Levelling up: a solution to antivaxerism

There’s been some good news on the local vaccine front, with a UQ vaccine project passing safety tests and showing early indications of effectiveness. With so many projects going ahead around the world, it seems likely we will have some usable vaccines by next year. On the other hand, based on past experience with similar diseases like influenza, it seems unlikely that vaccines will be perfectly effective. So, we’ll be living with some kinds of restrictions for the foreseeable future.

The prospect of a vaccine has, unsurprisingly, raised a lot of concern about anti-vaxerism and vaccine hesitancy, not helped by Scott Morrison’s short-lived suggestion that the vaccine should be mandatory. While there has been a fair bit of handwringing on this topic, our experience with varying levels of restrictions means that we have a fairly straightforward solution to the problem.

The characteristic of a pandemic is that everyone poses some level of risk to everyone else with whom they come into contact. Restrictions impose costs but reduce that risk.

The same is true of vaccines. As well as protecting those vaccinated to some extent, vaccines help to reduce the risk that we will infect others. On the other hand, they hurt, they pose a (probably small) risk of side-effects, and even if they aren’t actually dangerous, they are scary.

The crucial implication of this is that restrictions and vaccines are substitutes. A vaccinated person leading a normal, pre-Covid life poses a risk to others that can be matched by an unvaccinated person operating under some of the restrictions we have all experienced so far. Similarly, a vaccinated person who observes the basic restrictions (social distancing, masks, handwashing) might be comparable to an unvaccinated person on Level 2 or Level 3 restrictions (no bars, restaurant dining, large family groups and so on).

Assuming that we can get an expert assessment of the risks, we can make vaccination a matter of personal choice: the vaccine and low-level restrictions, or no vaccine and higher restrictions. Just as with that other highly risky activity, driving, this could be implemented through a license. But of course, starting from scratch, most of us wouldn’t need a physical license – this could be done with a QR code stored on phones, something much simpler than the ill-fated CovidSafe app.

Of course, there will still be objectors, like those who refuse both vaccines and other measures like masks, not to mention unlicensed drivers. But we are already working out how to deal with mask-refusers, border-hoppers and others. Even if compliance isn’t perfect, we will have a solution that works for most.

18 thoughts on “Levelling up: a solution to antivaxerism

  1. It should be a matter of personal choice between having the vaccine or receiving a good bloody colonial style flogging and š˜š—µš—²š—» having the vaccine.

  2. People who break the law are subject to penalties, and some are locked up. That’s true for unlicensed drivers as I mentioned, as well as people who breach pandemic restrictions. Are you suggesting that antivaxers should get a special right to break the law without consequences? Or something else?

  3. First such a law must be enacted. That may entail quite a battle! I’m ok with locking any antivaxer pandemic restriction offenders up, and possibly charging them for costs incurred. It may be either that, or lock up others. Perhaps an antivaxer homeland that would suit them, that would see them voluntarily flock to it, could be carved out of Australia… on Chrismas Island?

  4. I’m in favour. But then I love vaccines and have had every shot that the doc will give me, including annual flu shots. Ever since I saw someone get 16 rabies shots after a dog bite in China. My personal angst is the thought that I might get dengue fever again someday, for which there is no vaccine.
    Locking up antivaxxers is extremist talk; no jab no entry (to bars, sports arenas, restaurants, theatres, shopping malls, schools, playgrounds, playgroups and banks) should be enough.

  5. Something of a parallel to what may occur is a current case in Melbourne of a 58 year old self-declared antimasker and ‘sovereign citizen’ with claims of immunity from Australian law. Not a declared antivaxer (so far), but imprisoned on remand at what must be higher than usual costs of court, incarceration, and legals (legal aid?)

    Mask up to get bail, alleged anti-masker told

  6. Assuming we don’t let the virus rip in order to stimulate the undertaking business, we should contain the virus. The most effective way to contain it is to wipe it out. So, hopefully, there will be no SARS-CoV-2 in Australia by the time a vaccine is ready. Because it will take time to produce the vaccine there won’t be enough for everyone at first. All else equal, not giving it to people who don’t want to take it may be an effective way to ration it. By the time there is enough vaccine available to be at the point where vaccinating the reluctant would benefit others in Australia, the ethical thing is likely to be to instead give the vaccine to other countries that have failed to eradicate the virus so they can save lives. By the time the vaccine is no longer required to save lives overseas, the virus should be close to eliminated world wide and so there may be no need to give the vaccine to the unwilling ever. The tiny risk of taking a vaccine may outweigh the advantage of gaining immunity to an extinct set of virus strains.

    Of course, to prevent free riding in the future, we can given everyone who got vaccinated a pony or something.

    Of course, if Australia has wiped out the virus there is a good ethical argument that we should give all or almost all the vaccine to people overseas — but I haven’t seen much evidence that we’re likely to be that altruistic.

  7. Any idea on how laws mandating the disjunction of (vaccinate or else maintain personal restrictions) would fare in the Senate? One Nation would obviously be against, and I can readily imagine Malcolm Roberts (and presumably Hanson likewise) threatening to vote against all other government legislation unless the disjunctive law were either completely kiboshed or caveated into irrelevance. Not to mention the Craig Kellys in the Coalition making it hard to get proposed in the first place.

    (I should go without saying that, in “the other place”, George Christensen would loudly threaten to cross the floor, and then not do it)

    It made me laugh that Morrison so firmly declared that he was “not for turning” on making a vaccine mandatory, and then within 24 hours…!

  8. @Jones As I understand it, most of these restrictions have been introduced at the state level under existing legislation. But you would certainly want the support of the major parties for any vaccine policy.

  9. I think that those who are claiming that they are a sovereign citizen should be encouraged to return to Sovereign, where they belong.

  10. Citizens are not sovereign citizens. They are “communireign” citizens with all that implies. Rights are not freestanding without responsibilities.

    I too suspect that if a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it will be only about 50% effective as J.Q. says. That raises some important issues. It will be an assistance towards eradication of the virus but eradication will still require other measures to continue until eradication; testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine.

    Certainly, to obtain a passport and exit and entry visas, a person should need a COVID-19 vaccination if and when it is available. Within Australia, for indoor venues people will require something like J.Q.’s suggestion of a QR code on devices.

    Personally, I will be a mid or slightly late up-taker of the vaccination option. Since I would continue self-imposed hard isolation up to that point, I would be something like 99.9999% safe from others and they from me.

    If I was 30 years old, had no medical preconditions and was going to work, I would optionally take it up moderately early or non-optionally accept it even earlier. If I could, I would wait for 7% to 15% of the population to have received the vaccine and see what the empirical outcomes were on adverse reactions and protection, when data became available. If all looked satisfactory then I would get it. Although when I was actually 30 I would have just said, “WTF, I’ll get it when work offers it for free.” Free vaccination days at workplaces will be one of the ways to go I think.

  11. That makes sense, which is why it will never happen anywhere. Still losing my fate in humanity regarding covid apps. Facebook has at least twice as many users in just about any nation.

  12. Oh, here are the reasons some corona app non users with state of the art smartphones gave me (all over 30):
    “Blue tooth uses too much battery so i could not play as long harry potter anymore”
    “It does not work anyway, since i could also be infected at an encounter the app does not consider risky enough to track”
    “Because i dont want too”

  13. I heard about the Corona app multiple times but none of the information addressed whether or not a person using it could be required to go into isolation on the basis of what their phone said. People dislike uncertainty and that’s a big chunk right there. And it’s no good saying detailed information is available on the internet. Send 100 people to get information about a covid mobile phone app from the internet and 15 will come away believing 5G towers spread it.

  14. There are some entertaining sovereign citizen videos on youtube where they get filmed explaining their version of the law to police officers at road blocks etc . One guy was driving an unregistered vehicle with his license suspended and demanded to be let through a road block .Spouting pseudo legal gibberish it took 20 minutes for the cops to lose patience with him. People were waiting behind him the whole time and the big cop finally yelled ‘ get your car out of the way NOW ! ‘ , which seemed to surprise him . The sovereign woman ,whose footage of herself trying to get into Bunnings without a mask got on the TV news, has since had her side window smashed and was dragged out of her car. There have been lots of fines issued in Victoria and the Murdoch press is calling Dan Andrews ‘Chairman Dan’ .

    A friend has just flown back home to China . It was an expensive and difficult to organise flight ,he has to do hotel quarantine at his own expense and put their tracking app on his phone .

  15. JQ said “lot of concern about anti-vaxerism””

    ” theĀ hetero-dynamic property clusterĀ (HDPC) model. According to the HDPC model, delusions are mental states characterized by an odd and unstable cluster of features, which, when manifested, gives delusions the appearance of straddling the line between two distinct types of attitudes”


    Delusions as Hetero-Dynamic Property Clusters

    Shelby Clipp

    Date of Award

    Degree Type

    Degree Name
    Master of Arts (MA)


    First Advisor
    Neil Van Leeuwen

    Second Advisor
    Dan Weiskopf

    The standard position in psychiatry maintains that delusions areĀ beliefs. However, the features of delusions often diverge from those typically associated with belief. This discrepancy has given rise to what I refer to as theĀ doxastic status debate,Ā which concerns whether delusions are best characterized as ā€œbeliefs.ā€ Despite efforts, there has been little progress in settling this debate. I argue that the debate has been stymied because itā€™s largely a verbal dispute (Chalmers, 2011). I then attempt to advance the debate into substantive territory by putting forward theĀ hetero-dynamic property clusterĀ (HDPC) model. According to the HDPC model, delusions are mental states characterized by an odd and unstable cluster of features, which, when manifested, gives delusions the appearance of straddling the line between two distinct types of attitudes.”

    Clipp, Shelby, “Delusions as Hetero-Dynamic Property Clusters.” Thesis, Georgia State University, 2020.

    Via Imperfect Cognitions

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