John Harris may be correct to frame the avoidance of vaccination by a significant portion of the UK population as the consequence of mistrust in authority or government (Understanding, not judgment, should shape our response to those who remain unjabbed, 2 January). However, I and many millions of others do not trust this government at all, but we still accepted vaccination. Social factors may explain the existence of vaccine avoidance, but they do not justify it. Under UK laws, no degree of inequality allows a car driver to transfer to the right side of the road in protest against a mistrusted government.
True freedom is the liberty from being harmed by others, regardless of whether those actions are deliberately harmful. The freedom to “innocently” spread disease is not a fundamental right. The enormous human cost of supporting unvaccinated and seriously ill patients in hospital is having a direct impact on all our lives. It is time to take the moral high ground: celebrate the vaccinators and publicly avow that vaccination is good, that being vaccinated is a public duty and that failure to comply by any citizen without adequate medical reasons is a dereliction of that public duty.
Dr Patrick Byrne
John Harris refers to the supposed “coercing [of] people into getting vaccinated using stringent Covid passports”. Having a Covid passport allows people to access certain defined services; if they don’t want to be vaccinated they won’t have access, but no one is forcing them to such access. In any case, there are many actual constraints on people that are a vital part of society, such as wearing seatbelts. No one is being coerced into being vaccinated; this is simply the price for taking part in normal society.
Dr Richard Carter
Maybe the unvaccinated do deserve our empathy, not judgment, but understanding and feeling their pain doesn’t solve the problem. The fact remains that they endanger themselves but, much more importantly, everybody else through their potential viral transmissibility. Insisting that access to certain venues and activities are limited to the fully jabbed might indeed imply a negative judgment, but surely avoiding this possible offence is much less important than protecting the national community as a whole?
Dr Bill Jones
John Harris risks oversimplifying people’s understanding of why some of us – around five million adults according to his article – remain unvaccinated in the UK. While there is plenty of evidence that people from particular communities mistrust the public institutions that wish to see them vaccinated, this certainly isn’t the case for all five million of us.
As a white, middle-class public servant, I can’t really be considered “historically mistrustful” of institutions, nor am I reckless, but I do have my own sincerely held reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated, none of which are derived from “online cults”.
Actually, I don’t want judgment or empathy, I just want there to be safe spaces for debate to take place, where people need not fear being labelled cranks. This includes within national newspapers like the Guardian. As it is, Mr Harris merely continues to promote the prevailing discourse – that in an ideal world everybody would be vaccinated.