I saw this point made the other day, on the topic of vaccination requirements before people are allowed to go to non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and so on, or to work certain jobs where they will come into frequent contact with unvaccinated or ineffectively-vaccinated people (like teachers and healthcare workers). There’ve been ongoing protests for weeks with anti-vaxxers whining that these requirements violate their “individual right to choose”. The point I saw made is that the whole deal with individual rights is that they can conflict with each other, and where they’re incompatible we actually have to decide what’s more important. And that should be pretty obvious: The “right” of some science denier to go to the pub or the movies doesn’t outweigh the right of medically vulnerable people to live. You know? You are not literally going to lose your life if you get told to mostly stay at home because you chose not to get a vaccination. But an immunocompromised person actually might if they contract this virus, and the less that unvaccinated people are just circulating freely, passing germs between each other, the less likely that is to happen.

We talk about herd immunity, of course, as the level at which enough people are vaccinated that the virus really struggles to spread: the point at which the vast majority of infected people don’t cross paths with an unvaccinated person to infect them, or if they do cross paths the contact is fleeting enough that transmission doesn’t take place. (This is why the “herd immunity” thre­sh­old changes with different viruses, or even different strains of the same virus: the more infectious a virus is, the fewer susceptible people an infected person must encounter in order to not infect any of them, on average.) Unvaccinated people are going to regain their rights to go to the pubs and movies, etc. when we’re not even at herd immunity (because 90% of the over-12s will not be a high enough proportion for this) so what are they even complaining about? Just “muh beers matter more than others’ lives”? (With such selfishness on display, what a shock that the anti-vax protesters seem to overlap so heavily with the far right…)

Honestly, I know that talking down to anti-vaxxers like they’re stupid is not the way to change their minds. This post isn’t aimed at them. Just me venting my frustration at their very audacity to go on about “individual rights” as if the right to life isn’t the most fundamental “individual right” of them all.