Emma Brockes makes a good case against using shame and ridicule against the vaccine-hesitant (Should we shame the anti-vaxxers? That can only backfire, 31 July). However, she leaves to the very last sentence the most important consideration: “Why does he think that?” Surely the key to persuading the hesitant is to separate the various categories of concern/attitude and address these issues directly and explicitly – something which neither governments nor the media have attempted to do.
Allowing target groups to remain an amorphous body of “the unvaccinated” helps to sow resentment among those with understandable concerns, through their being lumped together with baseless conspiracists. Inveterate libertarians, meanwhile, gain spurious legitimacy by their association with those claiming genuine (if inaccurate) medical fears. Rarely are any of these groups required to cite reliable facts in defence of their positions, if only because their views are mostly sought by the media through vox-pop reporting.
Rather than relying on gimmicky inducements, or reactive explanations, governments in both the US and UK might be more effective in persuading the hesitant if they addressed these types of misinformation clearly, separately and repeatedly. Reliable information is still the best form of inoculation against the contagion of simplistic, syllogistic logic.
John Harris makes some good points about this government’s intention to rule by decree and stifle the public right to protest (Brexit and Covid have created the perfect moment for the politics of crackdown, 1 August). However, he is wrong in trying to conflate this with the case for “green passes” – the term “vaccine passports” is oversimplistic since freedom from infection, and thus non-infectiousness, can be verified by means other than just vaccination.
The means to implement a green pass system already exist and would prevent the uncontained spread of coronavirus, with its concomitant hospitalisation and death toll, minimising the possibility of pubs, clubs, concerts and matches becoming super-spreader venues. Measures specifically designed to suppress the spread of a killer virus are public health measures, not personal freedom issues.
I support the idea of vaccine passports in specified settings such as universities or if an employer wishes employees to be vaccinated. I also deplore the possibility that they might be ruled discriminatory if challenged in a court of law.
British human rights legislation states: “No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these [freedom of association] rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
I am no lawyer, but those words make it clear to me that prescription of such proof could enable an employer to protect their workforce by ensuring that no one is employed who is more likely to transmit Covid-19 than most of the general population. Their employees might also welcome that approach. In the absence of such prescription, I suppose notices could be pinned up in, say, shops where it’s known that all employees are vaccinated, and in the absence of such a notice, customers could go elsewhere.
Chapel Lawn, Shropshire