Freedom ends where harm to others begins

This is a country founded on the principle of freedom; of thought, of religion, freedom to be who and what you want to be. But inherent in this privilege is a contract, with one’s neighbors and society. This social contract acknowledges that no individual exists outside of communion with and responsibility to other humans. Americans have individual freedoms and privileges not enjoyed by all peoples. But our allegiance must still be to the greater good. In simpler terms, our freedom ends where harm to others begins. Yes, we have the freedom to kill ourselves slowly with cigarettes. But, no, we don’t have the freedom to poison others by smoking in indoor public spaces. Yes, we have the freedom to over-indulge in alcohol but that freedom ends when we get behind the wheel.

Vaccine choice and personal freedoms

Where I think we get into a pickle with the topic of vaccines and personal freedoms is that people who are pro “vaccine-choice” (that’s “anti-vaccine” by a sneakier, gussied up name) presume that their decision whether or not to vaccinate affects them alone. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that our vaccine choices absolutely affect others.

If we remain unvaccinated and get sick, we can bring dangerous illness to others. If our child gets sick and exposes others at school, those exposed children will have to quarantine and their social and academic development suffers. If multiple unvaccinated people get sick and end up in the hospital, overwhelming the medical system, elective procedures get cancelled. Your knee replacement or biopsy to evaluate a possible cancer gets delayed. Some primary care providers get pulled to staff the hospitals, ERs, and urgent cares. Those outpatient clinician’s appointments have to be cancelled or rescheduled and care is adversely affected. The clinicians remaining in clinic not only have to cover their own work but the work of those other providers. Your paperwork, referrals, and refills take longer to complete. I could go on.

Each vaccine choice has a ripple effect

Ripple effect

The choice not to vaccinate affects others more than we know. Image from Pixabay.

These are not just theoretical examples. These things are happening right here, right now. Each person’s vaccine choice has a ripple effect. It is not just about the individual. Because vaccines are not 100% effective, and because we seek to protect those around us who are unable to vaccinate or who may not develop a good immune response from vaccination, we need as many eligible people as possible to immunize if we are going to keep deadly vaccine-preventable diseases at bay.

It didn’t have to be this way

I so wish that we didn’t have to get to the point of vaccine mandates. No one likes being told what to do. But this is where we are, and it didn’t have to be this way. In hindsight, before instituting vaccine mandates, perhaps a more appropriate way to deal with vaccine refusal would have been to institute other real world consequences to vaccine refusers. We do this with our children all the time, right? If your teenager doesn’t clean up his dishes after making food, despite being asked repeatedly to do so, he gets the honor of cleaning up ALL the dishes after EVERY dinner for the rest of the summer (Real life event in the LaSalle household? Possibly.).

Our choices have consequences

Choices have consequences

Every choice has a consequence. Vaccine choices are no different. Image from Pixabay.

Likewise, if we are eligible for vaccination and we choose to remain unvaccinated, becoming a walking vector for infectious disease, we should lose the privilege to participate in societal activities that would put others at risk. For those who don’t have a legitimate medical reason not to vaccinate, I am absolutely in favor of vaccine “passports” for travel or to eat out or to go to a concert. Or perhaps those who choose not to vaccinate should have to pay higher insurance premiums or a greater percentage of hospital bills if they end up needing vaccine-preventable disease related care. This doesn’t take away our freedom of choice. We can still choose against vaccination. But it seems reasonable that we should have to deal with the real world consequences of doing so.

Drastic times call for drastic measures

Could we have gone this route before progressing to COVID vaccine mandates? Sure. And, who knows? Maybe it would have worked. But I don’t fault our leaders for making the choices they made… for the greater good. We are in crisis. We have lost nearly 650,000 American lives to this virus and are losing more every day. The Delta variant is a monster. The decision that gets the most people vaccinated the fastest seems a reasonable way to go. And while it is, admittedly, an unfortunate turn of events, vaccine mandates don’t take away freedom of choice, either. We are grown people. We can still make whatever vaccine decision we feel most comfortable with. But, just like we teach our children, every choice has a consequence.

COVID vaccinations are the safest & healthiest choice

COVID vaccines are some of the safest and most effective vaccines we’ve ever had. They were developed using the same rigorous vaccine-development process that we’ve used for all other vaccines. They have had more oversight and safety monitoring than any other vaccines in history. COVID illness, on the other hand, is deadly and can devastate families and communities. It not only affects our physical health but our emotional, social, economic and academic health as well.

COVID vaccination is, by far, the safest and healthiest choice. The consequences of not vaccinating can be dire.

Please… Make healthy choices

PS – I know that we are all trying to make the best decisions we can with the information before us. But, people. There is SO much bad, and just plain wrong, information out there. As you evaluate the information before you, look at the motivations of those providing that information. Look at the credentials of those offering opinions. Do they have the background to make the claims they are making? Are they referencing mostly themselves or do they direct you to legitimate and highly respected sources of information? When reading a claim that alarms, make sure to look at arguments on the other side. Which ones makes the most intuitive sense? For an example of why it is so important to look into the credentials of the people you are listenting to, click here.

Science is reasoned. It considers ALL sides. It discusses findings that support its theory and those that don’t. It evaluates its own limitations. It admits what it knows and what it doesn’t. It is constantly learning and growing and improving. If something you are reading is giving you absolutes, if it is suggesting that you shouldn’t listen to the experts, if it is trying to stoke your fears and anxieties, you should run the other way. This is not a reliable source of information.

For just a few of the reliable sources of vaccine information out there, check out these sites:


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5 thoughts on “Freedom ends where harm to others begins”

  1. It is so bizarre that it is incomprehensible to me, but there are so many who deny that there is such a thing as contagious disease.
    They want to believe that pure thoughts or other such nonsense is a magical shield against harm


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