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I’ve been a strong supporter of most of the stronger measures that both the US and UK governments have used during the coronavirus pandemic, but we’ve now reached a point where both governments are sending out dangerously mixed signals that are playing into the hands of the more ignorant members of our societies.
Whether you listen to Biden in the US or Johnson in the UK you’ll hear the same message being repeated over and over again: Get vaccinated. The vaccines protect most people from contracting COVID-19, they protect everyone from getting seriously ill if they do somehow contract COVID-19, and they prevent people from spreading COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is key to keeping everyone safe.
Fair enough. I have no problem with any of that and that’s why I’m fully vaccinated.
Unfortunately, while the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom say that the vaccines are key to all of us getting our normal lives back, their stance with respect to travel for the vaccinated appears to suggest that they don’t believe what they’re telling us.
While the European Union is in the process of opening up its borders to people who are classified as fully vaccinated (make sure you know what being “fully vaccinated” actually means before you make any travel plans), the United States remains closed to, amongst others, any noncitizens/nonresidents who have been in the UK, Ireland, and any one of the Schengen Area countries regardless of their vaccination status. For its part, the UK still has a requirement for most visitors to self-isolate for a minimum of 5 days upon entry into the country (even if they’re fully vaccinated) and despite the occasional rumor that this may change, there’s no sign that the situation is about to improve.
If what the two governments keep telling us about the vaccines is true, there doesn’t appear to be any reason not to allow fully vaccinated people to travel and to travel without having to quarantine or self-isolate…so why are the restrictions being kept in place? Why is the EU comfortable allowing vaccinated people to travel but the US and the UK are not?
The bigger problem here (bigger than the annoyance of not being able to travel freely even when fully vaccinated) is that both the US and UK have a significant number of people who flatly refuse to get vaccinated and the apparent lack of belief that the US and UK governments have in the efficacy of the vaccines (why else are they not reducing restrictions on fully vaccinated people?) is giving these anti-vaxxers all the ammunition they need.
I’m strongly in favor of everyone getting vaccinated because I believe in what the vaccines offer, but when an anti-vaxxer asks me why they should get vaccinated when the governments don’t appear to be prepared to back their own claims, I find it very hard to come up with a strong enough argument to counter that point.
No doubt some will try to argue that the current vaccines aren’t always going to be 100% effective (especially against new variants) and that’s why the US and UK are reluctant to lift restrictions on the vaccinated…but that’s an argument that doesn’t carry any weight.
If the reason for not opening up the world to the vaccinated is that the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, when exactly are we going to open up the world? The fact is that “new variants” are going to be appearing for years (welcome to evolution!) so are we proposing to live under these conditions until someone comes up with a vaccine that’s 100% effective against all variants? That’s never going to happen.
If governments want to require vaccinated travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test taken in the days leading up to travel, I have no problem with that. If that’s what it takes to give people an extra layer of confidence that a vaccinated traveler is unlikely to be carrying COVID-19, so be it. That’s a relatively small price to pay to get some freedoms back.
What governments cannot do is tell us that vaccines are the key to keeping everyone safe and getting life back to normal and then acting in a way that gives people reasons to disbelieve all of that. That just feeds the anti-vaxxer narrative.
Either vaccines protect us and those around us or they don’t, and the US and UK governments need to figure out which of those two is true and which message they want to send out. They can’t keep sending out both.