Treating People Like Adults
Can it positively affect vaccination rates?
I’m a civil libertarian. That means I believe in personal freedom and the rights of each individual, even when I disagree with their choices. I’ve been this way since I was a kid — I was often socially ostracized because I refused to buckle to peer pressure. I was lonely at times because I followed the beat of my own drum. But I maintained my self-respect.
If you don’t like me — that is OK. I respect your right to dislike me.
If you don’t agree with me, that is OK too. We can still have respectful dialog and who knows, you might change my mind. It’s been known to happen.
One area where recently I’ve had an opinion that many consider controversial — I am against government mandates when it comes to vaccination. But I need to clarify that I am pro-vaccine; I agree with schools requiring them with medical and religious exemptions and I am also in favor of people and businesses voluntarily doing their part. I am for the government openly and honestly sharing information and trusting individuals to make good decisions base on reason and logic rather than fear. When the government informs citizens without politicizing medicine, it builds trust and cooperation.
This might seem like a controversial viewpoint, but it’s a policy that has worked in some places.
For example, Japan.
Here are some facts about Japan’s response:
- Japan never mandated the COVID-19 vaccine. They banned the MMR vaccine in 1993 and compulsory vaccinations since 1994.
- Since 1994, Japan has stuck to an informed-consent policy towards vaccination, not mandates.
- Despite this, or perhaps because of this, with a full vaccination rate of almost 76%, Japan leads the Group of Seven nations (originally made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, it now also includes the European Union.)
- The number of Japanese who have received at least one vaccination dose is over 80%.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website states: “Although we encourage all citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, it is not compulsory or mandatory.”
Another country that has treated its citizens like adults throughout this pandemic is Sweden. It never shut down schools, for example, and only banned large gatherings instead of forcing more widespread social distancing. Yet, despite this more lenient approach, the country boasts a 77% vaccination rate, with 74% fully vaccinated.
Would this policy work in the United States?
I looked at Florida, which has a more laissez-faire policy than, say, California. Only 64.7% of Floridians were fully vaccinated compared to 68.3% of Californians. However, Florida seniors who have had two doses make up 88% of this at-risk group and 34% have already had boosters. Meanwhile, California seniors who were fully vaccinated only made up 56% of this group.
I hesitate to draw a conclusion however, because other states with a more draconian response do have better vaccination rates, such as New York, where over 73% of the population is fully vaccinated and 86% has received at least one dose.
While my philosophical bent is to respect personal choice, and while the data seems to support that this can be done without sacrificing public safety measures such as vaccination, it is not a given. And of course each person’s rights end where someone else’s begin. To the extent that individuals’ personal choices only impacts themselves, freedom is not controversial. When others are put in danger, choices need to be reconsidered.