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Consent and Coercion in Australia
In Australia it is typically seen as morally appropriate for both State and Federal Governments to recommend COVID vaccination population targets, and for citizens, institutions and businesses to ‘do the right thing’ and support such targets. Thus, in the name of Public Safety morality, State and Federal governments offer enticing ‘return to more normal’ incentives to encourage vaccination, and impose serious exclusions on the “vaccine hesitant” until they get the jab. There is an obvious moral logic to this in the context of the global COVID pandemic. However, making vaccination functionally mandatory for some workers who will lose their jobs if they do not get the jab, and some university students who will be unable to go on campus if they are not vaccinated, raises a range of more complex moral issues than the idea of simply ‘doing the right thing.’ Questions about the meaning of consent, and the morality of ‘out-grouping’ arise. This paper explores those questions in the context of what C S Lewis calls “government in the name of science.” Such government is a post-liberal-democratic form of executive, communications and commercial power, which entails serious moral perils. “Public Heath” has become considerably more morally complex than a simple binary opposing good scientific ‘public safety’ to bad ‘anti-vaxxer’ conspiracies. This topic impinges on post-capitalist categories of power as illustrated in the tacit capture of the political process to a technocratic oligarchic synergy between States and Corporations.
It is one thing to provide incentives for inoculations and disincentives for the lack thereof, and quite a different thing to tread the sometimes delicate line between consent and coercion. The usual arguments about the morality of getting vaccinated go along these lines. Out of regard for the wellbeing of my community, and particularly the most physically vulnerable in my community, a moral person will do all they can to not cause harm to others. If my getting vaccinated improves the overall health outcomes of the vulnerable through higher herd resilience to COVID, then vaccination is the right thing to do for the greater good. This ‘right thing’ may curtail my own personal freedoms and may even involve personal risk as regards vaccination side effects, but the moral person will put their own convenience and risks as secondary to the good of the herd and the interests of the vulnerable. Hence those who refuse to get vaccinated show a lack of proper moral responsibility in the choice they make to be unvaccinated.
Whilst I fully agree with the basic idea expressed above that concern for the vulnerable characterises human morality, there is one practical problem and a range of moral problems with the above argument as a justification for the use of ‘carrots and sticks’ (coffee and unemployment) to increase vaccination rates.
The practical problem is that being vaccinated does not necessarily prevent you from getting or transmitting COVID . Vaccination is clearly a means whereby the person vaccinated can reasonably expect to be less vulnerable to serious health risks after they have contracted COVID. Yet due to the constantly evolving nature of the virus, new strains can make targeted vaccinations ineffective as means of preventing initial infection and transmission. A detailed analysis of how much or how little being vaccinated impacts on the infection rates and transmission of different highly contagious COVID strains is outside the scope of this paper. The only point being made here is that it is not an open and shut case that a small minority of unvaccinated people in a population pose an appreciable risk to the resilience of the population as a whole when it comes to simply catching COVID.
The set of moral problems I wish to unpack concern confused moral thinking about coercion and consent.
Consent is always needed for vaccinations
In order to receive a COVID vaccination, one must give consent in writing, or consent must be given on one’s behalf by some-one who is legally responsible for you. That is, COVID vaccinations cannot be mandated as compulsory by our governments or administered to anyone against their will. Imagine the police restraining people so that medics could vaccinate them against their will. This would be an outrage because one’s body is considered one’s own property – not the State’s property – in an inalienable manner. Things that directly concern one’s body are of direct significance to one’s person, and are the final responsibility of that person and of no-one else. Consent, then, is an integral dynamic of vaccination. Government policies that advise and promote vaccination as a public health recommendation cannot side-step consent.
Consent is not a consequentialist moral category
It is important to grasp that consent is not what moral philosophers understand as a consequentialist category. That is, consent is not deemed to be genuine or valid on the basis of a ‘good’ outcome that results from consent. Consent is a deontological moral category that is valid or invalid on the basis of the integrity of the act of consent itself, rather than on what happens as a result of that act. So even if there are different types of consequences for different sorts of consent, it is not the consequences of those consents that make the consent a valid moral act or not, it is the integrity of the act of consent itself that makes it morally valid or not.
Any consequentialist argument about why one should get vaccinated or not can be assessed on consequentialist grounds, but those potential outcomes in themselves have no bearing on the validity or invalidity of any given citizen’s consent. Consent is either free and voluntary, or it is not consent – whatever the outcome.
We do not have an open consequentialist debate about the demographics of vaccination
We do not have an open debating arena in which to argue the consequentialist merits or not of vaccination for different demographic risk groups. This is because government policy is a total population policy, and in the pursuit of that blanket policy the government allows no other stance into the domain of public debate. In consequentialist terms, it arguably makes sense for old and vulnerable Australians to get vaccinated, but not necessarily for younger and fit Australians to get vaccinated.
If one is young and fit, a consequentialist analysis of the personal risks of getting myocarditis from the vaccine compared with the health risks of getting COVID, may reasonably give a professional athlete – like Novak Djokovic – good reason not to get vaccinated. In that context, getting the virus and acquiring natural immunity may well be a more sensible consequentialist analysis of what a good course of action would be. That is, individual consequentialist personal health concerns are also significant (in consequentialist terms) moral issues. I use the word ‘moral’ here because where a health outcome of not dying is what makes a certain action ‘good’, this is a utilitarian framework of moral reasoning where physical health is considered the ‘good’ that is being pursued. Here, both actions (vaccinating the old and vulnerable, and the young and fit refusing to be vaccinated) are moral for the same basic reason. If one wishes to say that sacrificing a comparatively small number of young and fit individual’s health and lives to make it somehow safer for the old and vulnerable, that is no longer a simple consequentialist argument, that is an argument maintaining that the young and fit should choose altruism and self-sacrifice for the sake of the physical health of the old and the unhealthy. But an argument about sacrificial altruism is not a consequentialist argument. It is a deontological stance that argues that some people who (consequentially) do not wish to suffer or die for the herd would be expected to do so regardless of the (utilitarian) bad consequences to themselves.
Moral complexity is not the same as moral confusion
In any real moral context both consequentialist and deontological choices will confront each one of us, but moral clarity is actively reduced if consequentialist considerations are assumed to define deontological acts, or the other way around. Where a degree of moral excellence is achieved – as Aristotle well grasped – this is done without the safety net of only one right answer, as each context is in some manner unique. This is why government policy should be constructed with moral aims in mind by our politicians, but always delivered with moral humility. Authoritarian moral hubris imposed on citizens by political power, requiring totalizing conformity to only one right moral opinion (all moral people will get vaccinated), is an affront to the moral dignity of each individual as regards their inalienable ownership of their own body, and a negation of the proper freedoms of consent and decision-making incumbent upon adult citizens of a liberal democracy.
Consent is incompatible with coercion
To be morally clear, consent in any context is only a genuine consent if it is un-coerced. Coercion can be subtle, and it can be deliberately orchestrated so as to give the person who will give or withhold consent the strong impression that they have no real choice. Gaining a deontological consent via consequentialist incentives and threats is a form of philosophical abuse where an intrinsic freedom is traded off against effectively forced outcomes imposed by those in a position of superior power. Here the powerful in effect ‘buy’ the consent of the relatively powerless, but it is not a free or real consent that they have bought. Where incentives, threats, out-grouping, unemployment, and the political abuse of police power accompany a request for ‘consent’, coercion is present and has tainted the moral integrity of the act of consent.
Consent is incompatible with inequalities in power and knowledge
Consent is an inherently egalitarian category, which applies only between parties that are deemed equal in dignity, maturity and understanding. Relations of proper consent cannot be meaningful when there are imposed inequalities between the vulnerable and the powerful, and where the discourse of valid knowledge is controlled by only one party. A context where free citizens are made coercively vulnerable (threats of job loss etc.) and treated as incapable of discriminating between truth and lies (where authoritative State aligned experts very carefully present only one reasonable interpretation of the truth) is a context where citizens are functionally required to trust the powerful and believe the experts, whatever their own evaluations and judgements may be. Claims that not trusting and not believing, in such a context, are immoral, display the signatures of moralizing coercion. A genuinely un-coerced consent cannot be conducted where there is a structural power and knowledge inequality built into the relationship between the State and the citizen. A genuinely un-coerced consent cannot be achieved if compliance with an unquestionable State-endorsed ‘recommendation’ requiring ‘consent’ is deemed to be ‘good’, and any publicly expressed disagreement with the validity of that ‘recommendation’ is deemed to be ‘bad’ (and can put one at risk of being charged with incitement) and a risk to public health. These sort of moralizing power-and-information inequality dynamics, backed up by heavy policing power, are structurally coercive.
Consent implies the genuine freedom to withhold consent
It is crucial that in any consent context, the free and un-coerced capacity to not consent is genuine. For people who – for whatever reason – do not consent to have a COVID vaccine, their un-coerced freedom not to be vaccinated must be upheld if consent itself is to be considered a genuine reality in this context. If non vaccinated citizens are being: pressured into being vaccinated by the threat of unemployment, public exclusion, and the restriction of movement and association; if the unvaccinated are placed in an inherently unequal power relationship between the State and a citizen, as backed up by the strong exertion of police powers and the deliberate intimidation and even arrest or deportation of perceived or real dissenters to government recommendations; if there is a moralistic and patronizing presumption of maturity and truth on behalf of the government, implying immorality and sub-adult ignorance in those who do not accept government ‘recommendations’ – then all the signatures of coercion and grooming are at play and only very determined people who do not consent will remain un-coerced. But such a context makes a mockery of the very idea of consent.
Can consent be legitimately traded for public safety in an emergency?
The logic of heavy incentives and threats in order to persuade nearly all Australians to be COVID vaccinated is trading meaningful and uncoerced consent for public safety. The idea here is that the free and uncoerced consent of each citizen is less important than public health. There is merit to this stance if it is judged that our governments have a higher responsibility to preserve what Giorgio Agamben calls our “bare life” than to treat us as political beings whose participatory consent is the basis of the authority of the government. But, the question of whether the people want their government to override the free consent of each citizen in response to public health recommendations is nullified under the conditions of extraordinary emergency powers. Declaring those powers determines that consent has been traded for public safety. For short-term extreme conditions of profound danger such a trade-off may well be morally incumbent upon a government, but the normalization of emergency powers and the excessively pre-emptive and civically controlling use of those powers in any extended time frame, does not fit the description of governmental morality.
Let us now move into more subtle terrain; the terrain of nomenclature. Language is a moral context too.
The nomenclature of ‘vaccination hesitancy’ is coercively loaded
The nomenclature of ‘vaccination hesitancy’ as I have heard it used implies that whilst ‘anti-vaxxers’ are a lunatic and immoral fringe who are happy to risk the death of us all for the sake of some supposed individual ‘right’ to adhere to their own irrational fears of government and science, the ‘vaccine hesitant’ can be morally distinguished from anti-vaxxers because they have ‘not yet’ freely chosen to consent to being vaccinated. That is, all reasonable (or potentially reasonable) people who have not been vaccinated, are defined by this nomenclature as in reality undecided. This so-called hesitancy is an obstacle that the government is determined (for its citizen’s safety) to overcome, and the ignorant and morally uncertain will overcome these irrational fears and anti-common-good vacillations by a concerted information campaign of State authorized facts, and by good and wise (State aligned) exhortations from trusted public figures that address the irrational fears, immoral temptations, and scientific ignorance of the ‘vaccine hesitant’. That is, the term ‘vaccination hesitancy’ implies that one cannot have decided not to be vaccinated for good reasons, and that with just a bit more pressure of the right sort, nearly everyone ‘not yet vaccinated’ can be ‘persuaded’ to freely consent to being vaccinated in line with the government’s policy objectives. That is, this is a coercive nomenclature that morally loads vaccination as good, properly informed and responsible, and the choice not to be vaccinated as bad, ignorant and irresponsible; this is not a nomenclature compatible with genuine consent, which includes the dignified and free option for genuine non-consent.
The confusion of a public health policy stance with the One Truth
The nomenclature of ‘vaccination hesitancy’ – where the ‘not yet vaccinated’ are vacillating about doing the right thing – also implies that only One True judgement about rationality, morality and scientific knowledge exists. The One Truth is that everyone who does not have an authorized medical exemption should get vaccinated. Further, current government policy effectively owns, and carefully guards, that One Truth, in the interest of public safety. Further, this One Truth entails that any citizen who disagrees with their government about its public health policies is not entitled to disagree because the government is simply right and any disagreement is a threat to public safety. The government has high-powered supporting specialists who endorse this One Truth, which proves that it is true, even though any high profile person, specialist or otherwise, who does not support this One Truth will be silenced, arrested or put in jail – ask Zoe Buhler and Monica Smit – or deported – ask Novak Djokovic.
There is a highly concerted and very successful attempt by the government to control public discourse on the safety, efficacy and necessity of almost everyone being vaccinated, and no free and open public dissent with that One True stance is permitted. To question the government’s ‘recommendations’ and to in anyway even potentially give succour to the ‘vaccine hesitant’ to not get vaccinated, is considered to be a threat to public health and an act of criminal incitement against the State that is acting to uphold public health under the sweeping emergency powers it has given itself to ensure public safety. Here public safety justifies the complete curtailment of any free and public expression of dissent, and yet somehow, we are still expected to give our free ‘consent’ to the only right option the government will permit.
I myself am double jab vaccinated, but any informed and responsible citizen of a liberal secular democracy should be highly suspicious of the claim from our government/s to embody the sole rational, moral and scientific truth. This is not how the politics of free and responsible citizens, who authorize democratic governments, and whom democratic governments are meant to serve, is meant to work.
Nineteenth century representative liberal democracies were premised on the functional dismissal of the absolute and divine right of kings to rule, and a new theory of political validity was embraced where parliament drew its authority from the will of discursively and decisionally active citizens. There are good reasons why more authoritarian forms of government were replaced with discursive and citizen authorizing forms of government. Reason is complex and, in liberal democracies, openly and rigorously debated. In liberal democracies, morality is organic, divulged to an individual level as much as possible, and admits of plural right options rather than being centralized and imposed by governments. Science is a complex, unfolding, and time-sensitive human knowledge activity, often subject to financial and political capture, and seldom simply ‘right’ for all time. Scientific knowledge and its always complex technological application are the best we can do at the time using various quantification, observation and modelling methodologies. Rapidly developed new technologies will invariably have unknown implications which will only become well understood over time. Science and Technology never has all the answers, and both are always subject to revision on the basis of openly debated interpretation and the free availability of anomalous evidence and further theorizing. Science requires a fearless openness to truth. Science requires constructive disagreement in the search for truth. Science is not promoted by a rigid conformism to a single right doctrine. This is why Soviet science was so hampered when intellectuals were required to only produce knowledge aligned with the moral and political doctrines of the USSR.
In the context of a State mandated One Truth that all citizens are required to consent to, it feels like the State is trying to reassert a divine right to absolute rule over its subjects. This is not the politics of decisionally active, freely dissenting and discursively open liberal democratic politics.
Government by Science
In 1958 the famous writer C.S. Lewis made this comment in The Observer:
“I dread government in the name of science.” This, he saw, would lead to the suspension of proper political processes and the tyrannical enforcement of “the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent.” Here is his prophetic glimpse in to our times:
… the new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.
When ‘science’ is the means of silencing political dissent, we have lost the meaning of politics.
Political power and narrative control
A recent example of the determination of Australian political actors to politicize and punish any opposition to the One Truth of authorized public health policy is illustrated by the decision of the Australian government to revoke Novak Djokovic’s visa to play tennis at the 2022 Australian Open. Without any actual evidence that I am aware of, Djokovic’s visa was cancelled on the Ministerial assertion that non-vaccinated Australians would claim Djokovic as a hero of anti-vaccination resistance to government public health ‘recommendations’ and his very presence at the Australian Open might encourage protests against vaccination policies that would pose a risk to public safety. Unproven conjecture was, apparently, sufficient reason for our courts to decide that revoking Mr Djokovic’s visa was within the Immigration Minister’s expansive lawful powers. When it comes to Mr Djokovic himself, it seems reasonable to presume that this professional athlete who has natural immunity from COVID as a result of having had the virus, must have his own medical science reservations for not being vaccinated. The potential myocarditis side-effect from COVID vaccines for young fit individuals – the very category least likely to have serious health threats from getting COVID – might be why. But I have no awareness of Mr Djokovic ever making his own reasons public. Clearly, the tennis player is not free to not be vaccinated if he wants to enter Australia to play tennis in the Australian (vaccinated only) Open.
There is only one scientific and political narrative of truth that the Australian authorities will allow. That singularity is not itself a scientific, moral or rational stance. Clearly the Australian government deported Mr Djokovic as an assertion of controlling power over the people of Australia. The Australian government requires that all visitors accept the same narratives that Australians must affirm, which is that all reasonable and admirable people freely choose to get vaccinated. Public figures must conform to its recommended moral template because the government wants as near total conformity of ordinary citizens as it can produce. These heavy handed public acts of power carry the clear message to the Australian public: conformity with government ‘recommendations’ is morally required.
Making anti-vaxxers into lepers
Where the government only provides One True and Good position for citizens to consent to, there is no good choice not to consent. For once one has decided to not get vaccinated one has – so our government authorities deem – decided to be irrational and immoral. Such immoral and irrational people are a threat to public safety, and they deserve to be punished for their immorality and irrationality with unemployment in some professions, exclusion from many public venues, and restrictions of movement and association (heavy punishments indeed), and it is all on their own heads. Most distressingly, the unvaccinated have been close to criminalized. At the very least, they are put in a place where they will be treated as dangerous criminals and risk heavy fines and being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon if they covertly seek to indulge in ordinary social activities, like sitting down to a coffee with a friend at a coffee shop. In this manner those who do not ‘freely’ consent to follow government vaccination ‘recommendations’ are made lepers in our society and are treated as an immoral and public health menace.
When vaccination refusal results in one being made into a leper, there is no meaningful capacity to freely withhold consent in this context. Genuine consent is an illusion in this context.
Where to from here?
Having pointed out that coercion and the absence of genuine consent is entailed in current government policies, recommendations, mandates, nomenclature, and State to public communications, this is not to say that the public health objectives themselves are inherently problematic; only that the State’s treatment of those who chose not to consent to vaccination is a profound abuse of the very idea of consent. Let me unpack this a bit.
The government has vaccination percentage targets so that once these targets are reached, public safety restrictions of movement and association can be lifted. Lifting socially and economically constrictive public safety mandates is an intelligent and reasonable policy. However, it is the way carrots and sticks are used to realize the publicized trigger for a change in policy direction, and the way in which those who choose not to get vaccinated are punished, makes scapegoats out of the unvaccinated in order that the government can both change direction, and save face, so that it is always only doing what is in our public health interests.
A high percentage of Australians are now vaccinated. At this point our governments are strategically moving from lockdowns and travel restrictions to living with the virus without lockdowns and border closures. The unvaccinated are now a small percentage of the entire population and will not make much difference to our medical capacity to deal with high rates of COVID infection. At this point, dropping carrots and sticks would be unlikely to make much difference in our ability to live with the virus. A proper appreciation of the nature of consent as it relates to one’s own body would imply that consent should not be ‘encouraged’ by carrots and sticks in the first place. Be that as it may, strong State and institutional ‘encouragements’ have succeeded in their aims, and at this point we should drop carrots and sticks for vaccination, and allow those who chose not to be vaccinated to move and participate in public life like every vaccinated citizen can. This would entirely neutralize anti-vax and anti-lockdown issues politically. To do otherwise is maintain a political outclass for scapegoating and unbending executive power demonstration purposes, and to remove consent as a meaningful category as regards each free citizen’s right and responsibility to determine the affairs that directly affect their own bodies and persons.
Do we believe in consent or not?
Do we believe in genuine consent when it comes to each individual Australian making a meaningful decision to get COVID vaccinated or not? If we do not, then the government should mandate COVID vaccinations and ensure 100% community vaccination is implemented (minus the vanishingly small number of medically authorized unvaccinated people). Here all citizens would be treated equally, as the cattle or as the children of the State. We would be forced to be safe, for our own good. But if the government is not prepared to force all Australians to be vaccinated whether they consent or not, then genuine consent – including the free ability to withhold consent – should be upheld, whatever public health recommendations government policy is pursuing. But to want it both ways – to make vaccination functionally mandated whilst upholding the fiction of freely chosen consent – is oppressive and dishonest no matter why anyone might refuse to give their consent to being COVID vaccinated.
What does it all mean?
Public health is a valid concern of governments. Exercising emergency powers in the face of extraordinary public safety threats are warranted. Internationally, Australia has very low population percentage deaths from COVID, which is a genuine good. Vaccination percentage targets of some form are a sensible strategy for moving from lockdown and isolation to living with the virus. The above can all be gratefully acknowledge, and yet it remains the case that consent requires freedom from coercion and citizens should not be treated like the cattle of the State. Significantly, the restrictive pursuit of public safety should be done with as light a touch as possible, and the recovery of normal civic freedoms, for all, should be pursued as respectfully and quickly as possible. The moralistic out-grouping of non-conforming non-vaccinated minorities is inherently divisive of Australian society, which is always a bad thing.
States of emergency present governments with a political temptation. Under emergency powers governments finally obtain unhampered executive control over something, and they hope they can take political credit for acting swiftly and strongly on behalf of citizens. These temptations need to be resisted firmly by our governments. If instead of hubristically (and impossibly) asserting total control, things are allowed to be more fluid and less decisive, and if more than one objective (safety and citizen dignity) are complexly pursued at the same time, the outcome will be more civically moral than what we have seen thus far. It seems more than likely that in an enthusiasm to pursue public safety as aspiring state-of-emergency heroes, our governments have used heavy handed police powers, they have promoted minority out-grouping in a systematic and inherently alienating manner, they have often violently crushed citizen initiated expression of political dissent, and, of course, they have made a mockery of uncoerced consent when it comes to being vaccinated. Surely it is time to evaluate and re-calibrate how we respond to the civic dignities of all Australians in a state of emergency context.
Extraordinary emergency and police powers have been brought to bear on individuals and groups deemed by the Victorian state government to be inciting any public kick-back against draconian and extended lockdown and curfew measures in Victoria. The use of armoured vehicles, pepper spray and rubber bullets on unarmed and non-violent “freedom protestors” in Melbourne has shocked not only many Australians, but many onlookers around the world. In Queensland the introduction of ‘no jab no entry’ exclusions for unvaccinated citizens to many public venues in December 2021 has created two classes of citizens with heavy restrictions on movement, entry and employment for unvaccinated Queenslanders. In some New South Wales lockdown areas the army was used to check that citizens were observing lockdown requirements. In Melbourne the total police isolation of residential flats defined as hotspots – housing, among others, refugees who have fled police/military terror – made prisoners of entire communities. These measures marks a new dynamic in State-Citizen relations in Australia.
This new normal goes beyond State mandated public health directives and extends to ‘voluntary’ extraordinary safety measures being introduced. Many state-run institutions (such as the University of Queensland, where I work) and non-state-run institutions (such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane) have made vaccination an employment requirement, with UQ also requiring all people who come onto campus (students, cleaners, admin staff, security staff, tradesmen etc.) to be vaccinated.
Does the carefully controlled ‘objective science’ of public health genuinely justify these very heavy handed uses of extraordinary emergency powers by our governments? Does public health justify these exclusionary workplace and social access measures towards the unvaccinated by our governments and many of our businesses and large institutions? Does the end (“public safety”) justify the means (suspension of normal civic dignities and life and the moralistic out-grouping of those citizens who do not follow government “recommendations”)? Are heavy penalties, strong incentives and highly controlled and moralistic public narratives of trusted ‘information’ (with only ‘correct’ information being allowable) appropriate means of pursuing public safety, in a global pandemic, in a liberal democracy?
The moral dynamics involved in COVID vaccinations are much larger, much more complex, much more distressing than a simplistic narrative of “do the right thing” and get vaccinated. Of course, there are some nutters in the anti-vax camp. On the other hand, there are far more passive and moralistic conformists in the ‘get vaccinated’ camp, who are happy to outgroup those who resist government carrots and sticks. At present passive conformism and what Paul Virilio called “the administration of fear” are far more pressing moral and political problems that non-conformist nuttery. We need to open up serious moral and serious political thinking about the politics of bio-security in our times. The unvaccinated are the canary in the coal mine of a new era of totalizing executive power. We would be very foolish to silence and ignore them.
 See Catherine M. Brown, DVM; Johanna Vostok, MPH; Hillary Johnson, MHS; Meagan Burns, MPH; Radhika Gharpure, DVM; Samira Sami, DrPH; Rebecca T. Sabo, MPH; Noemi Hall, PhD; Anne Foreman, PhD; Petra L. Schubert, MPH; Glen R. Gallagher, PhD; Timelia Fink; Lawrence C. Madoff, MD; Stacey B. Gabriel, PhD; Bronwyn MacInnis, PhD; Daniel J. Park, PhD; Katherine J. Siddle, PhD; Vaira Harik, MS; Deirdre Arvidson, MSN; Taylor Brock-Fisher, MSc; Molly Dunn, DVM; Amanda Kearns; A. Scott Laney, PhD, “Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts, July 2021” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA), August 6, 2021 / 70(31);1059-1062. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7031e2.htm?s_cid=mm7031e2_w This report notes that in Massachusetts where the general population vaccination percentage was (at the time of the study) 69%, COVID infections resulting from public events showed that 74% of infections were in fully vaccinated people. That is, the “break-out” infection rate (the proportion of vaccinated people who became infected) was roughly equal to the population vaccination percentage. Correspondingly, the proportion of unvaccinated people who became infected was roughly the same as the proportion of unvaccinated people in the larger population. That is, being vaccinated did not seem to show up as making you less likely to become infected than an unvaccinated person in this empirical study. See also, Carlos Franco-Paredes, “Transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 among fully vaccinated individuals” The Lancet, Vol. 22, Issue 1, p16, 1 January 2022, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00768-4 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00768-4/fulltext A big part of the problem is that the virus keeps evolving. Ontario Province statistics indicate that double dose vaccines that provide good and yet diminishing over time protection against getting Delta provide no appreciable protection against getting Omicron. See Sarah A. Buchan, Hannah Chung, Kevin A. Brown, Peter C. Austin, Deshayne B. Fell, Jonathan B. Gubbay, Sharifa Nasreen, Kevin L. Schwartz, Maria E. Sundaram, Mina Tadrous, Kumanan Wilson, Sarah E. Wilson, Jeffrey C. Kwong, “Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron or Delta infection.” MedRxi, BMJ Yale, 1 January 2022, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.30.21268565, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.30.21268565v1 We also know that in Australia our Aged Care Facilities require full vaccination from all staff, most residents are also fully vaccinated, and all people who entre must be fully vaccinated, and yet people in aged care homes still die from COVID. Of course, I am in no manner advocating that these precautions should not be taken for our aged care facilities, and I understand that catastrophic mortalities in that sector would result from failing to take as careful safety precautions as possible for the old and frail. Yet clearly, transmission of the virus is not assured simply because one is fully vaccinated.