant to get the vaccine for any reason. They are labeled uneducated, scare-mongerers, selfish, unwilling to “do their part”. Allegedly, vaccine refusers are the reason why we won’t be climbing out of this pandemic anytime soon.
There has been talk of making vaccination mandatory but, since legislation for this would likely cause an uproar, there’s an insidious movement to make people get a vaccine by existing legal means.
It started with a “green passport” incentive that’s supposed to give vaccinated citizens access to shopping centers and recreational activities, and escalated to organizations saying their workers had better get the vaccine if they want to keep their jobs. Teachers who have concerns about the vaccine are told “it’s your fault we can’t open schools, kids are missing out on their education because of your silly irrational fears”. I’ve heard local authorities declare that unvaccinated individuals will get no services, no counseling, no assistance when needed. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but the statements can give you a hint of the overall attitude.
Any concerns about the vaccine are systematically swept under the rug and any reports of possible serious side effects are dismissed as a coincidence. This week I heard a recording of an epidemiologist who had given a radio interview and very carefully and rationally explained why the vaccine might not be 100% safe for everyone. The interviewer, seething with fury, terminated the report midway.
The worst part? Leading authorities are talking about taking the plunge and vaccinating children and pregnant women before any clinical trials have taken place for these groups, because without these populations, Israel will never reach herd immunity.
I am still pretty positive about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. I hope that, in the end, it will prove the solution we’ve all been hoping for. But here’s the thing:
It should be illegal to try and coerce, force, shame, or manipulate anyone into taking the vaccine. It should be illegal to offer external incentives for taking the vaccine.
Any discussion on possible negative side effects should be open and transparent. People shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to ask questions, or labelled as senseless fear-mongerers when they do.
The demonization of people who are choosing not to take the vaccine yet has got to stop. It appears, so far, that being vaccinated doesn’t prevent someone from spreading the virus to others. Therefore, it has minimal impact on my neighbors and friends whether I’m vaccinated or not. We are not the problem. We were not the ones who caused uncontrolled spread through massive crowded events, parties, demonstrations and (ironically) funerals.
I never thought I would say this, but living in Israel has become scary lately. I have never felt such instability. Not during wars, not during terror campaigns.
I pray that we somehow make our way out of this without forgetting about democratic values like bodily autonomy, critical thinking, and freedom of speech. Because so far, things aren’t looking very hopeful on that score.