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Opinion

Vaxx mandate

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonsalez - The Freeman

While the US is reacting in rage against a new mask mandate, a by-product of Americans never having been considerate of their bad breath, the Philippines is considering a vaccine mandate.

That probably aroused hackles on so many levels. I’ll take that incendiary statement back. I will rephrase it to the largely equivalent descriptor of “some Americans being inconsiderate of the vapors from their breath even whilst they could be sick, and refusing to recognize that face masks give a degree of protection to others from the risks stemming from their contagious diseases”.

I now turn to the real discussion point, the same discussion point in the Senate the other day; do we, as a country, mandate vaccination versus COVID-19 on our fellow countrymen?

As Senator Pia Cayetano points out so eloquently on the Senate (zoom) floor, this country already mandates vaccines for other diseases (hepatitis-B, tuberculosis and mumps) and on certain sectors of the population. There is also the reality that travelers need to show proof of vaccination for certain diseases when entering other countries. Why is it a stretch of the imagination to likewise mandate vaccination for COVID-19? Why the fierce resistance against this?

America has likewise begun moves to make COVID-vaccination compulsory. Baby steps, but it’s getting there. For example, Biden signed an order dictating that federal employees either need to be vaxxed, or be tested every week. Employers like Google and Amazon have likewise handed down marching orders --vaccinate, or else.

There may be legitimate objections to the vaccine; medical reasons, like an allergy to the vaccine, or perhaps, even the argument that the vaccine is still in its infancy, and has no solid track record, unlike those for polio or measles. In these instances, it’s so easy for the law to be adjusted to reflect the flexibilities required. Exempt the allergic! Give time for conclusive studies to be performed! But these objections don’t necessarily shoot down the whole idea of mandating the vaccine altogether.

Is it a trampling of individual rights? That’s what the anti-vaxxers say. The motto is, “my body, my choice.” The thesis of the argument lies in respecting their decision to control their bodies.

But what if their decisions for their own bodies impact the bodies of other people? What if their diseases spread to others as a result? Will their autonomy over their bodies still need to be respected at that point?

Senator Cayetano points out that the rights of those individuals with these objections will need to be weighed versus that of other workers who need protection from the virus and the unvaccinated. It may be a matter for the Supreme Court to tackle later, if it gets there. For now, the legislators don’t necessarily need to shoot down its own bills just because they’re afraid of what the courts will think.

As a co-equal body, Congress can and should determine its own priorities, and then legislate on the basis of its perceived calibration of merits or demerits. Once it has justified the need for the law (such as its determination that in this instance, the needs of the majority can and should prevail over the wishes of the minority), the courts can take their own measure, and make their own determination, of the substance of the law and the drivers for its passage.

There is also that dreaded phrase “police power”. Congress can pass laws that it deems necessary for the safety and protection of its citizens --such as injecting us with that needle.

The mood of the country being as it is now, with more lockdowns looming, it appears that mandating vaccines won’t be a hard sell. People are so fed-up with complying with quarantine restrictions, they’ll just happily help plunge needles left and right. And given the government ineptitude that we have seen demonstrated so beautifully over the past year, who can blame them?

COVID-19 VACCINE
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