The decisions of the Federal Council on the end of free individual tests called "convenience" and the planned extension of the covid certificate to the majority of activities in the "orange" area (restaurants, cafes, cultural activities and sports, visits to nursing homes) dramatically revive the debate on the certificate.
In this context, the non-vaccinated are readily invective on the basis of arguments of protection and solidarity (moreover very good arguments), but little is said about the contribution that the majority of vaccinated people could make (approximately 56% of the Swiss population). This text is therefore primarily intended for the majority of vaccinated people. With a proposal to have a frank and honest discussion between us.
An uncomfortable personal situation
Let me start with a personal testimony: I feel caught in the crossfire and would like to know how many people share this impression. I am a fervent defender of the vaccine and its contributions, but also a critic of an ever more problematic covid certificate. I note that the changes proposed by the Federal Council – with in particular the mention of the use of the certificate in the professional context – could gradually make normal daily life impossible for non-vaccinated people. Add the end of free tests and you are – in my eyes – de facto very close to compulsory vaccination.
In this uncomfortable situation, I ask myself the question: in addition to vaccination and respect for barrier gestures, what could, what should be my contribution as a vaccinated person? General answer: I would like to contribute to ensuring that everyone's rights and freedoms are respected. Concretely, I would like to do my part so that everyone can make free choices, as informed as possible, especially on issues that most directly affect values and beliefs. That everyone can choose between 20 colors of socks does not seem to me as important as the free choice of religious convictions for example. Or the decision to get vaccinated.
Protecting the right to err
Question therefore posed to the majority of vaccinated people: what efforts are we still ready to make so that a minority can freely make a decision that we consider false, irrational, selfish – namely to refuse vaccination?
Many friends have asked me: why should people's right to make irrational choices be protected? In my opinion, it is the very idea of a fundamental freedom that is at stake. As a reminder: the non-compulsory vaccination is based on the importance of bodily integrity. This integrity includes the freedom to choose what you inject into your body. My conviction is that the majority should seek to defend this fundamental right. Contrary to the current efforts which aim to impose the covid certificate in the whole of daily life, with among other objectives to push people to vaccination against their will.
A difficult argument to accept
You will admit that we have had an easier sell as an argument: after 18 months of the pandemic, a call to protect the right of the unvaccinated to continue to refuse all available scientific evidence. Worse: asking the majority to invest resources (money, time, energy) to allow some to make a decision they abhor. And yet, are we not at the heart of the protection that a fundamental right should provide? Allow an analogy: the right to wear a burqa. I fought for certain women to have the right to wear it, even if I personally find this decision wrong and irrational.
I will be told that the big difference concerns the negative effects on others of the decision to refuse vaccination. Wearing a burqa does no harm to others.
Let's take a step back: the exercise of each of my fundamental freedoms has an impact on others, an impact often perceived as negative by those who refuse the basic decision. Broadly speaking, this situation is not new. Thus wearing the burqa would be negative for life in society and the rights of other women, making humorous drawings would be contrary to respect, such a way of life (smoker, drinker, sportsman, workaholic) should be prohibited because it causes massive costs for the community (via joint financing of the health system). In summary, exercising our freedoms always and systematically impacts other members of society. By arguing about the "negative" impact of the choices of a minority on the majority, it is the very idea of fundamental freedoms and rights that is called into question, namely protecting a person's free choice, despite its consequences.
But isn’t the impact of vaccine refusal more specific, more dangerous? It would therefore be necessary to be able to show that the freedom to choose vaccination or not means a direct endangerment of others. The unvaccinated would be real dangers to others, not just people lacking solidarity. However, this type of argument seems difficult to me. It is not only the vaccination status that determines the dangerousness of a person, but all of their behavior, for example their respect for barrier gestures and distancing. Let us nevertheless admit that it can be shown that an unvaccinated person is an immediate danger to others, there follows, in my opinion, an argument for the obligation of vaccination. In this case, the majority can do nothing, everyone must be vaccinated. But in this case, we can completely evacuate the covid certificate discussion. And a fundamentally different discussion about our ability to live in society begins.
The consequences for the majority
If the majority of the vaccinated accept that they have a responsibility to protect the right of the unvaccinated to make irrational decisions, what are the consequences?
First consequence, the majority should be ready to accept certain painful and boring precautionary measures: wear a mask in certain situations (for example in a closed room), continue to apply barrier gestures on a daily basis, act cautiously with people at risk. Collectively, we should be ready to invest money. The key measure here concerns the free tests that make it possible to obtain a covid certificate. It is not about paying for tests for eternity. In the long term, everyone will have been affected by the covid (either by vaccination or by the disease). We must think of these tests as investments to guarantee the right to physical integrity (which includes the right to refuse a vaccine).
Second consequence: the State must continue to provide quality information on the risks and benefits of the various options, it must fight fake news in this area, in order to allow everyone to make the most informed choice possible . If this condition is met, the minority of the unvaccinated are free to make choices, but they bear the consequences of these. The unvaccinated make the choice to take higher risks for themselves and, depending on their individual behavior, for others. As such, they must in particular accept quarantines and regular testing procedures. They cannot shirk their responsibility for prolonging the crisis. Unlike Mr Poggia, I nevertheless think it is unacceptable and counterproductive to make access to care more difficult (by threatening to make the unvaccinated pay) – on the basis of the argument mentioned above which that the exercise of each freedom can lead to a negative impact on a supportive system (eg health).
I am well aware that we are walking here on a particularly steep ridge path. For the majority of vaccinees, we will need an extraordinary capacity for empathy. But I like the idea of helping to ensure that all fellow citizens can continue to exercise their fundamental freedom in an issue that directly affects their deep convictions. And I want to believe that this attitude could bring some balm to our social and political relations at a time when we desperately need it.
ps. another argument for an ever more extensive covid certificate is that there is only one alternative: a lockdown or the certificate. This argument is very different from the one discussed here. I will come back to this in another text.