- The last two years of pandemic posed challenges have amply demonstrated by now that there is no way to thwart the menacing virus from spreading exponentially other than by inoculating people with vaccination. It is proved beyond doubt that the rate of hospitalization dramatically reduces for those infected people who have received prescribed doses of vaccines. In the same vein, several people who are getting hospitalized are the ones unvaccinated despite vaccines being made available for free or at a price. Choosing to stay unvaccinated is proving to be costly for countless people.
PC: Katie McCallum
- Remember, statistics from different countries battling severe infection cases substantiate the benefits of vaccines unambiguously. India too is battling a third Covid wave which is seeing an alarming uptick over the last few days. Against this backdrop, the ongoing Covid surge across countries has catalyzed a debate on how far governments can go in mandating individual vaccination to limit collective health risks. Of course, western democracies are the site of heated debates with three arms of the state weighing in. For instance, in the US, the Supreme Court overturned a federal government vaccine mandate for large companies but upheld it for healthcare workers.
- Likewise in France, the lawmakers have upheld a tighter vaccine pass for access to some public settings such as restaurants and trains. In Canada’s Quebec province, the government announced it will introduce a special tax on the unvaccinated. Each country has its own policies, you see. Looking at India’s statistics vis-à-vis hospitalization and death reveals interesting facts. Delhi’s data between January 9 and 12 showed that 72% of the 97 Covid deaths were among the unvaccinated. Understand that governments need to tilt on the side of individual choice during normal times.
- Also, the choice to avoid vaccination can impede another individual’s mobility and livelihood in the case of a rampaging respiratory pandemic. Left with no palpable choice, the governments often restrict mobility to manage the pressure on the healthcare infrastructure. Now, the data proves that unvaccinated people are more likely to be hospitalized denoting that their choice has consequences for others. Precisely for this reason, France moved from an earlier phase when either vaccination or a negative Covid test was adequate to one where only vaccination is accepted.
- It is a strong disincentive against remaining unvaccinated, but it does not mandate vaccination as well. Needless to mention, limiting collective risks has to be prioritized over individual choice given the nature of the disease, the human, and the economic toll the virus has taken all these months. What should be the policy to handle unvaccinated in a populous country like India? A stick and carrot policy could be the guiding light. Vaccination need not be mandatory but the unvaccinated cannot expect the same privileges either if such people pose a risk to the freedom and livelihood of others. As is known, choices have consequences and vaccination cannot be an exception to this.