Opinion By Dr. Jean Covillo, CRNA
When our choices as individuals overwhelmingly threaten the health and prosperity of our society ~ one must question whether these choices, are indeed, truly “personal.”
Every day I see, hear, and read about folks angrily defending their rights as U.S. citizens to make their own decisions, live their own way, and any number of other complaints that apply to any one of their constitutional “rights”. Although many of these arguments are valid, and worthy of debate, I rarely hear anyone add “personal responsibility” when demanding and defending those “rights”. Instead, these arguments seem to arise from a sense of personal entitlement without consideration of responsibility that accompanies these “rights.”
There are many arguments being presented as to why folks are refusing vaccinations and to a very small degree, I would agree that some of them are valid. Vaccination hesitancy is a very real issue for many and we need to do a better job of educating folks, dispelling all the ugly myths, and encouraging folks to get vaccinated. But the argument that I most want to address is the one where people use “personal rights” as a valid excuse for their decision to refuse, saying things like “it is my body, and I have the right to refuse to get this.” “I will take my chances. My choice only affects me.” “I am young and I will be fine.” Those arguments would have merit if, the consequence of this choice only affected the person making it. But it doesn’t. The consequences of refusing to get vaccinated impacts everyone. When “personal choices” and “personal rights” affect all of us, it is no longer considered a “personal choice” or a “personal right.” What about my rights to seek medical care in a hospital without fear of contracting a more virulent strain of Covid (Delta Variant)?
Several weeks ago, my husband had to go to the ER for a severe bacterial infection that had gotten into his blood. He was gravely ill and urgently needed to be seen, admitted and receive antibiotics intravenously. He did not need to be exposed to a bunch of people sick with Covid because they refused to be vaccinated. COVID infections were overloading the hospitals and the ER when we arrived and we waited hours and hours, while he shivered with fever in a non-reclining chair in an ER that was also overloaded with Covid patients I was concerned for his safety. We almost weren’t given a bed for an illness so severe, he required a week-long stay, and home antibiotic infusion therapy for six weeks following discharge! Thankfully he did not contract the Covid virus during his stay. Refusing the vaccination simply due to “personal choice” places you squarely in the center as the source of the problem and is one of the biggest reasons this country can’t get over this pandemic. This “personal choice” has a direct impact on me, my coworkers, my family, and my friends as well as everyone else breathing the same air on this beautiful planet. It prevents our economy from moving forward, leads to more hospitalizations and delays in acute care and elective surgeries. My company depends on healthy patients and staff to available to perform elective surgeries. Choosing not to get vaccinated doesn’t only affect you-it affects ALL of US in EVERY aspect of society!
Historically, laws have been made to protect society from the hazardous effects that sometimes arise through our “personal choices”. For example, cities along the coast implement mandatory evacuations when hurricanes are imminent. These laws were passed not only to protect its citizens but to protect emergency personnel from endangering themselves during unnecessary rescue procedures for citizens who refuse to leave. One might argue, these folks have a right to stay in their homes, but if their decisions threaten the safety of others, is this a “personal right?” Seat belt laws, speed limits, enforcement of road closures during icy conditions, “No Smoking” in public places, and environmental regulations associated with chemical dumping in our rivers and lakes, are just a few examples of laws passed to protect society from individuals exercising their “personal rights” in a manner that threatens others. The question we must all ask ourselves when spouting our personal rights is this: Do personal rights give us the right through our choices to threaten the safety of our fellow man?
The science community has provided overwhelming evidence that shows the Covid vaccinations (Pfizer and Moderna) to be incredibly safe for the individual, highly effective in reducing the severity of a COVID infection and slowing down the spread. If we can reduce the transmission, we can reduce the virus’ ability to continue to mutate and put an end to its reproduction. If we refuse to take steps to reduce the transmission, this virus will mutate again which ultimately will result in a variant unresponsive to vaccines on the market-and yes-that affects me too! Please Trust the Science and the Doctors and Nurses in your community. Ask them…don’t look for answers by friends on Facebook. In fact, don’t even look to me. This is not a political decision. Listen to your doctor-Get vaccinated- and help us end this nightmare!
People simply must be educated on how the personal choice to refuse the vaccine is simply not one that can be personally made. Everyone who can get vaccinated simply must. Please encourage your friends to get vaccinated. If we are unsuccessful in quickly doing this on our own steam voluntarily, then other measures must be implemented to protect the health, safety, and economic prosperity of society from the few unwilling to see beyond themselves.