There are ongoing and heated discussions around whether individuals should be vaccinated for COVID-19. Some of the questions being asked by those who don’t want to be vaccinated include: “Why must I get vaccinated?” “How can they refuse entry to non-vaccinated people?” “How can they force me to vaccinate before I can enter the shops or go to a restaurant?”
These are understandable questions but need to be considered broadly in terms of everyone’s rights. One way to explain this is to use the example of parenting. As you raise your children, you tend to allow them some levels of freedom, with a bit of risk, knowing they will make mistakes. Sometimes we regret these decisions, all the while knowing that we want them to learn. To understand there are consequences for their actions. As part of this process, we want them to understand that we need to respect each other’s opinions, and that everyone does not always look at things the same way. We encourage sports at school, teaching them teamwork and comradery.
The problem is that we seem to forget these things in our own lives, with the vaccination issue being an example of this. The issue is freedom of choice. If I choose to be vaccinated and I have that freedom to choose, then you should have the same freedom to choose not to be vaccinated. However, a shop owner also has choices and may decide that they only want to sell to vaccinated people. It must be noted that the shop owner is also duty bound under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 8, to keep their premises as safe as is reasonably practicable and could be liable if anything were to happen to one of his / her employees. Conversely, another shop owner might be willing to sell to all customers regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. As we have rights to decide on whether to be vaccinated or not, so the shop owner has rights to decide on who enters their store.
Perhaps we must settle on the fact that we all enjoy the freedoms we have, and that we shouldn’t impose our opinions on others. Not being vaccinated is a choice, but with that choice comes consequences that, whilst it may feel that your freedom is being compromised, the mere fact that you currently have an option to choose is freedom in its own right.
- Morne’ Oosthuizen, LabourNet Port Elizabeth
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