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Poll: 47% of Irish voters support… compulsory vaccinations?

Hoo boy:

The numbers rise a bit, too, if you ask voters if the vaccine should be mandatory for children attending schools, up to a clear majority: 62%:

And what number would take a vaccine, assuming the authorities declared it safe? Higher again, at 74%:

Compulsory vaccination, obviously, is a horrendously bad idea. For one thing, it is a complete breach of a person’s right to bodily integrity. Yes, it may be only minimally invasive and cause no long-term damage, but you can say that about any range of medical procedures. Would we, for example, consider making it compulsory to provide a sample of your DNA to a national criminal database? You’d probably solve a whole range of unsolved crimes, and it’s minimally invasive, and those who were innocent of crimes would have nothing to fear. But we don’t do it, because we recognise a right to privacy, and a right to bodily integrity.

Second, compulsory vaccination would be one thing if Coronavirus had a fatality rate of 20% or something like that. But for all the trouble it’s caused, it remains a relatively harmless illness in the overwhelming majority of people it infects. In fact, the primary threat it poses to society as a whole is the threat of overwhelming health services with hospitalisations. If 70% of the population are vaccinated, voluntarily, then you’ll probably achieve everything you want to achieve anyway, since the virus will have vastly fewer opportunities to spread through the community.

Third: It’s highly unlikely to be necessary.

74% of people say they would take the vaccine as things stand. But that number is likely to rise, not fall. For one thing, a good portion of the opposition to it seems to come from Sinn Fein voters, as evidenced in another poll this weekend:

That indicates that at least some of the opposition is not opposition to a vaccine, but opposition to, and distrust of, the Government, being expressed as opposition to a vaccine. Once Mary Lou McDonald is filmed getting her Covid vaccine, a good portion of those Sinn Fein voters will change their minds.

Also: Opposition to compulsory vaccination is simply too high for it to work. Note in the figures above that support is highest amongst the over 55’s. That matters, but it matters more that support is lower amongst parents of school-age children. If something like a third of all parents oppose compulsory vaccinations for their children, then that’s an absolute nightmare for politicians in suburban constituencies around Dublin.

It also makes implementing it a real PR headache – one of the problems with the various conspiracy theories about compulsory vaccinations is that if people just refuse, what’s going to happen? No Government on this planet that is seeking re-election wants to send policemen into people’s homes to seize and inject their children, with all the attendant youtube videos and news reports and sense of general hysteria that would result from that.

No, if the vaccine becomes compulsory, then it will be the private sector, not the public sector, that makes it compulsory. It’s much easier to imagine airlines and hotels and restaurants demanding evidence of vaccination than it is to imagine Gardai breaking down doors to drag ten year olds off to a vaccination centre.

The only thing Governments might be tempted to do is to require the vaccine as a requirement for entering the country in the first place. That would be nice and popular with lots of domestic voters, because it would be targeted at foreigners, but could not be described as racist. And of course, if other countries reciprocate, then the net effect would be no international travel without having the vaccine. The Irish Government wouldn’t be making it compulsory for Irish people – but the French and Spanish and German and British Governments would. And you can’t vote them out. Your local TD will sympathise and shake his head sadly at the badness of the Germans, but that’s about it.

For all those reasons, the Government can probably be fairly confident that many more than 74% of people will end up getting vaccinated “voluntarily”.

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