“Come on, there’s no way I’ll need a vaccine to enter a supermarket! You seriously believe that conspiracy nonsense?! You need to get off Facebook!”.

Now this was a typical conversation between friends & family in 2020. The internet was awash with all kinds of conspiracy theories. One of these predicted being required to verify your vaccine status to enter gyms, restaurants and other such services. Most people reacted saying that this would never happen.

Roll on less than a year and Ireland is now actively considering copying the system Israel is using which mandates vaccine verification for all services. Tánaiste Varadkar confirmed that the decision would be made “sometime in June when about half the population will have at least one dose at that stage” . He also confirmed that the IT system is already in place and will “allow us to produce a vaccine certificate [digital]”.

Should the taking of vaccines be mandated to protect others for the greater good with the penalty being social exclusion? This raises fundamental ethical, constitutional and societal implications. On the face of it, it seems like blatant discrimination to strip away fundamental human rights as vaccines have inherent risks including death. Some will argue vehemently that the means justify the ends but this would be a clear departure, both culturally & politically, from the western individual-centred philosophy.

Once one medical treatment is mandated, what is then stopping the State from considering citizens be ‘morally expected to offer’ a spare kidney, for instance; or would that be just wrong? Once such powers have been given to the State, it stands to reason that there is real risk that these powers could be used in the future for nefarious purposes.

Unless vaccinated, Israel is now restricting and preventing access to work thus removing the right to earn a living. This effectively coerces adults into taking a vaccine as many will have no other choice as they need to support of their families.

Do we then progress the same argument to children mandating that the vaccine being conditional to their right to access education? It then becomes logical that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children leave the State no other choice but to intervene to ensure that the children are not unjustly marginalised? This may then necessitate the removal of the children from the parents’ care which would inevitably damage the children’s emotional development perhaps fracturing the family forever.

The vaccine ‘hesitant’ would be socially excluded affecting friendships and families. They would not be able to attend traditional events such as weddings, church, communions and funerals. Health passports for international travel would mean parents, grandparents and children becoming separated forever.

Is this really the society we want?

[1] February 28, 2021: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40235168.html