People have a right to reject vaccination against COVID-19; no question.
The question is how much responsibility does society have to prioritize health care for people who’ve made that risky personal decision.
That question will become more and more relevant if more and more people become seriously ill and demand more and more of limited health services.
It also highlights a strange paradox.
Among the main things driving the militant anti-vax bloc is a fear and loathing of the big evils — big government, big pharma, big tech, big this, big that, big the other thing — all of which, the theory argues, act in concert to beguile, befuddle and bamboozle the gullible into being vaccinated.
The argument is people who’ve been vaccinated are just too lazy to find, too blind to see or too stupid to comprehend the awful truth right there on YouTube.
If people want to believe that, fine. But why do those same people show up at the hospital — a veritable temple to the big evils — demanding treatment when they begin suffering badly from COVID infection?
Why not stay home, out of big medicine’s clutches, and treat the infection with CBD oil or quartz crystals?
Personal rights are among the cornerstones of society, but they’re not unlimited. Nor do they supersede everything else.
One person’s rights end where they impede the rights of others.
That’s not a radical notion. It’s not even sophisticated. It’s trite. It’s middle-school civics.
We’re headed toward that collision of rights. The signs appeared when Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texas hospitals to postpone some elective medical procedures to free up resources to accommodate an increasing number of people seriously ill with COVID.
The inescapable fact is COVID hospitalization rates are increasing because of unvaccinated people. Almost 100 percent of people needing hospital care for COVID infection are unvaccinated.
The University of Texas Medical Branch, the main health care provider in the county, said it would postpone “non-urgent elective cases that require an inpatient bed post-operation.”
Other hospital systems will make the same decisions if the numbers of cases requiring hospitalization keep climbing.
This small accommodation might be appropriate, but it’s reasonable to ask where is the limit.
People who had never contracted COVID-19 died during the worst parts of the pandemic because many medical procedures were forbidden by government order to make room in hospitals for victims of the virus. They died of cancer, kidney failure and other things that were killing people long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19.
That was one thing back then. It’s quite another now.
If things get worse, as some predict they will, how much can health care consumers be expected to sacrifice to accommodate people who’ve made a personal decision to reject vaccination?
Is chronic pain enough? That was the sacrifice required of people needing hip and knee replacement surgery last year. Is it enough to stay home wondering whether malignant tumors are getting bigger and spreading? People had to do that last year. Will some be required to stay home and die, as some were in 2020?
Why should the willfully unvaccinated get spots at the front of the line, priority on the beds and the top-shelf care at the expense of people who’ve done their bit to counter the virus?
No doubt some people are genuinely afraid of vaccines because of cultural mistrust passed down like family heirlooms or thanks to the dense fog of misinformation, disinformation and non-information ginned up by a tireless cabal of conspiracy mongers.
We urge those willing to hear and heed reason to find somebody they trust — a personal physician, a pastor, a friend or relative — and get the facts about the relative risks in being unvaccinated and being vaccinated.
To the loud and militant, immune to reason and fact and bent on propagating fallacy, by all means, roll the dice. It’s your life.
But know you’re not helping anyone or thing. You’re providing hosts to grow new strains of COVID and probably abetting organized efforts to undermine our health and national security by sowing seeds of hokum grown at foreign troll farms.
• Michael A. Smith