Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Mandatory vaccination: much ado, red herring, or getting it wrong?

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Guest post by Des Derwin

If mandatory vaccination is a delicate issue then why is it being raised by the left (statements yesterday by Sinn Féin and loud blasts from People Before Profit)? Statements yesterday from the left assert that the government wants to bring this in, and the statements oppose it vehemently. The source of the idea seems to be a public health one, with apparently mixed and tentative views emanating from NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team). The government, or at least the head of the government, the Taoiseach, has said straight out that he is opposed to mandatory vaccination. The genesis of this issue could well be the main front page story in the ‘Irish Times’ (January 10 2021) and its typical and infuriating mode of creating stories out of unattributed sources to push a line or float a try-on (though in this case there are – suitably leaked – NPHET minutes as substance). If anything the same story indicates that the government might be considering the lifting of restrictions – mandates – on pub and restaurant times and cutting down isolation days for close contacts (to reboot the labour force).

It is said that mandatory vaccination would push a minority of the working class into the arms of the fascists. On the contrary, and quite apart from the existence of vaccination compulsions already and of a minority already in the mental clutches of the far right, supporting the ‘right’ of the unvaccinated and of anti-vaxxers to free access to wherever they want is encouraging them into the arms of the fascists by legitimising their position. And giving oxygen to the position of the fascists who have made this, and other anti-public health measures, their main and most successful appeal to a new audience. Socialists need to be clear and firm, to explain why vaccination (taken up by 94%) is safe and socially essential, and how the far right are misleading and deluding people through well orchestrated and well resourced disinformation campaigns.

What is mandated vaccination? Practically nobody and no regime has sought to physically force a needle into anyone’s arm. There is apparently a proposal in Italy to issue fines (€600 a month) for staying unvaccinated. The compulsion usually comes with the exclusion of the unvaccinated from certain places. And that’s already here, long ago. Just as the unmasked are excluded from certain places. And certificates to identify those who have been vaccinated are here. Already certs are issued to the 94% who have been vaccinated and these are required to enter pubs and restaurants. 

At one point last year it was discovered that a third of pubs and restaurants (whose representatives had been proclaiming how safe and regulated were these environments) had not been bothering to check for vaccination certificates. The response of the left, in so far as there was a response, was not to call for dropping certificates for entry altogether. I presume the position of the left is to support these mandatory checks just as the left is now agitating for mandatory ventilation in schools and tore its hair out about the early lack restrictions in the meat factories.

It is mandated to wear face masks in shops and schools, and on buses. So are we to defend the right – insisted by far right activists – not to wear masks in shops, schools and buses? Though trade unionists support masks at the workplace? 

Does mandatory vaccination refer to the exclusion of unvaccinated frontline health workers from the frontline? Well what is so wrong with that? What is the feeling of vaccinated nurses and health workers on that? As one Facebook comment pointed out yesterday, “ ……. health care workers are already required to be vaccinated against MMR, tetanus, diphtheria and polio.” … And, “the vaccination requirement for entry to dozens of countries around the world?” What would be so socialist and socially responsible about supporting a GP’s ‘right’ to practice who refuses, in New Zealand, or Ireland, to be vaccinated against covid-19? 

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