A few weeks ago, Roland Pierik and I wrote an op-ed, published in the Volkskrant, in which we argue for the possibility to give more freedom in lockdown, to persons who have been vaccinated. The argument builds on an earlier paper we wrote and a draft chapter of our book-in-progress. The key idea is two-fold. On the one hand, public health measures should not be more restrictive than necessary, and (assuming that being vaccinated prevents transmission of the virus to others) there seems to be little reason to uphold lockdown/quarantine restrictions also for vaccinated individuals – in other words: such restrictions should be lifted for them. On the other hand we argue that such a policy – fewer lockdown/quarantine measures for vaccinated – should not be considered as a form of compulsory immunization as many appear to think. Recently I was invited to make a short presentation for a webinar of the Swedish National Medical Ethics Council in which I present the arguments. The presentation is published on YouYube.
Roland Pierik and I had a lot of fun in exploring and testing good analogies supporting our claim that this is not a matter of compulsory (or mandatory) vaccination. The analogy we ended with, might have its limits, but it is still thought provoking.
Suppose you gave me a hundred euros because I was in need of money, and I’ve promised you to give the money back next week when I have received my salary. Hence I have a duty to pay you back next week. But now you offer me some alternative. You suggest I could also help you moving some heavy furniture that you want to discard, and if I help you, you’ll forget about the hundred euros. Now the fact that you offer me an alternative, as an alternative to fulfilling my duty to repay you, does of course not imply that I now must help you moving the furniture. My duty concerns the loan, not the furniture.
Likewise, if there are mandatory restrictions in place, as a matter of infectious disease control, and vaccination is offered as an alternative, it would be wrong to consider the vaccination policy as compulsory. Yes, vaccination refusal will imply that my freedom of movement is (or better: remains) constrained, but are restrictions are justified as a matter of lockdown/quarantine measures that applied to everyone. It is understandable that people who prefer to forego covid19 vaccination will experience this as coercion, but it is not.