The BC vaccine card is not a punishment for those who won't vaccinate. It's not a penalty, although many want it to be that way.
Hear me out: Why are those who medically cannot vaccinate also caught by this? If it's a form of bureaucratic spanking, why are they getting smacked too?
The BC vaccine card is lockdown lite. Look at the places affected: theatres, dining, gyms. These are discretionary, congregant activities, and when COVID cases rose in the past, we shut them down. It hurt the economy, it hurt the staff, it disappointed people. It saved lives, but it was hard.
Now COVID cases and hospitalizations are rising faster than wasps at a BBQ, reaching levels we haven’t seen since spring. To experience this in the last days of summer is more than ominous, it's devastating. Well over three-quarters of August cases were not fully vaccinated. We need a course correction, or we will crash and burn before the respiratory season even starts.
So the BC vaccine card locks the doors of some discretionary venues, handing the keys only to those who are vaccinated — and their young kids, who despite emergent threats remain at the lowest risk by age group in BC.
For those carrying a card, infection and spread can still happen — but vaccination reduces that chance down into the margins.
Is this discriminatory? Yes, in the same way, that bars discriminate against minors and malcontents, or restaurants discriminate against smokers and nudists. (The decision doesn't come from staff, by the way, so please don't yell at them.) And although you have every right to be angry, I don't believe it was meant as a personal attack.
You can mock and curse government — I do all the time, being Canadian — but each day Public Health faces an awful calculus. The more unvaccinated people circulate, the more cases rise. This may seem weird to you, but people want people to survive. They want hospitals to be operational. They want this thing to be over.
"Why don't vulnerable people just stay home," I've heard over and over again. Well, statistics show that the largest remaining group of vulnerable people are unvaccinated. So they’ll be staying home — a bit more. You can still go shopping, access health services, and other essentials, drive across the country, gather in private, gather outdoors, and so on. But there are some things that will be locked for now.
That includes people who, through no fault of their own, cannot vaccinate at all. In the whole of this bad situation, this part is the worst — but it still comes from a place of protection. You may not want that, you may feel that the government is paternalistic at best and oppressive at worst, but the society that brought you seat belt laws and speed limits and driver’s licenses and food testing and cigarette restrictions and universal health care wants to avoid people needlessly dying — and passing it on.
The hundreds of people in hospital with COVID today didn't plan on being there. Many were fit and healthy before this thing. It still probably won't happen to you, just like you'll likely survive if you speed home tonight without a seat belt, texting away (note: please don't do this). The point isn't that single drive, it's what statistics show for everyone — and what we can do to bend that curve back.
I wish it never came to this. I wish the solidarity and love we started the pandemic with were still here. I wish we beat COVID before COVID begat Delta, and came back on us hard. But here we are, in the late stages of a second pandemic year, arming up to fight each other while the real enemy lurks unseen and invisible, whispering just beneath our breath.
If you're pro-vaccine, please don't use your vaccine card as a knife to divide us, to gloat over the doubters. Your motivation may be fair, but that is not a good look on anyone.
If you're anti-vaccine, your choice over your body means your body will not be sitting in a restaurant or theatre for a while. I wish it wasn't so. Last year when COVID was less infectious, I hoped that ~70% vaccination would provide enough of a barrier that you wouldn't have to do anything. That enough of us could carry your protection. But it didn't work out that way.
If you don't care strongly, either way, you might have a sore arm right now. Surveys indicate that a significant amount of the ~200% surge in vaccination after the announcement came from folks who were noncommittal about the whole thing so far.
If you're a human, hi, I am too. We'll still be humans when all of this is over — those of us who make it to the end, and may it be everyone. We can find different ways to divide ourselves and declare our loyalties, please our peer groups, fly our colours for all the world to see. That is valid — more than valid, it's part of being alive.
I respect choice. We live and die by the consequences of our decisions. Because we live beside each other, those consequences don't begin or end with us. Like ripples in a pond, they reach out. Our lives are all connected: those close around us, those farther apart.
We can choose to see every health restriction as a personal attack, an affront to our innate rights and dignity, an effort to divide us for money, power, or unspeakable conspiracies. Or we can see the threat revealed by scientific and medical consensus: a disastrous plague that we must overcome with our actions and our choices.
We can't let COVID win. But there are many other ways to lose.
May our sense of community survive this. May we live to choose well — and whenever possible, to choose kindness.
Joseph McLean manages the qathet COVID Awareness group on Facebook. He lives in Westview.