COUNTING THE COST

Front-line workers – in healthcare, in law enforcement, and so on – have every right to refuse to be vaccinated. Their employers – hospitals, police departments, and so on – have every right not to let them on the job-site until they are. But people are dying – in hospitals and on the streets – because there aren’t enough of these front-line workers. And this is only being exacerbated by blocking unvaccinated workers from their job-sites. So what to do?

If these vaccination mandates were dropped, then some people will be infected who otherwise wouldn’t be. So one question is, what kills more people in the short term: unvaccinated front-line workers or the shortage of front-line workers? And who is responsible for these deaths, the employer or the refuseniks? But the other question is, what are the longer-term consequences of allowing, and therefore encouraging, this kind of defiance?

But yet a third question is, do essential service workers, like nurses and police officers, have the right to withdraw their services, if, in their view, acceding to their employers’ demands puts them in harm’s way? Certainly not if they’re soldiers. But nurses and police officers aren’t soldiers. 

Some people think the issue comes down to the ‘science’. The ‘science’ tells them to get vaccinated. But which science? Whose science? The employers’ science? But that just begs the question.

That wrong decisions cost lives is hardly breaking news. But wrong decisions need not be wrongfully made. If and when this pandemic is over we’ll know which decisions were right and which were wrong. But that won’t impact the debate taking place right now about the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the decision-protocols currently being employed. There has to be a number – a number we can settle on before the fact – of the lives we’re prepared to lose to preserve the freedoms that are at stake here. I say it’s 78 million Americans, and I’ll leave it to you to guess which. But 28,000 Canadians is already giving me pause. 



Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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6 replies

  1. Viminitz says, “The other question is, what are the longer-term consequences of allowing, and therefore encouraging, this kind of defiance?”

    ‘An’-other, rather than ‘the’ other question. What are the longer-term consequences of NOT allowing …this kind of defiance? And so on. There are empirical answers to these questions, but the tidal wave of considerata certainly makes them difficult to find.

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  2. In case anyone missed it: On deck for a policy decision Oct. 26, whether or not those who lose their jobs for not complying with their employers’ covid policies are eligible for EI.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ei-vax-status-1.6220287

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  3. I think the answer to this situation is simple: stop working for a flawed system, system will disappear and we will have a chance to build a proper system. And the numbers which giving everyone a pause shows how flawed the system is.

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  4. I had figured I had nothing to say about this because it looked as if it would be just the usual public-sector-union power game against the government employers. The only question would be who would blink. And the governments are blinking at least for (largely) unionized health-care workers. What happens in the private sector or with EI will eventually be adjudicated by the Courts. So again not particularly interesting.

    My only comment is that the first stake is really the impact on ICUs When they are full, the health care system cannot respond to serious emergencies or do much of anything except try to cope with Covid. A highly medicalized society suffers from the withdrawal of that which keeps it alive. And this drives the entire social and economic dislocation that has resulted from the pandemic. Deaths we can shrug off. As some countries almost literally did, given the age and socio-economic class distribution of the deaths. The ICUs were dominated by younger patients (but still more 60s than 30s even though the latter were in the news.)

    The other stake is health equity. As cases in Ontario decline toward an endemic plateau we can now detect small brush-fires of contagion in our poorer rural and northern public health units especially in the decaying cores of small cities. Cases in the Toronto area no longer dominate the daily statistics. I think you are seeing this in Alberta as well. Covid will likely morph into a scourge of poor minorities just as HIV did before it and rheumatic fever and tuberculosis did before that.

    Those who will decide what to do about the unvaccinated health-care worker will need to look at the impact of the policy choice on both ICU demand and the issues of fairness in access to care by the people who are going to suffer endemically

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    • Leslie makes some excellent points here, not the least of which being that the costs/benefit analysis varies between, say Toronto and northern Ontario. Ignoring these differences is precisely what grounds grievances from some of these more isolated communities. So province-wide mandates or relaxations are not always equitable. I’m just grateful that these very complicated decisions don’t fall on my watch! I’m just a inert academic.

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