Covid Blog – Vaccine
February 7, 2021
What responsibility does the individual have to the community and what responsibility does the community have to the individual? This question is inherent in most discussions of public policy, social programs and public health.
Individuals banding together to work for the common good is the basis of civilization. A group could survive when an individual could not. Sometimes this means that the individual does what is best for the community and sometimes it means that the community provides resources to the individual. Sometimes these two mandates are in conflict.
I recently saw a Facebook post encouraging people to manage the risks of Covid-19 by taking a list of supplements instead of getting the vaccine. This reasoning misses an essential point. For most medical issues, the right of self determination is primary. If we are diagnosed with cancer, we have the right to choose what treatment we undertake, such as radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or nothing at all. The same applies to diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses, because the choices we make affect only ourselves. The individual has no responsibility to the community, because the choices do not affect everyone else. Being vaccinated against an illness that has ravaged the world is not just about our own personal well-being, it is about what we owe to the well-being of the community. The only way the pandemic is going to be stopped is if enough individuals become immune through vaccination in order to deny the virus any hosts to infect and replicate in.
The right to self determination sometimes has to give way to community needs. One helpful comparison I have seen is about the blackouts in London during the blitz of the second world war. Everyone went dark when the bombing started. Everyone everywhere. No one was allowed to say, “I don’t think it is likely that a bomb will fall on my house, and even if it did, I might not be hurt so I choose to leave on my lights so I can go about my life.” Everyone understood that the decision to participate did not only affect them, but also their neighbors and the entire community. An individual decision could put many, many people at risk.
The decision to get the vaccine is similar, if less dramatic. We are not making the choice just for ourselves, we are participating in a world-wide intervention to stop the virus and all of its consequences.
By all means, seek out answers if you have questions. Ask your own doctor. Read what the experts have written about their own rigorous research. Make sure that the resources you access are reputable, rather than whatever matches your own confirmation bias. Reliable websites include those for the National Institute of Health, Mayo Clinic, CDC, World Health Organization or your state and local health departments. If the domain name is .gov or .edu, that means the information is trustworthy. (An excellent resource for evaluating online information can be found here: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/online-health-information-it-reliable )
When we choose to get the Covid-19 vaccine, we are not just choosing protection for ourselves, we are choosing to protect all of the members of our community, local and world-wide.
Wear your mask.
Wash your hands.
Maintain social distancing.
Get the vaccine as soon as you can.
Because we are in this together.