Controversial comments always attract more attention than conciliatory ones, and are regarded as providing more stimulating commentary in the media. I thought of that when I heard a raft of clips from a Radio 5 Live phone-in being replayed on another channel. People were expressing their views (dare one say, venting their spleen) on the topic of people who have chosen not to be vaccinated when offered the opportunity. The topic raises a whole range of issues to think about: in a free country should people be compelled to be vaccinated; is it ethical or lawful to take sanctions against someone who chooses not to be vaccinated; is it ethical to choose not to be vaccinated, thereby putting others at risk, or incurring costs for the NHS in treating you if you subsequently succumb to that illness; is it more effective to convince people that they should be vaccinated (or take any other step regarded as being in the ‘public good’) or shame them into doing it; are there times when shaming is the only option; could there be unwelcome consequences of shaming, if it leads to greater prejudice against a certain section of the community?
Lord, there are trade-offs in life between ‘my’ freedom and someone else’s freedom. Sometimes they can be achieved with reason and mutual goodwill on both sides, but sometimes one or other party digs their heels in. It happens in major issues of public life, it happens in small private matters. Help us to cope when we find ourselves in that position. Help governments and those in authority to cope when faced with issues like people choosing not to be vaccinated