By Nico Kulmann –
Like much of the UK and the wider world, Huddersfield’s town centre has suffered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions put in place to try and stop the spread. With vaccines now widespread in the community and having proved their effectiveness, should they now be made mandatory?
Stacy* has had both vaccines and a booster jab, but she feels she can’t speak to her siblings about it.
“My sister had coronavirus and she got the jabs after, but my brothers are dead set on not getting it,” She said.
Two of them are sort of conspiracy theory types – not full-on 5G melts your brain levels of conspiracy – but they think the vaccine was rushed and they exaggerate the side effects.”
Her mother was a carer for elderly and disabled people, and was initially against taking the vaccine, Stacy notes that “If they would have made it mandatory she would have happily left her job”.
Stacy thinks a large cause for vaccine hesitancy in the public is to do with the government’s prominent role in advertising and promoting the vaccine, and that a broader distrust of the government is the real reason for vaccine hesitancy.
She said: “I think that’s why mum didn’t take it initially. She did get the jabs after she caught the virus, she suffered pretty badly from [Covid-19] actually, but she never really trusted the government and I think that’s what put her off [of taking the vaccine].
“With her being a carer, if it was just an NHS thing then she probably would’ve taken the vaccines before she got infected, but with how much the government got involved it put her off.”
It’s a story heard across much of the UK, and many people claim they have relatives who got infected with Covid-19 and took the vaccines afterwards, but a lot of their relatives that didn’t get infected are staunchly against taking and especially against mandating the vaccine.
One anonymous person I spoke to believed the vaccine should be made mandatory as they have a child with special needs who had lost access to many carers throughout the lockdowns. When asked about other peoples’ freedom to choose whether or not they get vaccinated, her reply was “What about peoples’ freedom to not get infected?”
Another man I asked was more on the fence about mandating the vaccine. He also brought up the freedom to choose to be vaccinated vs freedom to not be infected by others’ debate.
“I’m generally against making things mandatory,” he said. “I knew a lady who caught [Covid-19] bad, and she had kids too so they had a rough time, but I’m personally split about making it mandatory, it’s a tough call.”
There are many arguments to be made from both sides, with many eager to bring up major incidents such as the Thalidomide tragedy to argue that the vaccines’ novelty is a serious cause for concern.
Others bring up the MMR vaccine, which was introduced in the UK in 1988 and is still in place today, to argue that medical professionals can and should be trusted.
One man I spoke to brought up the MMR vaccine and the medical industry’s opinion on its safety: “All the doctors back then said it was safe – apart from one or two who just wanted to get into the newspapers – and look at us now, we’ve eradicated [measles, mumps and rubella]. I don’t see why we can’t do the same for Covid-19”.
N.B. Please note, of the diseases quoted above, only Rubella has been officially announced as eliminated in the UK by the World Health Organisation, in 2015. Measles and mumps cases have increased in recent years according to the Vaccine Knowledge Project and historyofvaccines.org.
So should it be made mandatory? There are currently no mandatory vaccines in the UK, but many other countries are also talking about enforcing Covid-19 vaccinations.
I believe it is worth mentioning that while most of the people I spoke to support mandating the Covid-19 vaccine, they all said they had relatives who wouldn’t take the vaccine. It is also worth bearing in mind that most people I spoke to were elderly, one man even in his 90s, whereas there tends to be a higher vaccine hesitancy amongst the younger population. I think an accurate prediction of what a vote on the matter would result in is impossible, given how many people are unwilling to talk about the topic.
Regardless, as we move towards a life where the worries about Covid-19 seem to be diminishing, it’s worth asking whether a mandate would be needed at all.
*All the people spoken to for this story agreed to do so on the request of anonymity. Stacy asked to not use her real name and is a pseudonym.