You know what? Hands up. At the very beginning of the vaccine rollout, we at Gript were very critical of how slow and poorly co-ordinated it was. We ended up having a rollout that was significantly slower than that in the UK and Northern Ireland, and there was, indeed, much to criticise. But it would be dishonest to criticise the slow start to the vaccination process without acknowledging that as the months went on, it improved dramatically, and has become legitimately one of the best in the world. That is a credit to Irish public administration, and they should receive some deserved praise:
As of 21 July, 3,026,154 people have at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, equal to 80.7% of the adult population.
2,490,646 have received both doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines or the single-shot Janssen vaccine, meaning two out of every three adults are fully vaccinated (66.42%).
The problem, of course, is that praising the success of the Irish Government in achieving what is genuinely a herculean task is sort of pointless. After all, they themselves are still behaving as if they have vaccinated about 10% of the population, rather than 66 or 80%, depending on how you count it.
The big question now is at what point vaccinations slow down. Basically (with some exceptions, but basically) anybody over the age of 18 who wants a vaccine can now get one. We are about to find out, over the next six weeks or so, exactly how many anti-vaxxers (or, perhaps to be more charitable, people wary of the vaccine) Ireland has. Opinion polls have constantly put the figure at about ten per cent. Personally, my bet is that it will end up being lower than that.
Which is, of course, the biggest problem for those of us opposed to vaccine passports and covid certs or whatever you want to call them. Even personally, though the idea of discriminating against the unvaccinated is an appalling breach of human rights, in my view, the fact is that as a vaccinated person, it also does not affect me at all. And, let’s be honest, because it does not affect me at all, and because my own vaccination went fine and caused no problems, as expected, there is a part of me that just wants to say “suck it up and get the jab, for heaven’s sake”. Your problem, if you are in the camp of people who don’t want a vaccine, and hate vaccine passports, is that somebody like me is on your side. If people like me feel that way, how does the average voter feel? Less sympathetic again, would be my (safe) bet.
The best argument that people opposing vaccine passports have, actually, is that vaccine takeup has been so widespread. When 80% or more of Irish people have taken a vaccine, and will have substantial immunity against Covid very shortly, the question becomes this: What, exactly, is the need for this discrimination?
Herd immunity, after all, is widely believed to kick in when 60-70% of people have immunity. That is where Ireland should be….. right about now. Obviously, because the vaccines don’t eliminate all cases, we will still have cases. But the risk posed to society by the unvaccinated should be shrinking rapidly. Why, then, at this of all hours, is there a massive push to exclude them?
Part of it, if people are honest with themselves, is entirely punitive. A vaccinated majority, embracing, to varying extents, a culture war attitude of “dissent, do you? Take this, so”. The idea of compelling people to do something they hate might seem completely wrong to you, but to a certain cohort in Irish society, the idea of forcing people to do something they don’t want to do, or taking away rights if they refuse, is positively thrilling. There is also the problem that after 18 months of a pandemic, people feel like their vaccine passports are like a personal certificate of good citizenship – the equivalent of soldiers getting medals after a world war. Something to show the grandchildren, and say “I served”. It is very hard to combat that kind of psychology.
Anyway, the pandemic as a threat is functionally over. All of this is just a society trying to work its way towards realising that. The problem is, at least in Ireland, that an awful lot of people are finding Covid very hard to quit.