Pros & Cons: Should you introduce a compulsory corona vaccination?

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Should people in Germany be obliged to get vaccinated against the coronavirus? Doctors and health politicians alike are asking themselves this question – and citizens too, of course. The Technology Review editors Wolfgang Stieler and Gregor Honsel present their position on the subject.

I am responsible for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, unless there are medical reasons against it. Granted, there are serious legal and philosophical arguments against compulsory vaccination. After all, a vaccination is also an interference with the physical integrity. And there can be long, complicated debates about how personal interest should be balanced against the common good. But I do not want to go into these discussions here. What I would rather go into is an obvious question to me: Why not?

The human geneticist Wolfram Henn, member of the German Ethics Council, has the argument in one Guest Post for the Augsburg General In a nutshell: “The decision to be vaccinated is not a moral dilemma, because vaccination is just as good for yourself as it is for others,” he writes. “It is thousands of times more likely to be harmed by the disease than by the vaccination. So it is sensible to get vaccinated and unreasonable not to get vaccinated. “

Wolfgang Stieler

At this point I can already see the vaccination opponents cry out. The recent vaccination breakthroughs show that the vaccinations are not working as promised, they argue. On the other hand, there is the risk of side effects, which – as we have seen at AstraZeneca – can also be fatal. And anyway, there are still no long-term studies on the possible consequences of such a vaccination and mRNA technology is completely new. So if the bed occupancy in the intensive care units does not even increase with the increasing number of infections, why should one take the risk?

I have not reproduced this argument in detail because I want to spread it, but because the synopsis of the so-called arguments makes it particularly clear what kind of thinking is behind it: the search for an evil intention. Somebody, thinks the vaccine skeptic, is definitely trying to get me ripped off here. Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry, which is making millions and millions, or the runaway security forces, for whom the pandemic is an effective excuse to curtail basic democratic rights. It can’t be a coincidence.

Yes, it can. If a sequence of evolutionary coincidences can ensure that I sit here in front of this computer and type in a text, a little more coincidence can also ensure that a bat virus feels very comfortable in people. If a vaccine works for – let’s say – 90 percent, it won’t work for 10 percent of those vaccinated. The more vaccinated people there are, the more “vaccination breakthroughs” there will be. This is not a mysterious development, not a manipulation of the public, not a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical industry – this is statistics.

Biological systems are damn complex and we know little about them. Nevertheless, it is possible to behave rationally even in a dangerous situation. Even if you have to work with incomplete knowledge and the external conditions are constantly changing: You simply act in such a way that the potentially resulting damage – for yourself and others – is as small as possible. And in the current situation that means getting vaccinated. To act in this way is “sensible” in the best sense of the word. It means using your own head to think about the self-inflicted immaturity to escape. (Wolfgang Stieler)

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