“If you are to punish a man you must injure him. If you are to reform him, you must improve him. And men are not improved by injuries.” — George Bernard Shaw
First off, I’m not an anti-vaxxer. Far from it. I was first in line for the first shot. Today, I’m triple-jabbed, my kids are triple-jabbed, and almost everyone I know is triple-jabbed. I’ve got “Property of Pfizer” stamped all over my DNA, and I totally hear Bill Gates talking to me through the microchip implanted in my brain via mRNA. Just so we’re clear.
(And I’m only kidding about Bill Gates. Although I do hear Elvis on cloudy days…)
Yet despite my uber-vaxxed status and my total belief that the State has every right to mandate issues of public health, the Green Pass system in Israel is socially offensive, epidemiologically unsound, completely unenforceable, and (most importantly) largely ineffective. It’s time to change directions from strongarming and demonizing the unvaccinated to talking to them. Here’s what I mean.
I have my doubts as to whether the Coronavirus got the memo about where it is and is not allowed to infect people.
You can sit in a courtroom without a Green Pass. You can go to the Ministry of Interior without one. You go into a hospital (yes, seriously). You can certainly crowd into a COVID-19 testing center. You can pray in a synagogue. But you can’t sit in an outdoor restaurant patio. And an unvaccinated mom can’t accompany her child into an open-air school grounds without it.
What’s the epidemiological logic? Simple: there is none. Let’s be straight: the Green Pass system is a hastily conceived mechanism designed to coerce vaccination. But because it’s politically influenced, it punishes the low-hanging fruit of unvaxxed society. It’s a pure “Isra-bluff” power play. And that’s why it doesn’t work.
But They Deserve It
Some of the nicest people I know (myself included, for a time) have turned viciously vindictive since the jabs and the Green Pass system rolled out. Now, we all know that being vindictive is wrong and basically just mean-spirited. But in this case it’s OK, because:
- We were in lockdown forever and we’re really pissed off
- COVID-19 severely screwed up our careers and/or economic status
- We are the good guys and the government and Pfizer are on our side, dammit
The thing is, this us/them thinking is exactly what led that nice Jewish boy to try to run me over as I demonstrated against the corruption of the previous regime. You do not think like me, ergo you are evil. The Green Pass system doesn’t just incidentally encourage this mentality, it overtly cultivates it. Leveraging decades of disunity honed by Bibi for his own agenda, the Bennet pandemic playbook sets neighbor against neighbor, draws lines in families, and encourages the very same ugliness we witnessed before the last election.
So, maybe they unvaxxed do deserve it, and maybe they don’t. But is this the type of society we want to live in?
Coerce, But Smartly
I look at vaccines like seat belts: they’ve been proven reasonably safe, they save lives and lower the burden on the healthcare system. Ergo, the government should be able to mandate them. But coming back to George Bernard Shaw (who may have been a controversial figure, but was spot-on in this instance), marginalizing and publicly humiliating the unvaccinated is not the way to do it. It’s punishing rather than reforming. It’s creating even greater rifts in Israeli society – as if we didn’t have enough already.
So, what about mandating but smartly? Once the Green Pass is phased out (which I think it will be, in the short term) how about:
- Transparency, no matter what. Show us the damn data, and all the damn data. There are certainly hardcore ideological anti-vaxxer whackos out there, but the vast majority of the Israeli unvaxxed are just hesitant and scared. And let’s face it, the flip-flopping policies and confusing statistics we get from our government only encourage this. Has anyone actually died as a direct result of a vaccination? You won’t find that data on the Ministry of Health dashboard. Does that mean it never happened? Does it mean that it did happen but the government doesn’t want us to know? I’m triple-jabbed and I’d still love to know. The lack of transparency in data creates suspicion, suspicion creates doubt, doubt erodes trust.
- You gotta pay to play. With over 80% of the currently eligible population vaccinated, and the mostly viable Purple Badge regs in place, the unvaxxed are endangering themselves more than anyone else. You want to penalize the unvaxxed? Given that they may potentially be a disproportionate burden on the healthcare system, why not have them pay disproportionately, too? Add a big surcharge to the Health Tax for the unvaxxed. Nobody else has to know, but they certainly will. Private healthcare providers should get on board, too, if they haven’t already.
- Talk. Talk. It seems clear to me (and to a contact tracer I recently spoke to) that contact tracing at this stage of the game is utterly and epidemiologically futile. With that, you’ve got to admire the resources and organizational talent thrown at the effort. The same with the vaccination drive. So, how about repurposing these resources immediately to address vaccine hesitancy on a one-to-one basis? Between the contact tracers and the qualified professional resources of the national HMOs, we’ve got a workforce well-versed in the subject matter. They could easily reach out to each of the unvaxxed, at least those who haven’t received even one shot. Why not develop a playbook for convincing – online seminars, expert panels, the whole works? And all this would still be cheaper than trying to enforce the Green Pass at every public toilet.
The Bottom Line
First off, yes, I realize that this problem is not gonna be solved in three bullet points. But the fact is that no country (short of maybe North Korea) is going to get to 100% vaccination.
Accept it. The unvaxxed will continue to live and work among us. They will continue to be our neighbors, parents in the schools our children attend, shoppers in the supermarkets we frequent. Demonization and public humiliation of the unvaxxed serve nothing but the most base of our instincts. Can we, and our government, really not see beyond our frustration and pandemic fatigue to address this issue in a smarter way?