Vaccination — what we must do!

Humanity is in the middle of a hideous pandemic. It has cost the world tens of trillion of dollars so far — and completely disrupted livelyhood and social interaction of billions of people. But help is in sight: we have vaccines, highly effective, tried and tested on billions of people, with no severe side effects. For the vaccinated the risk of catching full-blown covid, of being hospitalized or dying, has sunk to a fraction of one percent. So there is a chance that, in the future, our lives could return to some form of normality. However, only if a substantial majority actually get vaccinated. There is very urgent work to be done.

The Covid-19 vaccines are very effective, but they need to be taken, and taken widely. Unfortunately there is a vast campaign of disinformation that has led many people to be sceptical about vaccination. It is possible that a quarter to half of entire national populations will refrain from taking the shot, ensuring that Covid thrives and the world will remain a dangerous place for a long time. Imagine what it would be like if we still had smallpox. Or polio.

Apparently, we cannot force people to undergo an intrusive medical procedure. On this point, regarding Covid-19, the governments of most European countries, and the USA, agree — although, strangely, there is compulsory childhood vaccination for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, rabies, hepatitis, rotavirus, etc., in different countries. There are thoughts about actually paying people to get vaccinated. That would cost billions (and still be worth it).

But there is a simpler solution. Issue a badge that confirms that you have been vaccinated, that you are immune and not a direct danger to other people. Let people decide with whom they want to interact directly and whom they wish to avoid. If people step back when you address them, if they pull up a mask, it may encourage you to take the step and join the community of pandemic combatants.

Many people have a reflex reaction to this suggestion: isn’t that like the yellow badges that Jews were forced to wear at various times in Medieval times and under the Nazis? No, it isn’t! Nothing could be more different. This is not a badge that discriminates, it is a badge of honour. You get it after you have received the full vaccination, together with an immunity passport validating it. Nobody forces you to wear it. The badge is an assurance to your fellow citizens. It’s like wearing a badge that says: “I am unarmed — I am not carrying weapons.” That does not discriminate against anyone.

Without the vaccination badge you may not be able to enter all restaurants and bars, it might impede international travel. That is acceptable. As a child and young adult I was not allowed to travel to different countries without proof of smallpox inoculation. A few decades later the horrible disease had been completely eliminated from the face of the earth. Imagine if there had been groups of people who had refused to take the measures that were mandated. We would still have untold suffering and millions of people dying today.

What about forgery? Won’t people simply fake the badge, make copies? Like they do for police badges, driving licences, currency bills? No, making fake vaccination badges would be hideously illegal and severely punished. For heaven’s sake: put a hologram on the official badges to make copying very difficult.

This is, I believe, the best way to get the world vaccinated. Use peer pressure to convince people.

Frederic Alois Friedel, born in 1945, science journalist, co-founder of ChessBase, studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford.