The idea of a covid vaccine certificate for travel might seem innocuous enough on the surface.
It can be easily dismissed with a nonchalant well, you already need a yellow fever vaccine to travel to parts of Africa; but will it stop there? It could easily seep into other areas of life, such as right of entry to large events, like sports or concerts. It could be letting an especially insidious genie out of the bottle.
Officially or unofficially, two groups of people are emerging from the current vaccine rollout, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and whichever group you are in, we are all on course to becoming divided.
From the few experiences I have heard of just this week, that unwelcome divide has already started to show; indifference to this issue is no longer an option.
The recent words of a friend show where things might be heading if we are not incredibly careful: I live in Spain in an expat community. In the past few years a few of us ladies of a certain age have been meeting regularly for a coffee and a giggle. It has become an especially important daily highlight for me, and I consider them as my friends. Last week someone brought up the topic of vaccinations. They were all very eager to get their vaccines as soon as possible. I kept quiet but one of the ladies put me on the spot and asked me: What about you? I said I’m thinking of not having the vax. Suddenly the world stopped and then she said, “You know if you are not vaccinated, you are not welcome here with us anymore”. Sadly, they all nodded in agreement.
You may or may not agree with her friends or it may seem a distant story in a distant place, but be warned, this situation is coming to a café near you sooner or later. We must ask the question now as a whole society, is this what we want? Is this where we want to head? She isn’t travelling to Africa, just to her local café, mere yards from her front door.
Certification of vaccination is a slope more slippery than imagined and it’s important to be awake to where such a policy could end up. The innocent coffee gathering for my friend is not just the highlight of her day, it is central to her social life, her connection to others, sharing a giggle and a catchup with friends. Now she is ostracized and seen as…what? Unsafe, unwelcome, unclean, uneducated, unwilling, pick your own word because you too will soon have to make these choices if proof of vaccination continues to gain traction. You can’t afford to be nonchalant unless you’re prepared to wholeheartedly stand behind the idea that ‘the unvaccinated’ pose a danger to you and are willing to say that directly to their faces. To say it to your long-standing friends, your colleagues, your siblings, your parents, or your children. To tell them they are a threat to you.
In conversation with another friend who was struggling, like my coffee friend, with not wanting to have the vaccine but feeling under pressure to, she asked what I thought she should do. Her husband is 70 and has chosen to be vaccinated. He wants her to have it to keep her safe he says and to keep himself safe. She is questioning the vaccine, which let’s not forget, whichever brand you have, is still in an experimental stage with long-term effects unknown; yet it’s being rushed out, used ‘off label’, mixed and matched, and time frames for second shots being lengthened at will. The standard trials have not been completed in the lab before being released, these trials are being done now on you in the real world. My friend has a right to her own sovereign decision but is feeling the pressure of marital coercion.
I proposed that if she did indeed have the vaccine, how would that work if her children who are in their 30s chose not to have it? How will her husband feel about them visiting if they are not vaccinated? There’s much to think about here. Families may become divided by their decisions on the covid vaccine and for those who lived through the deep rifts of the miner’s strike, you know what a devastating time it was for that society. Brother was set against brother, father against son, neighbour against neighbour. That societal trauma was largely confined to the mining communities, vaccine differences will be on a national and potentially international scale. This will be 100 times more divisive.
Questioning the vaccine should not automatically be thought of as wrong. Surely it is prudent to question anything which goes into your body in an unnatural way.
I had a text last night from a former colleague in healthcare who wanted to ask my advice on having the vaccine. She has good reason to be worried. This is her text: Where I work a lot of residents have had the vaccine, and the company have encouraged staff to have the vaccine, most of the care staff have now had it. We were covid-free all last year but lo and behold in the last three weeks we have had 10 residents and 11 care staff test positive, 3 residents have now died, and no-one is making the connection and think I’m quite mad if I mention it. If they try to make it mandatory for staff to have the vaccine that will be my cue to leave. In effect, I will have been forced out of my job.
These things are happening now, people’s lives are being affected already simply because they don’t want a vaccine. This is wrong on so many levels. It is chilling that anyone who doesn’t have the vaccine should be separated from society. Imagine being ostracised by your friends or by your family, denied continued employment, being coerced by your partner to do something against your own inner guidance.
Each one of us needs to think long and hard about this. It’s not ‘just a jab’, this vaccine is experimental and incompletely tested, it is a medical procedure, not just a wee jab. The term ‘jab’ infantilizes what it is and gives the impression it is innocuous. Judging by the care home story, it is far from innocuous.
If you think that vaccine passports won’t affect you, or that you don’t mind the idea, beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. This might be a direction of travel, that you will later regret. Vaccine passports are in the government’s pipeline, and with them loss of freedom and much more. Vaccines are already separating society into vaccinated and unvaccinated in a way that we have never experienced before and if proof of vaccination becomes the norm for entry to normal society, we will lose much more than our personal freedom. It’s important to be aware that we are heading unthinkingly into a deep divide and indifference is not an option if we are to avoid going over the cliff like lemmings.