Barring medical exemptions, there is no reason why every Victorian shouldn’t be vaccinated as soon as it is safe to do so, says Susie O’Brien.
Barring medical exemptions, there is no reason why every Victorian shouldn’t be vaccinated as soon as it is safe to do so, says Susie O’Brien.

'Governments should punish people who refuse COVID vaccine'

OPINION

Sweeping edicts from the government during lockdown told us what to wear on our faces, when to leave the house and how far we could travel.

So why is the government now unwilling to make vaccination compulsory when it's the only thing guaranteed to give us our lives back?

With cases of COVID-19 rising in hotel quarantine, and vaccine resistance sitting at more than 30 per cent, nerves are growing about the possibility of another community outbreak in Victoria.

Compulsory vaccination would set our minds at rest, and potentially save many lives in the case of third wave.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison backtracked on his initial comments about making vaccination "as mandatory as you can possibly make it".

He later said there would be no compulsory vaccine but "there will be a lot of encouragement and measures to get as high a rate of acceptance" as possible.

 

Given the cowardly reluctance to make vaccination mandatory, state and federal governments must do everything they possibly can to force as many as possible to take the vaccine.

If governments won't force people to get vaccinated they should punish people for refusing to get vaccinated.

There is already a precedent thanks to the "no jab, no play" scheme, whereby parents who do not vaccinate their children have their welfare benefits cut. This should apply to the coronavirus vaccine.

All forms of travel, access to state buildings, schools, universities, kinders, aged-care homes and healthcare settings should be dependent on getting vaccinated.

Private sector business should also make vaccination compulsory for workers and clients.

Fines should be issued for high-risk people who refuse to co-operate.

These rules will be necessary because researchers from the ANU, among others, have found only 58 per cent of people would definitely get the vaccine. About 20 per cent are hesitant,
six per cent said they would definitely not and seven per cent said probably not.

Study co-author, ANU associate professor Ben Edwards, said there was "significant levels of vaccine hesitancy or resistance across Australian society".

Those from disadvantaged areas, people who are more religious and those who held populist anti-political views are less likely to get vaccinated, the study found.

These figures are very concerning.

We cannot rely on goodwill alone to get to the 95 per cent needed for herd immunity.

While there may need to be some exemptions on medical grounds, I can't see any reason
why every Victorian shouldn't be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is safe and available.

After enduring Australia's harshest lockup, I don't have much time for conscientious objectors with moral objections to vaccinations.

The numbers of people already spreading spurious conspiracies based on hearsay rather than scientific evidence is worrying.

Remember all the people refusing to co-operate with police during lockdown because they were a "living woman" or a "sovereign citizen"?

"The real virus that will kill us
is fear" said one poster held by an anti-vaxxer at a rally in
Melbourne recently.

She's wrong. The biggest killer in the world right now is the coronavirus. It's on the way to wiping out more than 1.7 million people across the globe.

People have a duty to be vaccinated because it is the
most effective way to prevent
the spread of this deadly disease.

As medical ethicists at the University of Oxford have pointed out, if the external constraints limiting the spread of the disease are justified, then so are compulsory vaccinations.

Many people have been tested for this disease against their consent. This involves inserting a long swap down their throat or up their nose. A quick jab with a needle is surely much less invasive.

The emergency powers of the Victorian government curtailed our freedoms this year in new
and extraordinary ways. This sets
a precedent for compulsory vaccination.

We need to remember rights - including so-called "bodily rights" - are not absolute.

Even the Victorian Charter
of Rights and Responsibilities
has some limitations which
include a respect for the human rights of others.

Recently the charter's clause allowing Victorians freedom of movement was overridden by emergency powers keeping us within 5km of our homes in order to meet the specific public health goal of controlling the coronavirus.

However, there is not the political will to extend each state's emergency powers to cover vaccination.

Governments will therefore need to do all they can to get this country to her immunity vaccination levels.

Those against compulsory vaccination tell us "bodily autonomy is a fundamental principle of our society".

But so is staying alive, and that should override all else at this dangerous time.

SUSIE O'BRIEN IS A HERALD SUN COLUMNIST

susie.obrien@news.com.au

@susieob

Originally published as Governments should punish people who refuse COVID vaccine


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