Israeli Vaccine Dodgers Are Demonstrating Sheer Ignorance and Selfishness

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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A health care worker holds up Israel's COVID-19 vaccine as its clinical trials begin at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem, November 1, 2020.
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

The data on the willingness of Israelis to get vaccinated is disappointing and rankling. Israeli society often boasts of its solidarity, fraternity, mutual responsibility, of its mythical “togetherness.” But refusing to get inoculated is a quintessential act of anti-social selfishness. It’s a refusal to fulfill a civic obligation, an immoral act that harms others, an act committed at the public’s expense. The only way to stop the epidemic is through the development of a vaccine, other than letting it run rampant for years, destroying economies and cultures, killing millions while denying us basic liberties.

Here is the first coronavirus axiom: it’s in the interest of any reasonable person to rout the virus. There is no rational person who has an interest in letting the virus continue infecting people, which is why every person has an obligation to voluntarily get the vaccine as soon as possible. Those refusing to get vaccinated should think about what would happen if everyone behaved like they do.

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If that happened, it would be impossible to develop a vaccine. But there is no one refusing the vaccine while arguing that they’d prefer that no vaccine be developed. There is no person who doesn’t understand that it’s in his or her interest that a vaccine be developed.

The notion that the vaccine is dangerous is also irrational. The transparency of the clinical trials and the vaccine’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration make such concerns absurd. Perhaps these concerns are a result of general ignorance among the population regarding scientific methods. Perhaps they illustrate the fashionable embrace of conspiracy theories, the loss of confidence of Trump and Bibi followers in the “authorities.”

The scientific achievement embodied in this vaccine is stupendous. It can and should serve as a catalyst for placing science education and its explanation for the origins of life and the universe on a pedestal in our civilization. Fear of the vaccine attests to a twisted management of affairs (better the virus than the vaccine), to a bent attitude to a scientific product that has undergone a rigorous process of control and approval (the vaccine is dangerous), and to a grossly distorted survival instinct (it’s better to risk the disease than the vaccine).

There is also selfishness and an instrumental approach to others at play (you try it first, then we’ll see). Every Israeli is an emperor, entitled to a taster, convinced that someone is trying to poison him. All these qualities characterize the Israeli public in other significant decisions as well.

In other words, there is no reason to assume that the way this decision is taken – in a situation in which the right choice between two options could not be clearer: inoculation is immeasurably better than an epidemic – is any different than, for example, the decision to annex the West Bank and impose an apartheid regime there so that Israel becomes a binational state; or the decision to continue voting for Netanyahu.

Ignorance, selfishness and irrationality characterize every one of these choices. All the TV studio debates around finding “incentives” to encourage people to get vaccinated are incredible and ridiculous. One can just picture the average Israeli saying: “OK, we get it that it kills the virus. That’s nice. But what else can it do? What can we get out of it?”

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