Israel Shouldn't Force Them, but Those Who Choose Not to Get a COVID Vaccine Have a Responsibility

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Tel Avivians waiting for their coronavirus vaccine at a branch of Maccabi Healthcare Services, Thursday.
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The roiling clash these days is between the vaccinated majority and the unvaccinated minority (finally a respite from the Netanyahu wars). The various laws the government is promoting, and even expediting, such as revealing the identity of the unvaccinated are bad laws that have no place in a democracy, even one fighting a pandemic.

And based on the results of the failed attempt at cellphone tracking, neither are these laws expected to greatly slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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A democratic country doesn’t force anyone to be inoculated, and even sanctions such as a ban on visiting certain places, including workplaces, will encounter resistance and protest. Democratic logic  requires opposition to such measures, but the problem begins when that logic is divorced from reality and is experienced as an empty gesture or even as heartlessness.

Consider a teacher who doesn’t want to be vaccinated but insists on coming to work and puts an entire class at risk. Or at the very least she might wind up putting the students and their exhausted parents into isolation, not to mention the more severe health risks to pregnant women or children in high-risk groups.

Such opponents of vaccination, whatever their reasons, put themselves and others in an unfair situation that the legislature can’t resolve; only they can. Members of the minority, who have a right to maintain their opposition, must also be aware of the harm to the majority as a result of their choice. If they aren’t aware, they’re acting with the same brutishness they accuse the majority of.

Liberal democracy devotes a good deal of energy to setting up defenses for minorities so they aren’t crushed by the majority. This is a worthy goal, and it’s also apparently the hardest of the endless challenges facing a democracy, a good many of which are nothing but attempts to moderate egotistical urges to reap a benefit.

But if protection of the rights of the minority means dropping reasonable logic, such protection could bring down the entire liberal concept because in such cases it’s perceived as bizarre and sometimes even cruel detachment from basic human experience.

A scenario where a few dozen parents who have already been in long, exhausting lockdowns with their families risk illness and isolation because a teacher insists on working unvaccinated is illogical. It’s not a matter for the legislature but for a basic consensus between individuals and the community.

The persistence of such an illogical situation can’t help but lead to an unfortunate outcome: Either the legislature will insert itself into the delicate space of individual rights, or the majority will respond in harsh protest to what it considers detachment if not outright abuse.

The election of a person like Donald Trump, for example, is a good example of such a reaction. If liberalism or pluralism deny the distress and basic needs of individuals – that is, if they assault these people – the response is the election of extreme figures on the other side; that is, a counterattack.

People have the right not to be inoculated. They shouldn’t be surveilled; no one should report them or shame them. But it’s not their right to endanger others or impede their routine, and sometimes even their very lives.

Democracy has the obligation to protect the rights of individuals in the minority. But the unvaccinated minority has the responsibility not to harm the vaccinated majority. It’s not a question of the law, it’s a question of healthy logic.

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