I remember back in 2003, when NYC banned smoking from public spaces like bars, restaurants, and workplaces. I lived and worked in the city at the time, and people damn lost their minds. Lighting up in a dark NYC bar while sipping a beer was considered an essential part of the NYC experience. People complained that their freedom—their very way of life—had been stolen from them.
Of course, that was bullshit, and what happened instead was that these public spaces became safer for everyone. Secondhand smoking kills, and just because you don’t mind the personal health risks that come with lighting up a cigarette, doing so in a public space puts others at risk.
For the past 18 months, we’ve heard a lot about personal freedom. Freedom to not adhere to lockdown and social distancing rules. Freedom to not wear a mask. Freedom to refuse the vaccine. All of these arguments are based on the idea that each person gets to do whatever they see fit with their body, because this is America, and individual rights trump everything else.
But the personal freedom argument only works when it doesn’t involve putting others in harm’s way. And when it comes to a pandemic-level virus that literally spreads from the mouth and nose of one person to another, what you do with your body can have a profound—and often deadly effect—on others.
Now, with the COVID-19 vaccine fully approved by the FDA, and vaccine mandates coming from all over—including workplace mandates, school mandates, military mandates, entertainment/dining mandates, etc.—we are going to see this “personal freedom/you’re violating my rights” argument more than we ever have before.
It’s time to shut down this asshattery once and for all.
If you are someone who chooses not to get vaccinated, you are saying that you are okay with the risks that the virus poses to you, and that no one has any right to tell you what you can or should put into your body.
Sure, fine. Here’s the thing, though. No one is saying that you have to get vaccinated. Yes, that’s a personal choice. But when it comes to public health, your decisions affect others (that’s why it’s called “public” health). So if you are choosing to forgo vaccination, you must be okay with not participating in certain activities, and not being eligible for certain lines of work.
This is nothing new. There is very long precedent for vaccine mandates at the state and local level, and this is simply an extension of that.
In other words, vaccine mandates are perfectly legal. We don’t have a federal vaccine mandate, and as Scientific American notes, it’s unlikely that we ever will. However what we do have—and have had for years—are state, local, and business-specific mandates for vaccines. Years of Supreme Court decisions—dating back to 1905 and 1922—allow states to do this. That is not going to change.
Schools have been mandating vaccines for schoolchildren for decades. Many health care facilities and businesses mandate vaccines like the flu vaccine. The military has mandated vaccines since forever as well. Certain countries won’t let you travel to them without a yellow fever vaccine.
“But, but, but,” the freedom-loving vaccine refusal folks might say, “Telling someone that they must be vaccinated or else they can’t go to work, go to a restaurant, go to the movies, go to the gym, etc, is a violation of your human rights.”
Uhhhh. Human rights have to do with making sure that folks are protected from torture, that people have shelter, clean water, and food to eat. Human rights violations have to do with serious inequities and injustices throughout the world. Being asked to take a vaccine (which no one is actually forcing you to take) is not a human right’s violation.
Stop it with that nonsense. It’s actually offensive to talk about something that saves lives and that protects others as a human right’s violation when actual human rights violations are happening all over the globe as we speak.
And can we talk about what human rights you are actually violating when you don’t take the vaccine (or mask up or stay home when you’re sick), and then show up in public potentially spreading a deadly virus to others?
You are putting children who are too young to be vaccinated at risk. You are putting elderly folks and immunocompromised folks at risk. You are putting folks who weren’t able to access the vaccine yet for whatever reason (long work hours, lack of transportation, etc.) at risk.
You are being an asshole and a dick simply because of your own selfish wants and needs.
Here’s the bottom line:
The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be a safe and effective way to combat the pandemic.
They significantly reduce the chances you will become severely ill with COVID, making you less likely to tax our healthcare system, which currently is near collapse in places where the virus is out of control.
We need to do everything in our power to stop this deadly virus from infecting more people. Period.
Vaccine mandates make sense, they are legal, they are compassionate and protective. And they are coming to a school, hospital, restaurant, gym, or workplace near you, whether you like it or not.
This article was originally published on