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A 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, face masks, vaccinations, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on August 7, 2021. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

A 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic  on August 7, 2021. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/via Getty Images)

Conservative Approach to Vaccines Will Prolong the Pandemic

Nobody has the legal right to put other people’s health and well-being in jeopardy.

Supriya Dwivedi

 by Toronto Star

Canadians were treated to a sickening display this past week, as anti-vax protests physically blocked hospitals and accosted patients and healthcare workers. This certainly was not the first time these selfish and scientifically illiterate protesters have made themselves the story during the campaign.

There has been a lot of vitriol on the campaign trail, largely directed at Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, though the uptick in anti-vax protests this past week seem to stem from Ontario and British Columbia going forward with a vaccine credential system to access non-essential services.

The Conservatives and the NDP have both contended that the federal government should have implemented a national system, completely ignoring the jurisdictional reality of immunization records being solely within the provincial purview. Indeed, much like many other aspects of day-to-day pandemic management, the lion’s share of jurisdictional responsibility lies with our provincial governments.

So, aside from vaccine procurement and overall border management, what can the federal government do? One obvious area is to mandate vaccinations within the scope of federal jurisdiction. The Liberals have proposed this, by mandating vaccinations for the federal civil service, as well as for domestic air and rail travel.

Another area where the federal government has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on vaccinations is to offer up a full-throated endorsement of vaccinations, which again, the Liberals have done, and the Conservatives are clearly unwilling to do.

The Conservatives keep framing the issue of vaccinations as one of personal choice, which is in and of itself ironic since the Conservatives are the only major party that is not fully pro-choice on abortion. Though more importantly, it also highlights the Conservatives’ fundamental misunderstanding of a communicable disease — and the entire point of having public health measures.

No serious political party is going to suggest that official government policy be to physically hold people down and jab them with inoculations against their will, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that neither party in contention to form government is proposing we do anything of the sort. But that does not mean that both parties have the same ideological approach to vaccinations, nor can we reasonably assume they would produce the same outcomes.

In proposing mandatory vaccinations for domestic air and rail travel, as well as for the federal public service, the Liberals have sent a clear message and will invariably increase vaccination uptake with these proposals. The Liberals can do this because they’re not vying for (or trying to appease) the anti-vax vote in the same way the Conservatives are.

According to Abacus Data, Conservatives lead among both vaccine-hesitant and vaccine refusers, by seven and 34 points respectively. When compared to the People’s Party of Canada, vaccine refusers prefer the Conservatives 44 percent to 25 percent.

People have a legal right to their bodily autonomy, but nobody has the legal right to put other people’s health and well-being in jeopardy. This is a virus that has multiple known animal reservoirs, and has already evolved as a much more deadly and transmissible disease. With so much of the world currently unvaccinated, there is simply far too much opportunity for this virus to continue to evolve and wreak havoc. The virus will continue to seek out the vulnerable, which includes every single child under the age of 12, as this group has yet to be approved for vaccinations.

Conservatives are trying to talk out of both sides of their mouth on this issue. Vaccinations can only be one of two things: either the decision to get vaccinated is a deeply personal one, one in which the federal government should have no say in and thus should not implement policy that would impact uptake of the vaccine. Alternatively, it’s an all-hands-on-deck public health situation wherein we need to increase our vaccination rates, including getting the federal government to use all the tools it has at its disposal to try and increase vaccine updates.

Delta has shown us this pandemic is not over, as Canadians ready themselves for a brutal fourth wave. We need leadership in Ottawa that will do everything it can to ensure we get out of this pandemic as soon as we can. The Liberal approach to vaccinations does exactly that.

© 2020
Supriya Dwivedi

Supriya Dwivedi

Supriya Dwivedi is a Toronto-based Liberal political commentator. She is a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @supriyadwivedi

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