Democracy’s Weakness in the Face of COVID

The current situation in advanced democracies in the world is absurd. While less than 2% of the population in low income countries has received at least one dose, in most rich countries vaccination rates have stunted, with 20–40% of the population still hesitant or clearly refusing to get the shot.

Vaccine hesitancy or rejection is repeatedly explained by more or less preposterous ideas, all of which have in common the fact that they disavow scientific evidence. Even if vaccines do not offer 100% protection against the virus, they significantly reduce the chances of getting it. The fact the pandemic is not over in advanced liberal democracies is mainly explained by the reluctance of this 20–40% of the population to vaccinate.

As the new COVID variants cause cases to spike again, with a few exceptions like France, democratic governments continue their light handed efforts to convince the skeptics to get the shot. But the effectiveness of persuasion, as the statistics show, has reached a ceiling and even the most ambitious incentive programs to encourage vaccination have failed.

For those who argue against mandating vaccination because it violates personal freedom, the core counter argument is simple. One person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. Not vaccinating is a choice that transgresses other people’s freedom. The less people are vaccinated, the more the virus circulates. The more the virus circulates, the more people get infected. As a result, the unvaccinated not only put themselves at risk, but everyone else too. Not vaccinating is thus equivalent to driving drunk.

The data in the US is evidence of this. Of the 10 states currently having more cases per 100,000 inhabitants, 9 have less than 50% of the population fully vaccinated. Not mandating or enacting coercive measures to oblige citizens to vaccinate equals not prohibiting drunk driving, while asking those driving sober to do it more carefully (i.e. wear masks, keep social distance, not gather in large groups...) or to avoid doing it at all (i.e. confinement).

If a mandate seems excessive for democratic leaders, the French government’s blueprint* of coercive measures is a good starting point. Requiring a sanitary pass to access most indoor public venues and charging for PCR testing will make life extremely difficult, and costly, for those who refuse to take the shot. However, the results of the French experiment are still to be seen and there are already counterfeit sanitary passes in offer.

In the face of democratic governments’ inaction, businesses are having to step in and enforce vaccination themselves. In the United States, companies like Google, Disney, Walmart and Chevron have already mandates in place. Similarly, autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have rolled out mandatory vaccination. It should not come as a surprise that other authoritarian regimes follow suit. If liberal democracy wants to halt the steep decline it has undergone in the last 10 years, it needs to be more pragmatic and resolute when the circumstances require it.

*The result of the French government’s measures can not be judged today as several of its mandates have not been enforced yet.




David is Colombian and is based in Brussels since 2014. He is a regular contributor to the opinion makers section of The Brussels Times

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

2020 Democratic Hopefuls Must Support the First Step Act

Why voting for Republican hot-button issues means I vote Democrat

Burnet County, TX, needs to find the real reason behind our low coronavirus case count

Unrepresentative Government: No, our elected oligarchy in Congress doesn’t really represent your…

“Grab ’em by the Pussy” — President Donald J. Trump, Sex Criminal


The Case for Crowdfunding Political Campaigns

The Gun Problem, Are We Safer With Or Without Guns?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David Abuchar Luna

David Abuchar Luna

David is Colombian and is based in Brussels since 2014. He is a regular contributor to the opinion makers section of The Brussels Times

More from Medium

Valuation techniques for traditional common stocks — Part 2 — The Dividend Discount Model

Quietly building one of Europe’s most attractive early-stage portfolios

Celsius Network Flow of Funds

An Introduction to Obsidian: Community Plugins