Never forget what happened – almost silently – this summer. These drizzly August days of 2021 when we counted a narrow majority of 76 hands in parliament for the motion of D66 MP Jan Paternotte to introduce a personal contribution for the access tests. Those who are not vaccinated will have to pay extra in the near future in order not to be refused entry to a meeting.
Last week, Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health, CDA) said that a vaccine obligation was not an issue. I wonder what the minister understands by a vaccine obligation. People who are now trying to calm things down claim that it really only concerns a personal contribution, really no punishment, no fine. Since then I look at the world in a whole new way. Nowadays I drive whatsapped at 150 kilometers per hour on the A4 and then park on the sidewalk. Everything is possible as long as you pay a personal contribution.
fine. Let’s just call the beast by its name. Progressive vaccination compulsion. Those who do not want to vaccinate because they are afraid, suspicious, pious, conspiracy and/or dissenters, or a child older than 13 with an authoritarian parent who forbids vaccination, can choose between a ban on access to meetings with more than 75 people, or a fine.
D66, CDA and VVD just fell short of a majority, but Volt, the mini-D66, was willing to give the motion a majority. Special, since the formation always stumbles because D66 makes its own decisions about the body (such as at completed life) is so highly valued that cooperation with ChristenUnie is almost impossible. But that attitude turns 180 degrees when it comes to choosing to vaccinate. Then the party is at the forefront to throw fines.
It is also special because D66 strongly criticized the infrastructure with which those restrictions are imposed, for example the corona app. The D66 website still states that “D66 is only in favor of the use of such an app if it respects the freedom and privacy of the users”. After that, privacy was nicely respected. But freedom quickly fell.
I do miss them. The politicians who said: “I hate what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” The original critics of the app are now eerily silent to me.
Perhaps this kind of vaccination compulsion would have been justified if those last 10 percent of the unvaccinated had actually made a big difference. If we lived in a country that fought the virus tooth and nail. Where everything was done to prevent infections. But the Netherlands was not such a country. Previously, masks and other restrictions were abolished and a high level of infections and disease tolerated in order to leave life as free and mask-free as possible. Mouth cap aversion was common in The Hague circles, people like Rutte and Grapperhaus could imagine everything. But vaccine aversion? Distrust? That only happened in the less educated groups, science distrust, everything far outside the bubble in The Hague. It was best to tighten the thumbscrews.
These kinds of measures will certainly help a little. A few percent more vaccinates will certainly yield a few percent fewer patients. But what are we giving up for it?
Freedom. Nothing less than that. There are now many who are convinced that this restriction of freedom really only lasts a very short time – just two shots, just a few more weeks. I’m afraid they’re getting it wrong. Look at Israel, roughly half of the people hospitalized there are vaccinated. The vaccinated patients are the first evidence of rapidly fading immunity. So there will be third jabs, and fourth jabs, and each time new mutants needing fifth and sixth and seventh jabs. Major outbreaks mean that testing for access must be maintained. If we no longer get off the D66 road of coercion and exclusion, then we will really have to continue on that road for a while. You should normally be suspicious of that kind of ‘slippery slope’ argument, but in the corona crisis it has proven to be the reality time and again.
Again, I have been vaccinated. But I will defend the rights of those who really don’t want to.
Rosanne Hertzberger is a microbiologist.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad of 21 August 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of August 21, 2021