Vaccination: Enforcement or Incentives?

The world over, Israel has been praised, and watched with envy, as large numbers of the population are being vaccinated against the Corona virus. Within weeks of the arrival of the vaccines, hundreds of thousands of people have been inoculated, starting with the medical personnel and people over the age of 60, two groups that have been, according to the statistics, at the highest risk of getting infected, with the latter group also being at risk of becoming very ill as a result of the virus.

After six (almost seven) weeks of the vaccination drive, the majority of these two groups received the shot and instances of infection among them has significantly decreased. This week, the government has opened the vaccination drive for anyone over 16 years old. Children were not included in the testing procedures of the manufacturers and thus no information is available about the risk or effectivity of the vaccine on children. But the number of vaccinations has decreased significantly and many of the centers specifically opened for the purpose of mass-vaccination remain without customers.  But the success of the vaccination effort is measured mainly by the number of Israelis being vaccinated. Only when a large percentage of the population is inoculated (or has recovered from the disease and thus is immune), life can slowly be returned to normal, business can open, theaters can resume work and cinemas can start to show movies again.

So why is the vaccination drive interrupted? There are a number of reasons, the main one being Fake News. The social media are overflowing with news items, backed up by “Experts” that the vaccine may be unsafe, that the corona virus is a hoax, that the vaccine kills you, causes infertility, epilepsy and more.

This Fake News is spread by people who often have a strong influence on significant parts of the population and they abuse this influence by encouraging their followers not to get vaccinated. It is often related to religion (of course). Irresponsible religious leaders have always been able to convince people of the most ridiculous things (not related even to religion) and people like Rabbi Yuval Hacohen Asherov and rabbi Amnon Yitzhak spread outright lies about both the virus and the vaccine, without any apparent reason or justification, except that it shows how strongly they affect the lives (and the deaths) of their followers.

But it is not only religion. The so-called “Anti-Vaxxers” are often just as fanatic to spread their nonsense, and sometimes even more so. The phenomenon of anti-vaxxers is not new and for years they have agitated against all vaccinations, including the basic shots children (should) receive against once wide-spread children’s diseases such as polio. While these vaccines have saved millions and millions of people from debilitating disease and often death, and have eradicated some of the most horrible illnesses from the world, anti-vaxxers refuse to have their children inoculated or get shots themselves, while they keep spreading lies, to themselves and to the world, about the dangers of the vaccines. Anti-vaxxers are often educated people who should know better and it is a mystery what brings them en masse to such a distorted view of modern medicine and the health requirements of their children.

In most cases there is very little the authorities can do to fight such negative attitudes and even stopping the spreading of Fake News quickly comes into conflict with the right to free expression. Forcing the population to vaccinate is of course out of the question, it being a violation of fundamental rights and freedom of the individual. Continuous explanations, trustworthy information and personal example, are practically the only options the government has.  Or is there another possibility?

The danger of having many people not vaccinated clearly lies in the simple fact that when limitations are lifted, gatherings of many people in small, confined spaces, like a restaurant, a theater or a cinema, will again become the norm and the disease will not be controllable if large numbers of participants in such events are not inoculated, and (may) carry the disease.

In Israel, as in most of the world, you are not allowed to drive a car, unless you have proven that you are able to drive a car and are not a danger to other traffic participants. You need to be able to show a driver’s license before you are allowed to drive a car. This is fully acceptable by the large majority of the people and driving without a license is a punishable violation.

A person that is not vaccinated but still enters a restaurant, a theater, a cinema, is willfully putting other people in danger of catching a possibly fatal disease, and thus he should not be allowed to enter localities such as those, unless he has a “license” that he is not a danger to his surroundings. Should it be different because the vaccination is a medical issue, while a driver’s license is not? A person who has a medical condition whereby he is not able to see clearly and thus needs glasses to compensate for that, such a person is not eligible for a driver’s license unless he has his eyes checked and his driving must be done while he is wearing his glasses. Vaccination will save lives and if the State cannot force people to vaccinate, it should and must be able to limit the activities of a non-vaccinated individual in such a way that he will not be a danger to his surroundings. And this means that it is necessary and reasonable that a proof of vaccination (or recovery from the disease which should have the same effect) must be presented before being allowed into localities where many people gather in small confined spaces. And this must include restaurants, bars, theaters, concert halls, cinemas, shopping centers, government buildings where the public has access, health clinics, etc. etc.

Would it be reasonable to have 30% of Israeli drivers use a car without having a valid driver’s license?

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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