• Aisling Salisbury

Vaccine Passports are not about a Virus

During the last week, a disturbing trend is occurring in Australia. It's the loss of individual freedoms and civil liberties that were meant to belong in a country like Australia. What is its biggest threat? Vaccine Passports.


Despite still being locked up in Hotel Quarantine I get a sense that Australia has never been more downtrodden or divided. It is broken and in turn, the population is so downtrodden that the anger is now directed at their fellow citizens instead of the authorities that have put them here.


In the last week Craig Kelly, the leader of the United Australia Party introduced a bill to the Lower House that would've banned the issue of Vaccine Passports. Only himself and another MP, George Christensen, voted to support the outlawing of the practice that is likely to become part of Australian society. It is a practice that would segregate the populous based on their medical status. Out of the 150 members in the lower house, only two supported their citizen's having individual liberties. This is disgraceful.

Only two members of Parliament stood up for individual rights.

Yesterday Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, announced that citizens wouldn't be locked down, they would instead be locked out, unless they had been fully vaccinated. Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW Premier, has even announced similar plans. This isn't a post about being anti-vax, anti-science, anti-health, whatever you want to call it. But I know it will be labelled as one. I'm not any, I support freedom of choice and individual responsibilities.


This is about the precedence vaccine passports will set in this country, and indeed any other country that proceeds with it. To restrict people's ability to make a living based on a medical procedure is not freedom of choice. It is coercion! It's something that has no place in a country that claims to be a liberal democracy. Proceeding down this path devalues another's life.


Vaccine hesitancy is real, it can be contributed to mix messaging from politicians and medicos in Australia. But also many are using a degree of their common sense. I don't deny our abilities to figure out solutions to complex issues in society if we throw everything but the kitchen sink at it. But vaccines are complex pharmaceuticals that undertake years of research and study. Studies into the side effects, benefits and effectiveness. These are all things that are missing with the current crop of COVID vaccines. They might be entirely safe, in fact, its data would suggest that it's effective at reducing hospitalisation rates and even fatalities. That the benefit is actually there. But it doesn't ignore the fact that even Pfizer's own website states that it has only completed Phase Three of a Five-Phase study into the vaccine.

"The world is engaged in the largest clinical trial, the largest global vaccination trial ever, and we will have enormous amounts of data." - Greg Hunt, Federal Health Minister, 21/02/2021

Rightly so, someone asking a question or raising legitimate concerns or is happy to wait until all the studies are in, should not be discriminated against.


Here is a fact, COVID is real, it exists and it's not pleasant.


But to devalue another because they choose not to undertake a medical procedure is not how civilised societies are meant to act. It has always been allowing the individual the freedom to choose how they want to live and how they want to keep themselves safe. It is why, for example, that if a family member is diagnosed with cancer and they choose to deny any form of treatment, they are permitted to do so. They are afforded the ability to live their remaining life in the way they see fit. It's about the individual's decision, taking into account all avenues available to them.


Right now the desperation in Australia is evident. Even those who have made a living working from home and watching NetFlix for the last 16 months are struggling to get out of bed each day. They are now turning that depression into anger that is being directed towards those that don't or haven't been vaccinated yet. As if it's the unvaccinated that are restricting their freedoms. Well, it isn't the unvaccinated who have restricted your freedoms. It's governmental departments and elected officials who have restricted your abilities to leave your home. These departments are using vaccine hesitancy as the scapegoat for the fact that they are destroying the civil liberties of all of us. It is buying into the mantra of "to get your freedoms back you have to get vaccinated", don't believe it!


The public health response in any country should be to make the vaccine available to all that want it and that's where it should end. Part of that response is giving a chance to build up the vaccination rates before reopening, I get that. Data in Australia and many countries would suggest that you will easily get to 70-80% of populations fully vaccinated. If you are able to achieve these high levels of vaccination, then why make it mandatory? If 20-30% of a population is unvaccinated and if any get ill then the majority of them will hardly have a pleasant experience but at least survivable one then where is the need to make it mandatory?


The fact is COVID is going to be here for some time. One of Australia's advantages to being a year behind the rest of the world is that we can look at data of countries reopened and with high vaccination rates. Israel is one that is at the level of vaccination that Australia is attempting to achieve.

These vaccines are not about eliminating the virus itself, it's about providing protection from its severity. If someone chooses not to take that protection, that is on them, no one else but that person.


Now I can hear the argument of protecting others by getting vaccinated. Well, as we can see around the world the vaccine doesn't eliminate the virus so let's consider the following:


Person A is unvaccinated and runs into Person B who is. If one has COVID, then both will eventually get it and become ill a few days later. Data suggests that Person B who chose a form of protection is going to have a mild case, whereas Person A could have two weeks at home to hospital to death and everything in between. The decision of Person A is on them alone. Now if Person B is unaware and meets Person C and infects them, well if Person C is vaccinated then, like Person B they should have a mild case. If Person C isn't vaccinated then that was their decision. That's the definition of liberty. People are meant to have the freedom's to make their own decisions in life and have the convictions to stand by them.


Unfortunately, we are now passing those decisions on to another and just accepting this as the way of the world. It's a slippery slope and it has to stop. How long before it's required to get a flu jab as part of that passport or something else?


Clearly leaked by an employee to the organisation Reignite Democracy Australia, Qantas' mandatory COVID jab for its staff set a very dangerous precedence. Three things in the policy that raised concerns for me was:


1) Medical Exemptions: If an employee had an exemption from their doctors then Qantas' medical department reserved the right to still reject it.

2) Boosters: Would be required if Qantas' Medical or government agencies required it. Failure to do so would be a breach of the policy. If you are someone who has two shots and has a reaction after the second one, you're probably not going to want to get a third.

3) Reactions: If you suffer a reaction that requires recovery, you were permitted to use up your own sick leave. If you didn't have any, then you were permitted to take a maximum of two days annual leave. The company is dictating you must have the shots and if you have a reaction then you aren't entirely protected?


These types of policies are being implemented in many private sectors right now, as too being applauded and pushed by Government. It has no place in a liberal democracy. It is exactly why we have informed consent. No part of that "informed" is meant to have coercion by any department, both private and public, in restricting one's ability to make a living. It is why the Australian Immunisation Handbook states "it must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation." The Australian BioSecurity act also prevents the use of mandatory vaccinations. Yet here we are, being told that your life will mean less if you haven't been vaccinated. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said it perfectly:

"We are all responsible for our own health. That in our country people make their own decisions about their own health and their own bodies and that is why we don't have mandatory vaccinations."

Yet we are headed down that path and the citizens are applauding it? The applauding of segregations of communities and degrading other's people's lives? Ask yourself, if you are fully vaccinated and thus protected, what is the threat from someone who isn't?


Is the fear of COVID in Australia so stringent that you're afraid of others just by passing or standing next to them? That you feel COVID is an instant death sentence? Well if that that was the case then why was there a hesitation and delay in taking up AstraZeneca? Wouldn't you take anything regardless of the risks?


The fact is many in Australia were waiting for another vaccine based on their own personal decision. A decision that people allowed you to make. So why criticise someone for making their own risk assessment to not take any vaccination or wait until they feel comfortable? You can't have it both ways. If you choose to be vaccinated that decision shouldn't be attacked, just as those who aren't shouldn't be attacked either.


The fact is vaccination passports begin a slippery slope and set a dangerous precedence in the degradation of our civil liberties. There is no going back when you accept this as part of society. It's the devaluation of another life so ask yourself the following:

"Once the law devalues one kind of life, how soon before it devalues another?"

Ash

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