The slippery slope of vaccine requirements

Numerous times, I’ve heard people make various versions of the following argument:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people can simply not do X.

Or, put slightly differently:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people consent to Y when they choose X.

For example…

  • Requiring the Covid vaccine in order to attend a concert does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to the concert.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to attend a Bruins or Celtics game does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to any games.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to eat inside a restaurant does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to restaurants, or sit outside on the patio, or get takeout instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go to a gym does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can go for a run or work out at home instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go into a grocery store does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can order groceries using Instacart, Amazon, or Peapod.
  • For a country to require the vaccine for all incoming travelers does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel to that country.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to board an airplane does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel.
  • For the federal government to require the vaccine in order to work in the medical field does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can work in a different field.
  • For an employer to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to work for that particular company.
  • For a college to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to attend that particular college.
  • For OSHA to require the vaccine in order to work at a company with 100 or more employees does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can choose to work at a smaller company.
  • For a local government to require the vaccine in order to work at any company does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply move to a different city, or choose not to work.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to receive Social Security benefits, or welfare benefits, does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply forego those benefits.
  • For a doctor to require the vaccine of their patients does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just switch to a different doctor.
  • For health insurance companies to charge extra to non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just pay the extra money.
  • Ordering a lockdown for non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply stay locked down inside your home.
  • For the government to require the vaccine for everyone and impose fines on those who do not comply does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply pay the fine.

As these examples show, depending on what the “X” is, the difficulty of avoiding doing it, and therefore avoiding a situation in which one is required to do “Y,” varies greatly.

If one particular concert requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to forego the concert. If one particular restaurant or bar requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to choose a different restaurant or bar instead. But what if your favorite professional sports team decides to require proof of vaccination to attend games? You could, of course, stop attending games, but if you love the team, are used to attending games frequently, and really look forward to the games, this would be a big sacrifice. But still, no one needs to attend professional sporting events. It’s not an essential service.

But then what happens if your local government passes a vaccine mandate for indoor recreational spaces such as restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, and museums? None of these things are necessary to live. You can make all your meals at home, and exercise at home as well. Perhaps in order to exercise at home you will need to invest in weights and maybe an exercise bike, because you don’t own any exercise equipment. What if you can’t afford this? One might argue that you could run outside, but what if it’s winter and it’s too cold to comfortably do so? One might argue that you could just forego exercising, and accept becoming out of shape and unhealthy, but what if fitness is very important to you? Not to mention the fact that with restaurants, bars, theaters, and museums off-limits, your recreational activities will be very limited, which will take a toll on your quality of life. Your relationships will likely be harmed as well, because you will need to either make up an excuse or explain your vaccination decision to your friends if you are invited to a get-together at any of these venues.

Then what happens if, hypothetically, vaccination becomes required in order to enter grocery stores? You could have groceries delivered to your home, but this is more expensive. What if you are very low-income and cannot afford this added cost?

On a different note, what happens if your state government requires vaccination for all large events, including weddings and family reunions? What if you are invited to the wedding of a close friend or relative? How would you feel about having to miss such a once in a lifetime event? How would you explain your absence to your friends and family, and how would they react?

Now, let’s talk professional life. What if you are a high school student applying to colleges, and all of the colleges that are conveniently located and offer your desired major require the vaccine? Should you move across the country for school? Should you choose a small, obscure college that doesn’t offer the program that you want? Or should you forego college entirely, even if you worked hard to get excellent grades and always planned on going to college? What if you planned on going into the medical field, only to find that the vaccine is now required for any job in a medical setting? You could always choose a different career field, but what if being a doctor or nurse is your calling, and there is no other career that would be as fulfilling for you?

What if you are in the process of applying for jobs? If there is a particular company that requires vaccination, then you can just avoid applying to that company, but the more companies that implement vaccine requirements, the more difficult your job search will be. You will have fewer options, your search will likely take longer, and you will face higher odds of having to settle for a job that is non-ideal in terms of pay, duties, or location. What if you need to steer clear of any company with 100 or more employees because OSHA has mandated the vaccine for all employees at such companies? Most likely you would still be able to find a job eventually, but doing so would be all the more difficult with so many options eliminated.

What if you are currently at a job that you love, and your employer implements a vaccine mandate? What if your profession requires significant amounts of education and training, and you now need to start over in an entirely new career, meaning that your education and training are now wasted?

Clearly, the more companies, activities, events, locations, and career options that require the vaccine, the more pressured, coerced, and forced people will feel into getting it. It will become more and more difficult for non-vaccinated people to plot a course through life. Avoiding the requirements will become more and more burdensome, inconvenient, and difficult and will require more and more sacrifices. The world will become more and more like an obstacle course, with more hoops to jump through and a metaphorical noose gradually tightening around one’s neck. Some vaccine requirements are clearly worse than others; for example, requiring the vaccine for a concert is not as bad as requiring it for the subway, bus, or grocery store. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact point on the continuum at which one can say that people are¬†forced into getting the vaccine.¬†But every vaccine requirement is a step towards that point. Any vaccine requirement is a step in the wrong direction.

That is why you should be able to do anything you want without having to get a vaccine in order to do so. People have a fundamental right to decide whether or not to get any medical procedure. If the decision to forego a medical procedure is punished by having activities, events, locations, or career options taken away, then it can no longer be said that people are truly free to decide. Some vaccine requirements violate people’s rights more severely than others, but all vaccine requirements violate rights. Some people claim, condescendingly, that vaccine mandates are not coercive but merely a matter of “the unvaccinated” facing “consequences” for their decisions. But the decision to get a vaccine and the decision not to get a vaccine must be treated equally, because both are equally good and equally valid decisions. Any disparate treatment amounts to punishing people who have done nothing wrong and is therefore unjust. No one should have to forego a job, an education, a mode of transit, a travel destination, an event, a meal, a game, or a recreational activity because of their personal medical decision. No one should have to sacrifice money, time, convenience, fitness, relationships, fun, or happiness for the “privilege” of declining a shot. Vaccinated and non-vaccinated people should have all the same activities, opportunities, and career options available. Only then will people truly have medical liberty.