Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Glen Argan: Personal liberty, yes, but common good comes first

By 
  • November 10, 2021

Today, I phoned to book a haircut only to find that Pat, my stylist of the past two years, had died of the delta variant of COVID. When I last saw him in late August, he looked fit and healthy as ever. I phoned back a month later to set my next haircut appointment but was told Pat was off work because he was having back problems. He died shortly after that call.

Pat was 70, but he looked and acted 15 years younger. A native of Italy, he had run his shop for 25 years. Besides being friendly and healthy, he was careful to protect his clients from the virus. I recall him saying he had been fully vaccinated as we both wondered how people could be so self-centred as to refuse to protect themselves and others from the pandemic.

The woman who did cut my hair remained upset by Pat’s death. She had worked for him for 19 years and regarded him as a good boss who was kind to his employees.

Pat is not the first in my circle of friends and acquaintances to die from the virus. I hope he will be the last.

Anti-vaxxers may be quick to say that his death proves the vaccine doesn’t work, that there is no point to risking possible side effects from an ineffective vaccine. In fact, receiving two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 85-per-cent effective against the delta variant. This is far from perfect but is massively better than not taking the vaccine.

However, the facts bounce off anti-vaxxers as though they were Styrofoam balls. One of the latest to add his ignorance to the public square is Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers, who recently contracted COVID, called himself a critical thinker who won’t “acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something. …

“They wanted to out and shame and denigrate every single person who didn’t immediately say, ‘Oh yeah, I got the Pfizer, I got the Moderna, whatever.’ ”

This “crazed group of individuals” includes virtually all the world’s top public health officials and epidemiologists. For Rodgers, at least, opposition to being vaccinated appears to be a paranoid political stance more than the result of critical thinking.

A recent Angus Reid poll found that 55 per cent of Canadians who refuse to get vaccinated agree with the statement, “COVID-19 is a conspiracy that is all about government control.” That number grows to 95 per cent when the unvaccinated are asked whether the requirement for vaccine passports is an example of government “overreach.” Too many people have been reading garbage on the Internet and calling it research.

The most common reasons for Canadians refusing to take the vaccine, according to the Angus Reid poll, are a desire to preserve personal freedom and health concerns. Fifty-eight per cent of the refuseniks cited each of those reasons for rejecting the vaccine. Much has been said and written about the distorted nature of freedom to which anti-vaxxers cling. As well, the health concerns are overblown. In Alberta, serious side effects to the vaccine have been experienced by about two out of 10,000 recipients.

Thirty-six per cent of the unvaccinated voted for the People’s Party in the Sept. 20 federal election. But only 5.3 per cent of total voters cast a ballot for that party. The Liberals and NDP drew three per cent support each from the unvaccinated. In other words, opposition to the vaccine has a strong ideological skew.

(The online survey was conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, among a representative randomized sample of 5,011 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. The survey has a margin of error of two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

I don’t know whether a higher level of vaccination among the populace would have saved my hair stylist’s life. But if people the world over were more diligent about getting vaccinated against COVID, the probability of ending the pandemic would be much greater. We ought to have personal liberty, but the basis for a strong nation is our combined commitment to the common good.

Without that commitment, we are more liable to be infected by all sorts of diseases, both biological and ideological.

(Argan writes from Edmonton.)

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