Immunocompromised people need a vaccinated population
At a rally in May outside the General Assembly in Raleigh, they called it the “civil rights issue” of today, along with laws protecting blacks and LGBTQ people from being refused service at a meal counter or a pastry shop. What is this unpleasant new form of discrimination that gatherers ask to be protected against? Vaccines. The greatest health breakthrough known to mankind has become their hill to die on.
With “die” being the key word.
As North Carolina and one of 10 million immunocompromised people who are particularly at risk during this COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to protest in person, so I carried my message in the sky with an aerial banner: FREE? GET A VACCINE! #ScienceSaves ”.
To be blunt, I never thought I would be in this position to ask, to beg my neighbors to care about me and others. They appear blind or simply disinterested in the human toll that is guaranteed if their activism is successful and we do not achieve herd immunity due to vaccine reluctance.
Their rally was in favor of HB 558, a bill that would prohibit requiring proof of vaccination or immunity in public housing, employment, or to attend school, public or private. Regardless of COVID-19, this bill would apply to any disease, meaning unvaccinated children at risk of contracting measles and other deadly childhood illnesses could attend public school.
It is a distorted understanding of freedom. Your freedom to drive a car does not include the right to ignore stop signs. People who speed through stop signs risk not only their personal safety, but that of the rest of us. And so are people who reject vaccines during a pandemic. Reasonable safety regulations are essential today. If we don’t have 70 percent of the population immune, the virus will continue to spread and potentially mutate into new variants, possibly resistant to vaccines.
To date, there are 593,000 Americans dead. How many more must die for “freedom”?
And freedom takes many forms. Getting vaccinated means being free from the likelihood of catching the virus and from the fear and anxiety of passing it on to those close to you. People cry in relief when they get vaccinated.
The anti-vaxxers are terrified, but they’re afraid of the wrong thing. Vaccines have side effects, but they are much safer than COVID itself. Being afraid of vaccines rather than the virus is like being afraid of seat belts rather than car accidents.
People opposed to vaccines say requiring vaccine passports to travel, shop or keep a job is discrimination. Wrong. It is the consequence of a choice to put others in danger. Companies should not be allowed to discriminate, but they should be allowed to enforce consequences, such as banning employees who endanger their co-workers.
My body does not remember vaccines well. Immunocompromised people, transplant patients, and many cancer patients rely on others for immunizations to protect them. Government offices, schools and businesses should be allowed to protect themselves for people like me (and everyone) by requiring proof of immunity.
If you choose not to be vaccinated, it is your right. But why should a store clerk, teacher, vet, or restaurant waiter put themselves in danger by being near you? Requiring proof of immunity for service is not discrimination. It is a consequence of your choice not to help your neighbor.
Todd Stiefel is Chair of the ScienceSaves Campaign in Raleigh.