Most people who read Listen up! will know that I feel very strongly that as many people as possible should get fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. I haven’t changed my mind about that or about my belief that the overwhelming abundance of scientific evidence points to the necessity of vaccinations to bring this current pandemic under control.
Nor have I moved from my opinion that those who can get vaccinated and choose not to need to accept the consequences related to keeping other people safe.
But there is a line to be drawn in how we go about that.
That line to me is the growing movement toward requiring mandatory vaccinations. Mandatory is just a softer word for forced vaccinations. The prime minister has all but said we should be heading in that direction and his Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, carefully ducking responsibility on behalf the feds, has encouraged the provinces to consider mandatory vaccinations.
As well, Quebec is making strong noises in that direction, as are other countries including France. Even the editorial in Sunday’s Toronto Star, entitled “Time to raise the price for those who still won’t get vaxxed”, envisioned tougher measures such as mandatory vaccines.
As I have said in previous articles I have written about the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations, I do not agree with mandatory vaccinations. It is a step too far. While I have serious concerns about people who refuse to protect themselves and others from a virulent virus, or believe it doesn’t exist, forcing it upon them is not in my view an option. I just cannot go there.
While I know there will be disagreement, I believe we have a fundamental human right to decide what goes on in our body. You cannot pick and choose about that. Our choices may be poor and indeed dangerous, but within the law we have that right.
To be clear, while I believe we have that right, we do not have the right to adversely affect the lives of others because of decisions we make for ourselves. That is why people who can get vaccinated and choose not to must be prepared for consequences, such as limited access to public facilities in the greater public interest, as long as the pandemic is active.
To me, there is something repugnant about forced vaccinations. Somehow, to me, it smacks of totalitarianism. I understand and fully agree with the need to require full vaccinations for people who work in frontline health positions or for people who want to travel or frequent public places. But that allows people the freedom to make those choices without being subjected to forced vaccinations. In my view, there is a distinct difference.
There is another reason to avoid mandatory vaccinations at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic and that is because it is too late. In spite of a surge of infections from the Omicron variant, many signs point to a lessening of its virulence and thus the possibility that the virus itself is heading toward its best-before date. The majority of those who get really sick from the Omicron variant are the unvaccinated. The majority of those who are vaccinated and do become infected have a significantly reduced reaction. I question whether at this point in the pandemic mandatory vaccinations will have any real effect.
For all sorts of reasons, many people are on edge right now. They are tired of the pandemic. They are sick of the restrictions, they are upset at divisions within their own families, and parents desperately want their children back in school. All of that, and the underlying festering frustration and anger that results, is understandable.
But as long as there are signs that we are coming through this pandemic, let’s not up the ante. Forcing COVID-19 vaccinations on those who strongly oppose them will not be accepted lightly and it will allow extremists, whether they are anti-vaxxers or not, a platform to promote civil unrest to a greater degree than we have already seen. It will also be very hard and unpleasant to enforce. We simply don’t need that now.
To those who think I am getting soft on these issues: I am not. I will continue to use whatever means are at my disposal to urge people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus and its variants, to get the booster, and to get future vaccines when they come along as they inevitably will when the virus mutates. I will also continue to be skeptical of the conspiracy theories and puzzled by the rationale of those that can get vaccinated and just won’t. Further, I continue to believe that this virus will only be effectively contained when there is no place for it to reproduce; vaccinations go a long way to bringing that about.
As in all things, though, it is important to not let the pendulum swing too far, and in my view, at this juncture of the pandemic, a mandatory vaccine policy would do just that. However long it has taken us to get where we are today, whomever we want to blame, and however concerning this latest surge of the Omicron variant is, there is now, by many scientific projections, real light at the end of the tunnel.
This is not a time for overreaction or a time to foster avoidable confrontation. Rather, it is a time to be vigilant and careful, a time to get our kids back in school, and a time to work toward a permanent new normal. It is a time for hope and moving forward.
Let’s not blow that.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.