NEWS OPINION

Op-Ed: Unvaccinated People Are Not Oppressed—They’re Dangerous

An illustration of hands holding up a sign with a "no" sign over a vaccine syringe.

Inna Miller/Getty

Rachel Charlton-Dailey (she/they) is a journalist specializing in health and disability. Their work is featured in publications such as Healthline, Huffpost, Metro UK, The Guardian, and Business Insider. Charlton-Dailey often uses their platform to spotlight issues that affect disabled people. 

Earlier this month, a group of anti-vaccine protesters in Kansas were widely condemned after attending a meeting on vaccine mandates wearing yellow stars labeled “unvaccinated.” 

Jewish people were forced to wear a yellow Star of David when sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust. For anti-vaxxers to adopt this symbol is disgustingly inappropriate. 

Anti-vaccine protestors claim that they are in the oppressed minority because they are being judged for not getting vaccinated. As a result of their refusal, they are now losing some of their privileges.

In many places, legislation is being created to ensure that a person can be fired if they work in the healthcare or service industry and refused to be vaccinated. In parts of Australia, the unvaccinated will even face lockdown. 

What the unvaccinated forget is that while they have been happily living their lives and acting like COVID does not exist for almost two years, people at high risk have had little freedom and hardly have anyone in their corner. 

While the unvaccinated claim to be the ones that are oppressed and segregated, that is actually what they are doing to disabled and chronically ill people.

When the world was in lockdown, many facets of life actually became more accessible for many disabled people. School, work, shopping, and entertainment all went online.

It seemed, for a short time at least, that people were trying their hardest to protect the vulnerable members of society from COVID by face wearing masks and taking steps to minimize the spread of infection. 

Unfortunately, as soon as the world started to open up again, many people wanted to retrieve their freedoms at once and in the process forgot about those of us who need to remain sheltering in place.

The fact that anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers can protest proves that they are not oppressed.

Disabled people who voiced their concerns online were met with vitriol and demands that they should stay locked up inside to make sure everyone else could carry on with their lives. 

While the unvaccinated claim to be the ones that are oppressed and segregated, that is actually what they are doing to disabled and chronically ill people who are at high risk of catching COVID.

By refusing to get vaccinated, and then not taking precautions to protect themselves and others, such as masking or limiting their movement within the community, they are putting people with weaker immune systems at risk. In doing so, they are oppressing us.

On the whole, disabled people are mostly vaccinated, but we are still at a higher risk of catching COVID because our weaker immune systems often generate lower levels of antibodies after we get vaccinated.

In the case of the COVID vaccine, research has shown that 4 in 10 clinically vulnerable people generated lower levels of antibodies than healthy recipients after getting two doses of a COVID vaccine.

Anti-vaxxers try to use these figures as proof that the vaccine does not work, but the data actually proves the opposite.

Vaccines work by helping us build up antibodies to the virus. People whose immune systems have difficulty mounting a response—for example, those with autoimmune disease—might build lower levels of antibodies, but they still have some protection if they get vaccinated.

While the vaccine will not stop everyone from contracting COVID, it will lessen the effect that the virus has. Getting the vaccine protects you and the people around you.

To fully protect disabled and vulnerable people, those around us also need to be vaccinated to build a full barrier of immunity. The unvaccinated and those who are insisting on not wearing face masks are driving the continued spread of COVID.

You cannot be oppressed when the reason that you claim to be “oppressed” is one that you brought about yourself.

For many of the anti-vax movement, this is the first time that their voices have been heard on a grand scale. People in these groups are often from poorer or less educated parts of society and as such have not had a platform before. 

Their views were always thought of as being unfit for saying out loud (that is, they are ableist, antisemitic, far right, etc.). Now, they have a large platform and are taking advantage of it. They want to shout as loud as they possibly can and nobody is stopping them. 

The fact that anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers can protest proves that they are not oppressed. You cannot be oppressed when the reason that you claim to be “oppressed” is one that you brought about yourself.

People in these groups have a massive amount of privilege—not only because they have access to life-saving vaccines but because they can refuse to receive them. They can also choose to end their own “oppression” at any time simply by taking the vaccine.

If the greatest forms of discrimination and oppression that you have experienced in your life are not being able to go to a bar because you would not wear a scrap of fabric over your nose and mouth, then you’ve lived a pretty privileged life.

There are many forms of discrimination and oppression that people face in life—ableism, abuse, sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, segregation, denial of education, and more.

If the greatest forms of discrimination and oppression that you have experienced in your life are not being able to go to a bar because you would not wear a scrap of fabric over your nose and mouth, then you’ve lived a pretty privileged life.

By refusing to get the vaccine and not wearing masks, you are being selfish. You are saying that you do not care if vulnerable people die as long as you get to live your life.

It's about time that people who refused to get the vaccine faced the consequence of their actions—and that is all that is happening here.

They refused to get a vaccine that would allow themselves and others to live safely. Therefore, they will not be able to participate in a society that is attempting to do the best by all of its members.

You are not oppressed. You are dangerous. It is not safe for you to be around others. It's about time that we all stand up and say we're not going to take that risk anymore.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Munro C. Covid-19: 40% of patients with weakened immune system mount lower response to vaccinesBMJ. 2021;374. doi:10.1136/bmj.n2098