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  /  Top News   /  Will Europe’s Politicians Ever Get their Coveted Universal Vaccination?

Will Europe’s Politicians Ever Get their Coveted Universal Vaccination?

Several countries have introduced mandatory “health passes” and made Covid-19 vaccination compulsory since last summer. The vaccination mandates represent a massive infringement of human rights and their medical justification has dwindled over time. Yet, governments are doubling down on their resolution to vaccinate everybody. But, will people accept this abuse and should they let governments decide on individual health matters?

What Do Vaccination Statistics Show?

France was among the first countries to announce the introduction of a health pass and mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers in mid-July 2021, despite previous assurances that vaccination would remain a free choice. The health pass proving that the holder was vaccinated, has recovered from the illness or had a recent negative test is necessary to enter cafés, restaurants, shopping malls, cultural places or to board a train or a plane. Life must be very dull for the French lacking a health pass, but this is the price to pay when the government set itself the target to vaccinate everyone. After the health pass announcement, the daily number of first dose vaccinations more than doubled, but fell precipitously to less than 0.1% of the population by early September (Graph 1).

Graph 1: Daily first-dose vaccinations in France

Source: Our World in Data

The cumulative first dose vaccination rate jumped above 70% by early September, but grew only slowly afterwards (Graph 2). With about 80% of the people vaccinated, France is now among the top vaccinated countries in Europe.  But, the full vaccination target remained out of reach. In response, the government introduced in the Parliament even tougher legislation against the unvaccinated, by removing the negative test from the health pass. In addition, President Macron sparked public outrage by vowing to “piss off” the unvaccinated, qualifying them as irresponsible people who cannot be considered French citizens. Again, this failed to close the gap.

Graph 2: Cumulative first-dose vaccinations in France

Source: Our World in Data

Italy went a step further and made the health pass obligatory for all workers as of 15 October and announced mandatory vaccination for all people age 50 and above in January 2022. Non-compliant workers face steep fines between EUR 600 and 1,500, while the sanction for employers ranges from EUR 400 to 1000. Vaccination outcomes have nonetheless disappointed officials worse than in France. The daily first dose vaccination rate had actually dropped to almost zero until the beginning of November and remained subdued thereafter (Graph 3). The cumulative share of first dose vaccinations in total population grew only little from an already high 75% to 80% by January 2022 (Graph 4). 

Graph 3: Daily first-dose vaccinations in Italy

Source: Our World in Data

Graph 4: Cumulative first-dose vaccinations in Italy

Source: Our World in Data

After introducing a lockdown for the unvaccinated in mid-November 2021, Austria was the first Western democracy to impose mandatory vaccination for all residents age 14 and over, as of February 2022 (later postponed to April 2022). It has also announced fines of up to EUR 3,600 for those who do not comply with the vaccine mandate. But, after a short-lived doubling of daily vaccination rates, the latter fell back close to zero by January 2022 (Graph 5). The cumulative number of first dose vaccinations grew from about 65% of total population in October 2021 to around 73% in January 2022.

Graph 5: Daily number of first-dose vaccinations in Austria

Source: Our World in Data

In September 2021, President Biden announced sweeping mandates requiring all workers in companies with more than one hundred employees be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly and obligatory vaccination for workers in the health sector funded by Medicare or Medicaid. He also made vaccination compulsory for all federal government’s employees and contractors. Despite these strict mandates, the daily number of first-dose vaccinations has trended downwards ever since the introduction of the worker mandate. The total share of the population which received a first jab increased from about 65% in September to 75% in early-January 2022. Again, we see mandates have indeed managed to “convince” more Americans to receive the jab, but universal vaccination remains elusive. 

Graph 6: Daily number of first-dose vaccinations in the US

Source: Our World in Data

Meanwhile, following a “zero covid” strategy like China, Australia put all its major cities under draconian lockdowns last Summer. After this “shock therapy”, the share of the population having received a first shot surged from less than 25% in early-July to 70% in October 2021 (Graph 7). When the Delta variant arrived, the Australian government relaxed its “zero covid” strategy, most likely satisfied with the record breaking vaccination campaign.

Graph 7: Cumulative number of vaccinations in Australia

Source: Our World in Data

All these regimes will no doubt continue to push for more and more vaccination, including the jab for increasingly young segments of the population. But “peak vaccination” has clearly already passed. Moreover, it is looking increasingly unlikely that these governments will be able to convince similar numbers of citizens to show up for endless booster shots—the preferred regime strategy for addressing ineffective vaccines. 

Are Vaccination Mandates Justified?

Initially, governments introducing health passes claimed that Covid-19 vaccination was not mandatory, although the passes were drastically restricting human rights, individual freedoms and the well-being of the unvaccinated. Later on, several governments in countries like the US, Austria, Italy, Germany, Czechia, Greece and Canada (Quebec) stopped beating around the bush and introduced mandatory vaccination for parts or the entire population. The aggressive political push towards vaccination is not only legally and morally unjust, but also increasingly at odds with medical reality. As Ryan McMaken points out, Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent getting sick and do not stop the spread of the virus either. It is therefore obvious that President Biden’s claim that Covid-19 is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is just a smoke-screen to hide the inefficiency of the vaccines and of other public health policies. This is particularly true when data shows that despite widespread vaccination, Covid-19 deaths went up in 2021 vs 2020 in both the US and the EU and New York City, for example, faced a surge in Covid-19 cases like other US states, although it had the strictest vaccine mandates in the country.

With the arrival of the Omicron variant, the medical case for compulsory vaccination became even thinner. While the number of Covid-19 cases has increased substantially, hospitalizations and deaths remained relatively low because of the mildness of symptoms. Many experts, including Denmark’s Covid tsar and WHO officials consider the rapid spread of Omicron as a sign that the pandemic is about to end due to a weakened virus that builds up natural immunity.  Yet, politicians seem to ignore scientific evidence when it does not suit them and used the Omicron wave as a pretext to accelerate the booster vaccination campaign, although the latter’s efficiency remains uncertain. They also showed no intent to ease up on compulsory vaccination after the authorization of several antiviral pills for Covid-19. The home-based treatments reduce the hospitalization risk by almost 90% and could be a game changer in the pandemic, but the US government only ordered about 10 million of them.  

The flawed and deceitful Covid-19 public health strategies have relied almost entirely on mass vaccination to the detriment of early treatments to prevent hospitalizations. Policymakers also ignored the issue of increasing the number of ICU hospital beds—a strategy that would have cost just a fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on vaccination campaigns. Recently, the EU drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency put into question the feasibility of frequent Covid-19 booster shots, which could adversely affect the immune response. The financial smoking gun still points at Big Pharma being the real beneficiary of the Covid-19 panic and mass vaccinations aggressively promoted in near lockstep all over the World.

Under these conditions, it is not surprising that many people mistrust and resist vaccination mandates, despite having to endure tremendous hardships. The graphs above show that vaccination rates went up in countries which imposed health passes, but they remained below the expectations of public officials. The share of the unvaccinated in total population is still large at about 20-25% and the number of people declining the shot is likely to grow as mass vaccination has been extended to children and additional boosters. In Europe, resistance to compulsory vaccination was primarily driven by huge protests involving tens of thousands of participants. Facing strong opposition, the new Czech government has recently scrapped mandatory vaccination for health workers, police, soldiers and some other professions, as well as those aged over 60. In the US, several Republican-led states, private companies and religious groups filed legal challenges against the vaccination mandates.  Many large companies suspended vaccination requirements following court injunctions against federal mandates and labor shortages. Eventually, the US Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate on large businesses, but upheld the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. Vaccine sceptic healthcare workers were already getting fired or walking away from their jobs, exacerbating labor shortages. There were also calls for civil disobedience in Australia which had suffered under extreme lockdowns and Belgium where theatres refused to close down in December and eventually won the legal right to stay open.  

Only Resistance Can Stop Oppressive Government Actions

The examples above illustrate very well that opposition to the vaccination mandates has not been in vain. When governments abuse their prerogatives, it is the right of the people to resist severe encroachments on their liberties and human rights. If today people tolerate that governments scapegoat and punish the unvaccinated for political purposes, it will most likely pave the way for further abuses on the whole society in the future. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated have a common interest to preserve individual freedom and it makes no sense for the former to buy into the official scapegoating propaganda (as revealed by polls in Germany, Europe or Canada). If President Macron’s twisted electoral strategy to annoy the minority of unvaccinated pays off, he would most likely feel emboldened to come up with more abusive measures later on.   

In his masterpiece Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, the 16th century political philosopher Étienne de la Boétie advocated the right of subjects to resist unjust rulers. He wisely noted that all rule rests on the consent of the people and concluded that it is not necessary to overturn a tyrant by violence because he is automatically defeated if people refuse to accept their own enslavement. La Boétie’s early call for civil disobedience and mass non-violent resistance against tyranny, is timeless:  

Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.

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