We were almost there — herd immunity. Then came the Delta variant. But the vaccines were working, providing strong protection against serious illness and death, and breakthrough cases were mild. We now face a problem: an increase in deadly cases of COVID-19 and a return to wearing masks and social distancing. Why? The refusal of those who can be vaccinated to get the jab — the anti-vaxxers. They make up the vast majority of those getting hospitalized and dying. But they are also causing an increase in the number of children getting COVID-19, which stands at as many as 20% of new cases in some areas. Who are these anti-vaxxers?
The two biggest groups of anti-vaxxers are Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. But these groups may be overlapping — the latest data show that 29% of white evangelical Protestants claim to be Republicans. Now, many anti-vaxxers also claim that they are guaranteed a right by the Constitution, if not God, to choose not to be vaccinated, I will explain this fallacy later.
Regardless of their reasoning, I find anti-vaxxers to be selfish and opposed to what political philosophers refer to as “the common good.” Our republic is built on this philosophy. To function as citizens in a cohesive nation, we must work together for the benefit of all. As conservative journalist Robert J. Samuelson wrote, “We face a choice between a society where people accept modest sacrifices for a common goal or a more contentious society where groups selfishly protect their own benefits.” It is not just political philosophy that encourages us to seek the common good. It is part of Christianity.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:39.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31.
The purpose of getting vaccinated is not only to protect yourself; it is also to stop the spread of the virus to others. Eliminating the COVID-19 virus is for the common good, and that can only be achieved through massive vaccinations. Consequently, I believe that the white evangelical Protestants who are anti-vaxxers are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites and not very good Christians.
As for the Republican anti-vaxxers, they seem to have a false notion of freedom. Our freedoms are limited in many ways that are related to the common good. Mike Treder eloquently defined freedom in his “Meaning of Freedom” essay: “Certainly, freedom does mean the right to do as one pleases — to think, believe, speak, worship (or not worship), move about, gather, and generally act as you choose —but only until your choices start to infringe on another person’s freedom.” Even many libertarians are supportive of compulsory vaccinations.
Jessica Flanigan, a University of Richmond professor known for libertarian writings on bioethics, wrote, “People are not entitled to harm innocents or to impose deadly risks on others… Religious freedom and rights of informed consent do not entitle non-vaccinators to harm innocent bystanders, and so coercive vaccination requirements are permissible for the sake of the potential victims of the anti-vaccine movement.” Another libertarian, Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan, wrote, “[P]eople who refuse vaccinations violate… a moral principle that prohibits people from participating in the collective imposition of unjust harm or risk of harm. In a libertarian framework, individuals may be forced to accept certain vaccines… because anti-vaxxers are wrongfully imposing undue harm upon others.”
Every day the Delta variant is making more people ill and claiming more lives. If individuals refuse to act, then private and public organizations should require vaccinations as a condition of employment and entrance. Perhaps then, we can eventually put an end to this scourge for the common good.
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