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Maxed Out: The great vaccination tradeoff

Max Vax
Unvaccinated people have chosen to stand outside mainstream society. Now their status as outliers has been recognized and consequences attached.

Many years ago, I chose to stay in university, drifting from one major to another—psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, political science, law. I’d like to say the decision was driven by intense curiosity, but it was largely driven by Richard Nixon’s inability to divine the magic formula for, “Peace with honour,” in Vietnam. School was easy; war was hard. I didn’t put much trust in my ‘administrative’ deferral. Besides, there were a lot more women at uni than in the military.

I was free to choose that course because tuition was not very high, cheap student loans were abundant and those years between the late 1960s and mid-1970s were a wonderful time to be a professional student.

That freedom to choose came with a price. The liability side of my personal balance sheet, having given up a few years of gainful employment in exchange for student penury, was much bigger than the asset side, which was largely non-existent other than an old motorcycle and a bunch of well-played albums. It took a little over a decade to pay off student loans when I finally decided to face the adult world of gainful employment. I wasn’t able to join more affluent—employed—friends in their leisure pursuits, having a budget geared more toward hiking and climbing.

Tradeoffs. Always tradeoffs.

Tradeoffs still mark the freedom to choose which path to follow. And as of Monday in British Columbia, those tradeoffs were illuminated by the harsh light of the fourth wave.

You are still free to choose your own course in the vaccine wars. Get jabbed or not—your choice. But the tradeoffs for choosing the road less travelled just got a lot pricier. Or more accurately, cheaper, because there are going to be a whole lot of places your money won’t buy you access because of the freedom you hold so dear.

In two-and-a-half weeks, Sept. 13, a lot of activities will no longer be available to the unvaccinated. Want to grab a bite out? Be vaccinated. Catch a flick? Vaccinated. Workout at the gym? Ditto. Watch a BC Lions game? Well, despite the manifold opportunities to do so socially distanced, you’ll still need to be vaccinated.

By Oct. 24, you’ll need to prove you’ve had both doses to get into any of those things and a lot more “discretionary” events. Including your own child’s wedding!

But hey, you still have the freedom to choose. No one’s taking that away from you. 

What you will no longer have is the freedom to threaten the vast majority of other B.C. residents because of your choice. But take solace in the knowledge your exercise of freedom will have given the rest of us much greater freedom to get on with our lives and enjoy those things now forbidden to you, more secure in knowing you won’t be among us. 

Unlike steps recently taken by the federal government, the protocols announced Monday by Premier John Horgan, Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry do not constitute a vaccine mandate. No one has to get vaccinated. You’re still free to choose. But as with so many choices in life, your choice will limit what you can continue to do. 

Fair is fair. Unvaccinated people have chosen, regardless of their reasons, to stand outside mainstream society. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that. It’s familiar ground for me, having been outspoken all my life and having never missed the chance to opt for a career-limiting move even though I knew there would be unpleasant consequences.

Excepting for the moment people who, for valid medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, everyone else who chooses that path does so for personal reasons, be they religious, philosophical, or just batshit crazy. Now your status as outliers has been recognized and consequences attached. You are excluded from much of the remaining social order. Factor that into your reasoning and decide whether this exercise in personal freedom continues to be worth it.

Monday’s announcement from B.C. was joined a few hours later by the announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration that Pfizer’s vaccine has been granted full approval, effectively putting the boots to the oft-cited objection that these ‘rushed’ vaccines have temporary approval and are, therefore, experimental. 

And while the provincial announcement does not constitute a vaccine mandate, just look around: they’re everywhere. Every day more and more private companies are making vaccination a requirement for continued employment. Choose your version of freedom and it comes with the freedom to find a new job. More and more companies are making vaccination a requirement to patronize their business. Sooner or later, you’ll only be able to celebrate your freedom within a narrow version of what passes for society. Consider it a natural consequence of choosing your own path.

The move in B.C. has been roundly applauded by the nearly 75 per cent of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated. We may be sheep in your eyes but we now have the tools to keep the wolves away from the flock. Temporary? Perhaps. But while the restrictions are in place we’ll choose to live more like it’s 2019 again and enjoy a giddy sense of freedom knowing you won’t be sitting at the next table while we’re once again enjoying food and friendship at a favourite restaurant.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the inevitable reactions to Monday’s new regime. Legal actions, filings before the Human Rights tribunal, dwindling protests in the streets, renewed calls for Dr. Henry’s lynching... the dying gasps of the disenfranchised. 

Time to wake up and realize Kris Kristofferson was right when he wrote, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Your fears and arguments have proven both wrong and ineffective. Your freedom is a Pyrrhic victory.

See ya at the bar when you’ve come around. I’ll buy the first round.