Because Reasons, or Just Because

Normally I try not to mix politics and my career, but I kind of have to weigh in on this one. To preface this discussion, I have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and generally have a pro-vaccine position. However, I am a naturally skeptical and questioning person, so I can understand why people may be hesitant, especially with this vaccine, and I don’t think it is fair to demonize people for raising questions or having some resistance. I also don’t want to criticize either of the people I report to directly in this situation. They have made attempts to be as accommodating as possible and I commend them for that.

I am now in a position of being forced to either share my personal medical information or leave my current employment. As an employee of a company with a contract with a federal agency, I am included in the mandate covered by the President’s Executive Order. Now to be clear, the actual wording is a bit more manipulative. All of my employer’s federal contracts will be terminated if they do not verify that all of their employees are vaccinated, i.e. see their vaccination cards. So if I don’t comply, it’s not just me that bears the consequences.

You might at this point be saying, “But this is ensuring workplace safety. It’s perfectly normal to implement precautions to prevent employees from being exposed to potentially deadly pathogens.” Well, I’m a fully remote worker. My job does not require me to go to an office with any of my fellow employees, or onsite to any federal offices. So the representative for our contract specifically asked (and kudos to him for doing so) in a public meeting whether there would be any exemptions allowed for fully remote workers. The answer was an emphatic “NO”. So is there really about health and safety, or is it just comply or else?

It would be bad enough if it was just me getting caught up in this. I have a 7 year old son. With the vaccines starting to be approved for children, my wife and I consulted with a few medical professionals about whether we should get him vaccinated. He is home-schooled and perfectly healthy, so his chances of exposure, let alone serious illness, are quite low. For this reason, all of the doctors we asked said there wasn’t really much medical reason for him to be vaccinated. But they all suggested he might want to get it anyways, because he is likely to be restricted from certain things without it. In other words, medical decisions about my son are being influenced almost entirely on the basis of political factors.

So, even if there were no reasons to question the safety or efficacy of the vaccines, which I won’t try to argue against other than to say that there are at least not zero reasons, it’s pretty clear this is about more than just health and safety. This is an example of the political class finding an excuse to demand that we all comply with their authority or else, nuances or applicability to any particular situation be damned. Whether you’re in favor of this particular policy or not, it sets a potentially dangerous precedent.

I haven’t yet decided exactly what actions I will take. But the fact that we as a culture are deferring our medical decisions to political authorities with no capacity for nuance seems like a path towards a totalitarian, anti-science, dystopian society. It makes one wonder what happened to the free country we were supposed to be living in. I’m curious what disease the next vaccine mandate will be for, and whether the vaccine will be as safe and effective as this one.

I don’t want to convince you to get the vaccine or not. I don’t know about your situation, and you should consult trained medical professionals for that kind of advice. I just hope we can avoid demonizing and ostracizing people for having questions or asking for autonomy.

2 thoughts on “Because Reasons, or Just Because

  1. Shady politicians indeed. Over at a public university in Germany, I may soon find myself with a similar choice. I am unmarried and have no children, so leaving my workplace would not be as disruptive. For me, such a mandate would change the game from one concerning validity of a medical practice to one concerning autonomy.

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  2. I live in a EU country where 92% of people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, despite vaccination is not compulsory. Unfortunately, public opinion thinks that vaccination policy is only a matter of Science, completely missing the role of Ethics, which is even more relevant when considering people that cannot decide by themselves, such as children.

    I am thankful my spouse and I have jobs that can go 100% remote when needed, we were very lucky to switch some years ago from university teaching posts to research and academic-related jobs, in my case against my natural vocation.

    In general terms, my family fully supports vaccination schemes (we all have all non-covid vaccines, I am the kind of parent that takes the child to the vaccination center within the week of the birthday). We are thankful that all members of our family over 5 have been allowed to make data-informed vaccination choices (or parents in their name) without any job/schooling repercussions, and we hope the same freedom will exist in the future for all of us, including those under 5. Disclaimer: depending on age and circumstances, decisions were different.

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