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An Ethical Dilemma


That the first duty of government is to protect all citizens


The world is in the grip of a pandemic, but within 12 months, several effective vaccines are developed.

The government of one country named Scummolia buys up big on the cheapest and least effective option - Astro Xenophobia (AX).

It is soon learned that AX kills one out of every million who are adminstered the jab. Instead of initiating urgent efforts to replace this vaccine with a more effective one - and one that is without the lethal side effect, the government of Scummolia urges its people to take "the available vaccine".  The government knows that this will save many lives, but it also knows it will take a small number of other lives.

Is the sacrifice of a few to save the many an ethical option?

If the answer to the above is "yes"

Assuming for the sake of argument that it is indeed ethical for the government of Scummolia to sacrifice the few to save the many (after all, they do this in times of war!),  and assuming that the government is not mandating the taking of this vaccine, is it ethical to rely on inccreasingly coersive persuasion and gaslighting techniques in order to get citizens to use up all the AX so a suitable replacement is not a priority? 

Tactics of the Scummolian Government and its vaccine policy supporters in this hypothetical situation might include 

  • Talking up the benefits of AX  without mention of the potential danger
  • When forced to talk about the danger, relying on actuarial statistics that have zero to do with an individual's personal risk factors
  • Peer pressure
  • Appeals to patriotism (a logical fallacy)
  • Appeals to "commone sense" (another logical fallacy)
  • The laying of good old fashioned guilt trips

If this hypthetical situation were to exist, I will try and explain plainly where I would stand as someone who comes from a long line of military AWOLers and draft dodgers - based on principle - not fear.

I would assess my own personal risk of getting the virus vs the one in a million chance of dying from the vaccine. If I assessed the risk of the vaccine as equal to or greater than my personal risk of getting covid, then I would wait for a more effective, less potentially lethal vaccine to become available. 

If that risk ratio is overturned by circumstances such as localiized community spread, becoming employed in an essential service, or for any other reason, needing to take part in risky acivities or to travel to more exposed localities, or just generally being unable to stay at a safe distance from everyone - and the hypothetical AX vaccine was all I could get,  I would probably take it - but not without telling the Scumolloian government what I think of it and its policies and letting them know I have left instructions for family members to sue in the event of my death (yes I know they have indemnified doctors - but I don't think that applies to them).

If Scummolia actually existed, I would urge Scummolians working in essential services to get vaccinated with whatever is available. I would urge that the aged, the frail and the infirm  get vaccinated with whatever is available. In larger population centres where the virus is rampant, I would urge people to get vaccinated with whatever is available. For everyone else, I would suggest closely assessing your own personal risk factors (with your doctor, assuming that you actually have decent medical services in your locale) before deciing on wther to take what is available now or wait until better options are available.  Until that better option is available, minimise your exposure risk, and if you can't, reconsider your options. 

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent's point. ANON,_damned_lies,_and_statistics

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