Monday, 20 Sep 2021

Opinion | If You Skip the Vaccine, It Is My ‘Damn Business’

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

When asked if he had gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, Lamar Jackson, a quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, declined to answer. “I feel it’s a personal decision,” he said. “I’m just going to keep my feelings to my family and myself.”

Jackson echoed another N.F.L. quarterback, Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, who said much the same a few days earlier. “It’s too personal to discuss,” Newton replied, when asked if he was vaccinated. “I’ll just keep it at that.”

Jackson and Newton are not the only prominent people to say hey, it’s personal when asked about the vaccine. It is a common dodge for public-facing vaccine skeptics or those using vaccine skepticism for their own ends. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s damn business whether I’m vaccinated or not,” Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, told CNN last month. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, wrote similarly (albeit less abrasively) in May that vaccination was a “personal and private decision” and that “no one should be shamed, coerced, or mandated to take Covid-19 vaccines that are being allowed under an emergency use authorization.”

Johnson, and all the others, are wrong. Wearing a helmet while bike riding, strapping on your seatbelt in a car — these are personal decisions, at least as far as your own injuries are concerned. Vaccination is different. In the context of a deadly and often debilitating contagion, where the unchecked spread of infection has consequences for the entire society, vaccination is not a personal decision. And inasmuch as the United States has struggled to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 through vaccination, it is because we refuse to treat the pandemic for what it is: a social problem to solve through collection action.

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