Now that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is slowly happening, we're seeing how people respond.
More than 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will have been delivered to New Zealanders as of this week.
There are reports of people over aged 60 enthusiastically rolling up their sleeves, of Māori and Pasifika peoples in South Auckland queuing inside a festival-like atmosphere to get immunised. Many more of us are anxiously awaiting our turn to get the jab.
Predictably, anti-vaxxers are using the pandemic to spread disinformation. Some profit from fear, selling supplements or systems they claim will support a healthy immune system, rendering vaccines unnecessary (this claim is false and dangerous, according to health officials). The vaccine refusers can believe what they like and act how they like - until their inaction threatens other people's health and safety.
We need to stop pretending everyone can get his/her way without consequence. Failing to wear a seatbelt, then arguing with the cop who issues a fine is futile. Not only is the belt designed to protect you, it also protects taxpayers from higher ACC claims - because car crash victims who remain in their seats tend to have better outcomes and lower hospital bills than those who sail through the windscreen.
A recent survey by accounting software firm Employment Hero found a majority (68 per cent) of employees in New Zealand want to be vaccinated against Covid. Twelve per cent of employees do not want to be vaccinated, while 21 per cent are unsure. The poll found 35 per cent of the 500 businesses queried planned to make vaccination compulsory, despite Government's official order only applying to MIQ and some border workers.
New Zealand has the highest number of employees among surveyed countries who do not want to be vaccinated. The rate is double the UK's (6 per cent) and Singapore (6 per cent), and triple Malaysia's (4 per cent). Eighty-four per cent of employees in the UK want to be vaccinated.
Not all recalcitrant Kiwis will be card-carrying anti-vaxxers. Many will not have taken the time to seek Covid vaccine information from reliable sources such as their GP or New Zealand's Ministry of Health or the World Health Organisation.
They may only see what oozes from their social media feeds - alarming tales of deaths and blood clots following vaccinations. What they don't recognise is that correlation is not causation; that millions of people worldwide would have died during this time regardless of an immunisation.
The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation stated the risk of a blood clot in the brain (called a CVST) is four in one million from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Meanwhile, a recent United States study suggests 39 people in every million who catch a coronavirus infection go on to have a CVST within two weeks of a Covid diagnosis.
If you're looking at risk calculation, ACC reports one person on average is killed every day on our roads and another seven are seriously injured. Yet we still jump in our cars, figuring the risk is worth the reward.
And now, some organisations will force employees to decide if the risk of refusing a Covid vaccine is worth the consequence of losing their job. Employment lawyers say businesses have a duty to keep staff and the public safe. In some cases, an organisation may be able to move frontline employees who refuse vaccinations to other positions. But that's not always possible.
Frontline healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated. That's not just my opinion, but that of public health expert Michael Baker. The University of Otago epidemiologist says healthcare workers internationally are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19. Because of this, they face a higher mortality level than the rest of us.
Staff at aged care facilities should be also be required to be vaccinated. NZME reported in February one of New Zealand's largest retirement village and aged-care providers, Arvida, was making it compulsory for new staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The goal is protecting the most vulnerable in the population from Covid, especially after borders re-open.
Employment lawyers say the issue is complex, and that employers can't force existing staff to get vaccinated, since it's not part of their contract. That could mean requiring unvaccinated workers in places like aged care facilities to wear PPE. And some staff members, such as those who had bad reactions to vaccines in the past, might be exempt from immunisation requirements.
It's a minefield in a new landscape where we're trying to balance public health against individual liberties. If my loved ones were in a healthcare or aged care facility, I would want everyone who worked there to be vaccinated. If it's a choice between preventing individual discomfort and protecting individual attitudes versus safeguarding public health and keeping mum or dad around longer, I vote for public health - and keeping mum and dad.
Sure, you can refuse the jab. But depending on your industry, you may soon be looking for another job.