Every professional journalist and every author of an amateur blog should write a short opinion on COVID-19 vaccinations. Whether their specialty is sport, the arts, Hollywood gossip or politics, vaccinations for COVID-19 are too important to silently sit on the fence saying nothing. And so here is what I think.

I am not going to spend any effort writing about the morons who believe Bill Gates has a microchip in every vaccine dose or that vitamin C kills COVID-19. Truth is, I’m jealous of those who have never heard this rubbish.

However, I do understand those who are concerned that a compulsion to vaccinate is an infringement of their personal liberty. In this case, I do not agree, but I do understand. Why, you may be asking. Well, I was brought up in a family where personal freedom was a priority. My grandfather fought all through WW1 in the Royal Navy for that concept. My father left an arm and an eye in Italy defending the same freedom. Our family debated the compulsory use of seatbelts for months. Was that an unnecessary infringement of our personal liberty? I went to school in the United States and every morning listened to my classmates recite a pledge that ended with the words, “with liberty and justice for all.” I fought Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) for twenty-five years over the personal freedoms that were diminished when they introduced centralised competitive coaching. I will fight them for another twenty-five years if they try the same trick with learn to swim.

And so, yes, I do understand the personal liberty argument. However ……….

There are occasions, and this is one of them, where the utilitarian argument that the “greatest good for the greatest number” trumps the demands of even something as important as personal liberty. Wearing seatbelts was one of those. SNZ’s invasion of competitive coaching was not.

It is important to decide each case on its merits. Because some action results in the “greatest good for the greatest number” does not make it right. For example, protecting the freedom of a minority can be just as important. Take black slavery in the southern United States for example. Clearly black slavery provided the “greatest good for the greatest number”. The majority white population prospered. But that certainly did not make slavery right.

And so, in the case of this vaccine, is the “greatest good for the greatest number” more important that the personal liberty of a few standouts. In my view the answer is, yes. The scourge of COVID-19 is so severe. The benefit of the vaccine is so overwhelming that in this case personal liberty can be compromised. My life and health, my town’s life and health, my country’s life and health, my world’s life and health more than justify the minor infringement of my liberty. Like seatbelts the “greatest good for the greatest number” is the proper and only decision.

But how far should our acceptance of the “greatest good for the greatest number” allow us to go? Should New Zealand be limited to the persuasion, advertising and incentives that are being used now? Should compulsion be allowed?

In this case my view is that the dangers of COVID-19 are so great, the benefits of vaccination so clear and the loss of liberty so minor that compulsion is more than justified. I have no problem with the Millennium Institute pool making vaccinations a condition of entry. Their gym should do the same. The same precondition should apply to pubs, cafes, shops and public transport. Normal life should become vaccination dependent.

For those who want to protect their personal liberty let them stay at home, let them get their vaccinated mates to bring them bottles of Vitamin C and let them protect their life and liberty at home.

In my High School in Wisconsin, my American History teacher, Mr. Fleming was discussing the 1775 speech of American revolutionary Patrick Henry. Referring to the British, Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death”. Mr. Fleming laconically said, “Nothing is worth dying for.” Well, if he is wrong and there are things worth dying for, COVID-19 is certainly not one of them.


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