Things certainly escalated last week when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a deal had been signed with AstraZeneca for a COVID-19 vaccine, and said that he expected it to be “as mandatory as you can possibly make”.
He walked the comments back a few hours later, following strong backlash. But the walk-back wasn’t particularly comforting. “There are no compulsory vaccines in Australia,” the Prime Minister said. “I mean, we can’t hold someone down and make them take it.”
Of course they can’t hold you down and force a needle into your arm: indeed, so strong is the principle that no one can receive medical “treatment” without their consent that, if someone does perform a medical procedure against your will, you can sue them for assault.
But they can use other ways to force you to get the vaccine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was the Social Services Minister under whom the Government’s ‘no jab, no play’ rule came into force. This was the initiative to increase childhood vaccinations by refusing preschool to any child who had not been vaccinated.
Then there was the “no jab, no pay” policy, which was to refuse family-related tax benefits to those parents who would not have their children vaccinated.
A person could still refuse for medical reasons or on religious grounds, but the broader “conscientious objection” was removed.
The consequences were not insignificant; a decision to not vaccinate could cost a family $15,000 per child.
Elsewhere in this edition of The Catholic Weekly, Archbishop Anthony Fisher has written about the problematic nature of the ‘mandatory’ nature of this vaccine from the viewpoint of the proposed deal with AstraZeneca, due to it being developed with the use of electively aborted foetal cell lines.
I won’t repeat what he has said, but instead urge you to read his thoughts (see Page 6).
Instead, I want to focus on why it is a bad idea for a government to use financial or other forms of coercion to ‘incentivise’ people to vaccinate.
But first, I want to be clear that I think it is a good idea that as many people as possible are vaccinated against communicable diseases.
If undertaken at sufficient levels, vaccination provides what is called “herd immunity”.
The requisite number varies amongst different diseases, but you need around 90 per cent of people to be vaccinated for there to be a sufficient immunity built up in the community to stop a particular disease spreading.
When vaccinations are at a high level, even those who are unvaccinated are usually protected because the disease doesn’t spread.
But when vaccinations are at a low level, even those who are vaccinated can be at risk, because no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and a lower number of vaccinations mean that a disease may spread more easily.
Those who vaccinate themselves and their children not only protect their own family, but also the health of others. And that is a very good idea.
While I think vaccination is generally a good idea, I am troubled by government-mandated medical interventions, which in this case, involves threatening people with no access to childcare or tax benefits or something else unless they consent to a vaccine.
A government that can use financial incentives or the threat of financial disincentives to coerce participation in what they might consider to be ‘best practice’ medicine is dangerous.
You might remember that a few years ago, former MP and now head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Gary Johns, outlined a proposal for linking welfare payments to the use of medium-term contraception.
“No contraception, no dole” was the plan. A similar thought was highlighted by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).
RANZCOG advertised a debate about whether medical registrars should be required to be on long-term contraception so that they could achieve their specialisation requirements before going on maternity leave.
RANZCOG said it wasn’t a serious idea, but it raised a very serious question: can professional bodies dictate medical procedures for their staff?
What about financial disincentives for businesses that refuse to toe the ‘inclusivity’ line when it comes to gender-neutral bathrooms and the like? Or schools that try to resist programs like Safe Schools?
Use of government money – which is really taxpayer funds – to coerce certain taxpayers into certain medical ‘treatments’ is always a bad idea. No government should be able to wield that type of power over its citizens.
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- Archbishop Fisher OP: Let’s not create an ethical dilemma
- Church calls for ethical vaccine
- Elderly people as “ethical canaries” in the CID-19 pandemic coalmine