HERD IMMUNITY AND THE NEED FOR SOLIDARITY BETWEEN MEMBERS OF DIFFERENT SOCIETAL GROUPS
The long duration of the corona virus pandemic, in addition to the pain and sadness that it has brought upon us, has caused the surge of various social phenomena, which academic research would find difficult to foresee and record. The range of the reactions of the public to the disease has been very wide, feelings of fear and self-protection were mixed, and the results were in many cases unpredictable. People’s behaviour during the first cycle of the pandemic was compliant and disciplined, but became very unpredictable during the later stages of the disease. To a large extent, the outbreaks of the disease that occurred in the later stages were fuelled by some of these later behaviours, creating in several areas problems of inadequacy in the treatment of those who became ill with the coronavirus.
A year ago, we were all hoping for the production of coronavirus vaccines as soon as possible. When this became possible and the vaccines started to be distributed to the general public with the goal to vaccinate the entire population in a short period of time, divergent attitudes arose in a significant number of the population. These different mentalities, created another reason for the slowdown in the resolution of the pandemic situation, which could have been controlled through generalised immunity. There are mainly two categories of people who refuse vaccinations. Those who do so because of ideological beliefs are the easier to understand. The other vaccine deniers who base their denial on conspiracy theories, i.e. those who believe that a spying device is introduced into the body through the vaccine, are most likely influenced by the widely-spread science fiction films. In both of these categories of vaccine deniers, the main negative element is their lack of sociability. Cooperation and sociability are qualities that are normally expected in cases of great common danger. In these situations, all societal groups are expected to follow a common course as directed by the state. The behaviour of those groups that avoid vaccinations is, in a way, understandable, since people are discouraged by the post-vaccinaton side effects that have in a few cases occurred. Fear for one’s life is an extension of the instinct of self-preservation, and such manifestations are, in principle, understandable behaviours.
There is, however, a significant number of vaccine deniers whose denial lacks any ideological basis. They are those who are waiting for the rest of the people to acquire immunity in order to form that percentage of the population, about 80% of the total, which creates generalised natural immunity, the so-called “herd immunity”. This category thinks and acts on the basis of absolute selfishness. They want to avoid the (unlikely) vaccination side effects by acquiring immunity through the vaccination of others. This attitude, which, as an individual choice, is neither fair nor ethical, suffers from absolute antisociality. This mentality is not legitimate and demonstrates no will to conform with the norms of society or to cooperate with the rest of the people, while at the same time benefitting in many areas from the discipline and the efforts of the others. Antisociality becomes particularly dangerous if the percentage of the unvaccinated is high, as persistent mutations increase the risk of the new coronavirus strains. Due to the mutations, even those who have already been vaccinated are at risk of becoming ill, as well as the vaccine deniers, who, as unvaccinated, are subject to increased risks of the disease.
The new universal experiences of an unprecedented nature gained in the past fourteen months, strongly reiterate the demand for SOLIDARITY. Recent developments in the disease caused by coronavirus have shown that there can be no absolute individual protection without generalised protection for all societal groups. All human societies, in addition to finding a commonly accepted way of life within themselves, are de facto obliged to pursue, and succeed in implementing, joint activities and policies of common necessity. The obligation to work towards this kind of initiative has become urgent after having experienced emergencies with devasting developments, such as the one that preceded the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and which is still in progress for an undetermined period of time. If, starting immediately, we implement policies of mutual cooperation on a general level and on a large number of issues of common interest, something good will emerge in the midst of the evils that are happening right now. Then the ancient Greek saying “there is no evil that does not contain something good” will come true in this case as well.