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It’s official – Pauline Hanson will not be getting vaccinated if a COVID shot becomes available some time next year. She made this emphatically clear when asked for her views on such a vaccine being made mandatory by the Federal Government. Adding that she was not an anti-vaxxer, she expressed a sentiment that has attracted minority support during the current pandemic – obviously some people don’t like being told by the Government what to do.  

Whilst an effective vaccine could be many months away, the Government has already made plans to conduct a mass vaccination of the Australian population and raised the question of whether it will be mandatory of not. Scott Morrison originally stated that it might, but quickly backflipped and the current indication is that it will not be compulsory. However, financial and other penalties could be imposed on those who choose not to get the jab.

Given the public’s widespread compliance with social distancing, mass testing and the wearing of masks it would be fair to predict a fairly universal take up of the vaccine, achieving what is considered a 95% herd immunity. There will be of course a minority, like some anti-vaxxers and stalwart libertarians, who refuse to be inoculated.

How their refusal will play out if an effective vaccine does eventuate, remains to be seen and raises all kinds of ethical and legal questions. The Government has already set a precedent with policies like reducing the family tax benefit where a child does not meet normal immunisation requirements. And last week the Health Minister Greg Hunt indicated a possible “no jab, no pay” measure, where some welfare payments would be conditional on a vaccine take up.

When it comes to legal enforcement there are already precedents in Australia where the court has authorised the vaccination of a child against the wishes of at least one parent. This could possibly apply in the case of a child with a badly reduced immune system and medical advice that a COVID vaccination was essential.

How those who refuse vaccination will be treated in the private sector and the legal ramifications are also open to wide debate. Can an employer for example  dismiss an employee who refuses vaccination on the grounds that they are a danger to their patrons – in a café, a restaurant, a pub or a nursing home for example? Can a community sporting team exclude a player who knocks back a COVID vaccination and will some evidence of the jab be mandatory for entry to any large crowd gathering like a football match or music festival?

Internationally some countries might choose to deny visas to those foreign visitors who don’t provide evidence of a COVID vaccination. And if you are looking to book a cruise on the recently sanitised Ruby Princess or any other cruise liner, will you need to be fully vaccinated?

Historically any government initiatives that appear to impinge on the rights of the individual have been met with some opposition, be it the compulsory wearing of seat belts, the restriction of firearms or even the banning of non-reusable plastic bags from supermarkets. Remember Andrew Bolt’s annoyance at the latter!

We have already seen some very small protests against the various lockdowns and the wearing of masks in Australia, far more vocal in America and other parts of the world. Back in June of this year a number of US polls indicated that only 50% of the population were committed to receiving a COVID vaccine and another 25% were wavering. Those figures may well have changed dramatically in the last six to seven weeks given the increasing death toll and number of infections.

What we could find with those who view any semblance of mandatory or incentivised vaccination as a violation of their basic rights is a totally expedient response, given the current financial impact. It’s a realisation that if the virus is not eradicated or fully contained, their own economic future is bleak. Go ahead you bastards – jab me if it means I’ll be back in a job and paying my rent next week.

In the meantime let’s ponder on the extreme reaction of some US evangelical Christians who see any COVID vaccine as “the mark of the beast”. Like the rantings of the esteemed Reverend Ralph Drollinger, preaching to White House administrators and staff, who blamed the pandemic on those with “a proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality” as well as environmentalists and people with “depraved minds”. Yikes!

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