Denouncing vaccine critics doesn’t build trust – it undermines it.

It would be interesting to see Simon Harris being asked about how safe vaccines are in the context of the government’s decision to indemnify manufacturers and take on the risk of paying out millions from the taxpayer in compensation to anybody who suffers a serious adverse reaction.

After all, if the vaccine is safe, why is there a need for an indemnity? That’s a perfectly fair question. It’s a question many people have. But Simon Harris hasn’t even been asked, in public at least, to answer it, because journalists are so afraid of being seen as “anti-vax”.

This is, after all, the same minister who thought Covid-19 was the 19th coronavirus the world has had to contend with. And now he is lecturing us on the dangers of “pseudo-science”, effectively dismissing those who might have legitimate concerns about a vaccine that is entering phase four of its trials.

The moral panic among Irish elites about asking dangerous questions seems to be reaching fever pitch, as politicians, scribes and scholars join forces in the pursuit of herd immunity via inoculation, denouncing any questioners as conspiracy theorists or deranged.

Harris’ latest attempt to silence TD’s who reportedly expressed reluctance about taking the vaccine is of a piece with the attitude displayed in TV studios and newsrooms around the world.

“When I read in the weekend newspapers – I won’t name them because they’re not here – different TDs explaining different reasons why they wouldn’t take a vaccine, that needs to stop,” Harris told This Week in Politics.

The idea seems to be that if all dissent and all questions are silenced, dissent and questions will simply disappear. But, in fact, the opposite is the case. Because people can see how blatant the propaganda campaign (and it is a propaganda campaign, even if you agree with it) is.

A Trinity finance professor, for example, has bravely faced the applause from other Twitterati for supporting coercive tactics that many people feel are not far away. Do tweets like these ease concerns, or heighten them?

https://twitter.com/brianmlucey/status/1332998548233793536

In the past those with infectious diseases had to ring a bell and shout “Unclean!”, but the desire now seems to be that the 21st century leper will find there is no room at any inn if a vaccine isn’t yet on their Christmas wish-list.

Perhaps a more sensible solution would be to inform people of the benefits, risks and unknowns about the injection, debate the hard questions openly, and let those who want the vaccine get it.

Those who do not wish to get it should not be punished. A transparent approach would also breed more trust between the reluctant and those in authority.

Such a suggestion is now portrayed as radical, dangerous and anti-vax, but to those of us who are not entranced by the zeitgeist it remains more becoming of an apparently free world to let the individual decide just how much healthcare they want, rather than employing coercion and the threat of lost freedoms to bring about immunity.

The alternative of excluding unvaccinated citizens from day-to-day activities based on a small chance that the 95%-effective vaccine doesn’t work is about as divisive and intolerant as any policy could be.

Despite often lecturing us on inclusion, tolerance and compassion, all three values are being thrown by the wayside in the race to appear virtuous and denounce our fellow citizens.

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