Vaccine Refusal and Faulty Premises

When it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, it seems a lot of people have forgotten basic facts about how vaccines work in general. I am referring to things that have always been said and understood about every vaccine ever in the history of vaccines.

One of the things that I have seen people do on social media posts and on some news media is to speak critically of the Covid-19 vaccines because a vaccinated person can still get the virus. I have noticed several posts of a meme where someone is administering the shot and the person receiving it says, “Am I immune now?” to which the person giving the shot says, “No, you can still get it.” I have seen several friends on social media post one version or another of the words, “The vaccine doesn’t work! You can still get Covid!”

The idea is that there is no point in the vaccine because it doesn’t protect 100% you from Covid-19. This gives many people sufficient cause to refuse to be vaccinated during a global pandemic. Others take it even further that Covid-19 vaccinations are a means of control of some sort by the powers that be.

Whether you use the term “vaccination” or “immunization,” it is important to understand the basics of how vaccines work (as told by professionals who, you know, know how vaccines work). As far as I can gather, there has never been a vaccine about which it was promised that it would absolutely guarantee you could not be infected. Vaccines are not magic nor are they cures. What a vaccine does is to equip your immune system to fight off a virus or bacteria that you may encounter so it doesn’t make you sick.

Why do some vaccinated people still get sick? With Covid or any other disease, a small percentage of vaccinated persons can still possibly get sick. The immune systems of some people, even if vaccinated, do not adequately respond. But the fact remains that vaccines are highly effective, some more than others, but none 100%. This has always been the case with vaccines. Why does anyone think the Covid-19 vaccines are any different? Why are they holding this vaccine to a different standard? It is irrational.

Some vaccines seem to do better than others. The flu vaccine is one that requires boosters, for example, more than others. Because of completely new strains always mutating and developing, the flu vaccine is not a one and done event. Why do people reject the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines, as some do, making the argument that the need for boosters proves it doesn’t work? Covid-19 may be a novel virus, but that some vaccines require boosters to adequately equip the immune system is not novel information.

Another reality with vaccines is that one may get the disease, but its effects are considerably lessened as to what they might have been without the vaccine. One of the things that has been said since Covid-19 vaccinations have been available is precisely that: while it is still possible to get the disease, the vaccine would give you a far better chance of staying out of the hospital, for example. By the way, those who work in hospitals really appreciate this.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

No one in a position of authority/expertise regarding the vaccines has ever at any time said that once you receive it, you would be 100% immune. Ever. So why are people refusing the vaccine based on something that has never been claimed as if that was a viable argument? Had the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and other such organizations claimed that getting the vaccine would make it impossible for a vaccinated person to get the virus that would be one thing, but that claim has never been made.

A problem is that memes or statements, such as the ones I referred to at the beginning of this post, don’t tell the whole story. They do tend to satisfy confirmation bias, but ones of this kind do not serve the truth. The truth is that if you are vaccinated (whether Covid-19 or any disease) you are unlikely to contract the disease. However, it is possible that you might. If you do, it is unlikely that you will get anything more than mildly ill. It is highly unlikely that you, if vaccinated, would get seriously sick from the disease or even die. If you do, you are among extreme rare cases.

The simplistic either/or—either you are immune and won’t get it, or you are not immune and can still get it—is not helpful in the least.

What about adverse reactions or even death? It would be great if we came to a time where vaccines were highly effective, and no side effects of any kind ever followed. Until that time, however, we must still move forward and make decisions in an imperfect world. Fundamental moral reasoning asks if the benefit is worth the risk. Do we risk some possible bad outcomes to avoid what would be assuredly innumerably worse outcomes?

In moral reasoning there is a principle called The Principle of Double Effect.  I think this principle tends to get misapplied, but it is a valid principle itself. The Principle of Double Effect goes like this: you do a good (or at least morally neutral) act with the intention of obtaining a good end. However, you do see that your good act will have a foreseen, but not intended, bad effect. So, should you do the good act for the good end knowing there will be a bad consequence alongside the good one you intend? According to the principle, if the good effect of your act that you intend is proportionate or greater to the foreseen bad effect that you do not desire, the act is morally justifiable.

Now apply that to Covid-19 vaccines. The act of administering a vaccine is essentially morally neutral, that is, it is neither good nor bad in itself. The act is carried out with the good intention of stopping the spread of a disease and saving lives. However, because we have yet to create vaccines that have no possibility of an adverse effect, we have the foreseen but not intended consequence that some people could possibly have a bad reaction or even, however rarely, die. Conversely, should we not administer the vaccine, a disproportionately large number of people will no doubt suffer and die. In light of this principle, administering the vaccine is morally permissible and, in this case, I think, morally obligatory.

When someone says “the vaccine does not work” and by “does not work” they mean does not guarantee 100% that you cannot get Covid-19, that is a true statement. But then, no vaccine maker or medical professional ever said that it does. If by “does not work” that person means that the vaccine does not offer an individual protection and when received by a high percentage of the population will not provide herd immunity, that is most certainly a false statement. There is no point in making the first claim to object to the vaccine. It is a refusal based on a fiction. The second claim, as stated, is false.

I guess I have said all the above to say this. If you are refusing the vaccine on the premise that once you receive it you are not 100% immune to Covid-19, your refusal is on a false premise. Just stop. It’s a faulty argument not rooted in reality. Get vaccinated unless there is a medically indicated reason for which a medical professional has advised you against it. If that is the case, those of us who can, will get vaccinated (and do all other preventive, mitigating measures) to help protect you. We’ve got your back.

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

The vaccination against Covid-19 does not mean, and never has as is the case with all vaccines, that you cannot possibly get the disease. But getting vaccinated will result the following: 1) Protect you by preventing you from getting it or from you getting seriously ill from it; 2) Due to number 1, it will reduce the number of those in need of hospitalization which will help those working in medicine and care; 3) Save hundreds of thousands of lives; 4) Help us obtain herd immunity to eradicate the disease or stop its spread. 5) We will get back sooner to what we consider a normal life.

What will not getting vaccinated do? It will ensure that we will stay on the hamster wheel of this nightmare for much longer. It will ensure that much more unnecessary suffering and death will follow. Please get vaccinated.

(Closing note: I made several claims here about vaccines, but I gave no citations or web links. Why? There are a few reasons. For one, much of this information, especially about vaccines generally, is so widely available and has been so for years that it is not some obscure notion. Ask your doctor. I also judged that in the case of a blog post, any link I would provide would unlikely result in someone changing their view. I am appealing here to reason and common sense. The medical science on this issue is, as I said, well-established and easily obtained. Lastly, and this reason is linked to the others, I am not a medical doctor or infectious disease expert. This post is not medical advice. I am a fellow citizen appealing to you, the reader, to get a vaccination based on sound medical science that will help bring this disease under control, saving untold number of human lives.)

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