Even as we head into Joe Biden’s promised “dark winter” of masks and more lockdowns, a light is peeking through at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to the efforts of the Trump administration on Operation Warp Speed, a Wuhan virus vaccine is slated to hit the market this month, and people are getting in line. As rhetoric ramps up about the vaccine’s role in getting our lives “back to normal,” however, one huge question nags: Why on Earth would young, healthy people vaccinate themselves against COVID-19?
The New York Times last week published a tool to help “Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line” to predict how many people will get the vaccine before you, based on your age, county, job, and underlying health. According to the Times calculator, I’m in line behind 144.1 million other Americans. Except for children, I’m pretty much at the back of the line — and that’s where I should be, assuming I should get the vaccine at all. Government and corporations, however, are itching for all of us to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
I’m no anti-vaxxer. Modern medicine is miraculous, and the idea of welcoming previously eradicated ailments by rejecting time-tested vaccines seems foolish at best. The impending COVID-19 vaccine, however, is different — not because it was developed under the Trump administration, as the cynical and hyperpartisan politicos such as Kamala Harris and Andrew Cuomo have told us. Rather, for young, healthy people, the cons of the coronavirus vaccine might well outweigh the pros.
The selling point for the COVID-19 vaccine is that it accomplishes for us the equivalent of herd immunity without the untold deaths it would have taken to achieve that immunity naturally. If this new drug cocktail protects people against the virus, once vaccinated, we should be able to throw our overused surgical masks and porous cloth gaiters in the trash and go about our lives within six feet of one another, dining, working, and worshipping as normal. Why wouldn’t we all get the vaccine at our earliest possible opportunity?
I Don’t Need a Vaccine to Get Back to Normal
A vast chunk of the population, however, could be doing all those things normally anyway, vaccine or not, if it weren’t for the fear of accidentally infecting someone who is at risk. Young, healthy Americans aren’t wearing masks for themselves; they’re wearing them for grandma. At least that’s what we’re told to do.
Health experts are saying health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, should be the first to receive the new vaccine. That’s only logical. Elderly people, especially those in already-poor health, are at a much higher risk of hospitalization and death than younger populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the states have been people aged 65 and over. Thanks to the lethal policies of Gov. Cuomo in New York, we’ve seen what happens when the Wuhan virus breaks out in facilities packed with the most vulnerable. Frontline medical workers should likewise be enabled to perform their jobs without fear.
Depending on how each state handles its distribution, the next round of vaccines will likely go to other essential workers and other at-risk adults, including those who are elderly or have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or obesity. From there, vaccines will likely trickle through the population until they reach the least vulnerable among us: young, healthy Americans in low-density areas of the country.
Why, then, would any of the remaining youngins stick themselves with a syringe containing a vaccine about which we can’t possibly know the long-term effects? By the time the vaccine gets to me, grandma will be safe and vaccinated. If her safety and that of her gray-haired friends is the only reason I’ve been made to cover my face and stay home, once they’re insulated from the risk, why can’t I go about my business, vaccinated or not?
The truth of the matter is that folks my age with no underlying medical conditions have never had to fear the virus for ourselves. The sacrifices we’ve made have been largely for vulnerable people, not for our own health. According to the CDC, adults aged 85 and over are 650 times more likely to die of the Wuhan virus than people under 30. If I personally contracted COVID-19 — and knew I couldn’t infect my at-risk loved ones — the worst part about it would likely be feeling crummy for a week and missing whatever social activities were on my calendar. I might not even get symptoms.
The presence of the vaccine is therefore thrilling for all it can mean about protecting at-risk lives and getting “back to normal” — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her merry band of lockdown tyrants be damned — but I would rather roll the dice with coronavirus than with my long-term health from a brand-new vaccine. It would be better to have a cotton-swab shoved halfway to my brain and lose my sense of smell for a few weeks than to find out 10 years from now that my body is harboring some fatal side-effect of a novel vaccine. A 99.999 percent recovery rate is a chance I’m willing to take compared to a vaccine that simply can’t offer me any more promising odds.
Big Brother’s Got Nothing on Big Business
Unfortunately, we might not have a choice. Mask and stay-home rules proved that even where authoritarian leaders failed to enact their preferred restrictions — foiled by critically thinking constituents, the courts, and that pesky Constitution — corporations and small businesses stepped in to impose their own rules, curbing freedom and crushing the essence of the risk-taking American spirit.
For many small businesses, the decision to require masks was largely legal. Particularly after the Wuhan virus took its heavy toll on businesses economically, floundering entrepreneurs couldn’t risk entering into health-related lawsuits. For other corporations, the mask messaging was likely virtue signaling, consistent with their other politically progressive aims.
Masks were ultimately a trial run, which was successful. The political masking theater worked even when the hands of government were tied. Even while many Americans continue to doubt the efficacy of masks, they must comply with the rules of private entities if they want to engage in normal activities. Need to go to the grocery store? No entry without a mask. Dining out? Sorry, sir, put on your mask when you leave your table. Mask for church, mask for school, mask for flights. Are we to assume the same principles won’t apply to the vaccine?
Rumors have already floated about private businesses requiring vaccines for people to use their services or attend events, with the Ticketmaster snafu being a prominent example. It isn’t hard to imagine a near future in which vaccines become the new masks. If a woman can be tased at an outdoor sports game for not wearing a mask, and a 2-year-old can be kicked off an airplane for the same, what’s stopping private companies from mandating a vaccine for their services? Per state laws and academic policies, students must provide immunization records to attend universities. It is not a far jump from our current state of affairs to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for other activities.
Even if the government were stopped from mandating vaccines, think about what “getting back to normal” would look like if private entities required Americans to provide proof of vaccine for so-called normal activities — travel, concerts, churches, retailers, theme parks, theaters, employers — to protect themselves from disease or lawsuits. If COVID-19 restrictions are a moral issue, as the left and the media insist, then any attempts to curb viral spread can be justified, including logic-defying vaccine requirements and huge invasions of privacy.
We should welcome the COVID-19 vaccine with open arms, but it shouldn’t be mandatory for everyone. The same Americans who scowled over their masks in the grocery aisle when you dared to show your face will be barking that you young, healthy person who resists a vaccine are a cold-hearted killer. And the same businesses that successfully coerced an entire populace into covering their faces for nearly any normal activity will be able to apply the same logic to vaccines.