The antivax tantrum

Few of us are engaging anymore, because there's no point.

Canadian anti-vaccination activists have been throwing a tantrum.

They’ve been blockading hospitals. During the election they were throwing gravel at political events. Yelling and swearing at candidates. Vandalizing candidates’ personal property and election signs.

They say it’s because they’ve been “pushed too far.” They say that the government is limiting freedom. They claim they want to be left alone, but they’re often in your face, demanding to be taken seriously. It’s late in 2021 – almost two years into the global COVID pandemic that has killed almost five million worldwide – and some people still don’t think it’s real or that science can be trusted. How did we get to this place?

It started almost as soon as the vaccines rolled out.

Limits and liberty

A lot of us got pretty emotional when we got vaccinated. We took selfies. We texted our friends. We were happy. Because we thought it meant a return to normalcy. But the vaccine-hesitant folks weren’t so sure. A lot of smart people in health care explained and took
time to discuss and debate with them. Some of the hesitant came around. But not enough. So, to improve vaccination rates, governments introduced vaccine passports. Lots more hesitant people got vaccinated. In every place that has introduced vaccine passports, the result has been a sudden uptick in vaccinations – including here in Canada.

If you believe vaccines save lives, and if you know that vaccine requirements raise vaccination rates, and if you want unvaccinated children to be better protected, and if you want to keep the ICUs free for use by cancer patients and other vulnerable people, then vaccine passports are a no-brainer – and no different from any other regulation designed to protect health.

If you don’t believe/trust the evidence around vaccines, remember that vaccinations are not compulsory – you can still choose to not get a vaccine, it simply means that you’re opting out of certain activities. Similar to how we changed the health rules around smoking in restaurants – you can still smoke; you just can’t blow it in my face when I’m trying to eat. Liberty always comes with such limits.

But you can’t tell that to an antivaxxer activist. In fact, there’s very little you can tell them.

Freedom & responsibility

On Facebook and on Twitter, very few of us are still engaging with them anymore because there’s no point. And they’re mad about that. The country is moving on without them. And they’re mad about that. Governments are making legislation that protects people’s health – and they’re mad about that, too.

That’s been the consistent message from this group since the pandemic started. It’s a group whose only position with everything since this pandemic started is “I don’t wanna.” Like a toddler yelling before nap time. Nothing more complex or noble than that – just a group of people who think freedom is the right to do whatever they want, and who would rather believe complex conspiracies than embrace a simple truth: that freedom to do as we choose is always balanced with the responsibility we share to each other.

I’m glad a lot of hesitant folks have come around lately. That’s great and it takes guts. And they deserve thanks.

But the antivax activist crowd – they’re not going to come around any time soon. They’ve confused their passion for their ideas with the correctness of their ideas. Their hatred of certain politicians and leaders with their own superior moral authority. They’re mad – beyond reason – and they’re going to continue holding onto junk science and propaganda and misinformation and the latest meme because the alternative – that they’ve been duped – is too hard to accept.

The antivaxxer activists know that there is no more debate. No more pretending all opinions are equal. No more polite indulging of their latest hare-brained meme or YouTube video. Most of us are just quietly moving on. While these folks are stamping their feet and calling names.

Let’s hope the tantrum passes soon.

  • Lloyd Rang works in communications and is a member of Rehoboth CRC in Bowmanville.

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