In Thoughts

Musing from the Manse – 16th January 2022

The controversy surrounding Tennis star, Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia, has placed a timely spotlight on the ethics of vaccination. Regardless of the specifics of this headline, the question it presents is this: should individuals have the right to decide whether they are vaccinated, or not? Vocal public opinion has, understandably, supported the need for vaccination as a means of protecting us all, and our health service, against crisis. However, the court of public opinion becomes unhelpful when we attribute to those who take an opposite view the blanket slur of ‘anti-vaxxers’. I can be objective enough to see the difference between those who are anti-vaccination writ large, and those who have, for their own reasons, decided that the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t right for them at this time.

I don’t know the specifics of Novak’s position, but reports say that he has concerns about the risk the vaccine has to heart-health, and the impact this could have on his career. Regardless of whether I agree with his analysis, he, like everyone else, has the right to come to his own mind, and to decide for himself what can, and can’t, be allowed into his own body. We could extend this ethical dilemma by introducing the question of fair distribution of vaccines around the world. Should, for example, a young, healthy person with no underlying health conditions, and, no doubt, access to excellent healthcare, deprive an older or more vulnerable person living in somewhere like Mumbai, or Soweto, or Bogotá, a chance to have the vaccine? After all, the only way that pandemic will become endemic is when the whole world can manage the risks of covid. When looked at this way, we can see that the ethical considerations are far more nuanced than vocal public opinion might have us believe.

As a faith-community with a high-percentage of older, more vulnerable members, it’s entirely natural and understandable that we encourage those who can, to be vaccinated. But we need to guard against making blanket judgements about those who, for their own considered reasons, do not feel able to take part in the programme at this point. And let’s not forget that there are many children out there who can’t yet have the vaccine and are too young to wear masks. They need protecting by society too. We can help them, and others not yet vaccinated, by protecting their personal space in places like shops, by wearing masks when we can, if we can, and by promoting good hygiene. Jesus was always one for those on the margins. Let’s ensure that we don’t forget those on the margins of this debate, and engage constructively with the issues they present.

In Christ, Tim.