Don’t Share Your Vaccination Status

It’s just plain dangerous. They carry different diseases than we do. That’s why I’ve drafted the Home Health Sanitation Initiative.

The what?

A disease preventative bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. It’s been endorsed by the White Citizen’s Council.

From The Help (2011). Here’s where you can watch the scene.

You should not share your vaccine status with friends, businesses, or governments, for your vaccination status should not be grounds for discrimination. Keeping your status a secret is the best way to say that one’s vaccination status is and should not be relevant. 

Why one’s vaccination status is irrelevant. 

Why is one’s vax status irrelevant? Well, either the vaccine works or it does not. “Works” here can mean many things. It can mean that it:

  • prevents you from catching COVID (prophylaxis),
  • prevents you from getting severely sick or hospitalized, or
  • prevents you from spreading COVID if you get it (makes you non-contagious).

It turns out that the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s, and AstraZeneca are excellent at preventing people from getting of COVID-19 – they have efficacy rates of around 85-95%. What does efficacy mean in the context of vaccine studies? Efficacy tries to measure how effective a vaccine is at preventing someone from catching COVID. 

Here’s how it’s calculated. Scientists split vaccine trial participants into two equal groups. One gets the vaccine, the other a placebo. Then the participants are released and go about their day-to-day lives. After a few months of observation, they calculate efficacy by dividing the number of placebo people who then got COVID by the total number of people who got COVID in the trial (so both placebo people and non-placebo people). For example, Pfizer’s trial had 43,000 people. 21500 got the vaccine, 21500 got a placebo. Then, 170 people got COVID. Of the 170, 162 people got a placebo, and 8 got a vaccine. So you take the # of placebo people with COVID (162) and then divide that by the total number of people who got COVID in the trial (170) to get 0.9529, or 95.29%. It says that if you got the vaccine, your chances of catching COVID are 95.29% smaller than if you had not got the vaccine. 

I think that’s phenomenal. The vaccine more or less stops you from catching COVID. So even if someone speaking with you has COVID, you should fear not – your vaccine protects you from catching COVID. If you can speak to someone who’s covid positive without fear, then you shouldn’t fear speaking to someone who is unvaccinated either. Best case scenario, someone unvaxed does not have COVID, so you’re safe. Worst case scenario, someone does have COVID, so you’re still safe. And if you’re safe either way, then you want to know my vaccination status for reasons other than your personal safety. 

But what about those 8 people who were vaccinated in the Pfizer trial and who got COVID? Well, as I recall from propaganda earlier on in the pandemic, the reason we took away rights and freedoms was to “flatten the curve.” If people didn’t stay home and cease socializing, then COVID would spread and hospitals would overflow, leading to unnecessary deaths and triage. The more important question about vaccine efficacy then is not whether it prevents you from catching or spreading COVID, but rather, whether it prevents hospitalizations! Thankfully, it does. Nobody who gets the vaccine is hospitalized or dies from COVID. Breakthrough cases are very unlikely to get severe symptoms, turning COVID into nothing more than a cold. 

Because a breakthrough case of COVID is basically a cold, it should be treated like one too – just stay home if you have symptoms. It shouldn’t be the cause of society shutting down. Anything more than treating it like a cold and we end up in a society ruled by hypochondriacs and agoraphobics. And because intolerant minorities always win out compared to a tolerant minority, they set moral standards for everyone else. I don’t admire hypochondriacs and agoraphobics because they lack the courage necessary to accomplish things in life, but they are the intolerant minority here. Their preferences should not remain society’s standard for mitigating disease. Taleb’s argument is also a reason why pro-privacy people like me should be extremely intolerant of discrimination based on vaccine status (ie. become insufferable). 

What threat then does someone who is not vaccinated pose to you? Nothing serious enough to warrant segregating society and stigmatizing the unvax’d. At worst, and very unlikely, is a cold. 

To argue that the above is wrong concedes that the vaccine is ineffective at protecting someone from catching COVID. It can also reveal that you are a hypochondriac, in which case you should stay at home anyways, or move to an isolated island with wifi. 

Now that I’ve shown why one’s vaccine status is not relevant, I’ll try to persuade you that one’s vaccine status should not be shared. 

Secrecy is the best way to argue that your vax status is and should be irrelevant. 

If you don’t want someone to treat you differently based on x, then you don’t share your x with someone. If someone on Tinder asks you for your salary or height, are you think those should be irrelevant, you don’t say “I make $185,000 and am 6’2, but I don’t think my salary or height should matter.” No, you would say “none of your god damn business!” or something more polite if you’re poor and short. As I argued above, I think one’s vaccine status is irrelevant, so I don’t want someone to treat me differently based on it. Thus, the best way to let someone know that I don’t want to be treated differently for my vax status is to simply not share it with others.

Secrecy reframes the argument from pro/anti vaccine to pro/anti privacy.

Most people will assume that that if you don’t share your status, you’re not vaccinated. If they don’t assume it, they’ll have to treat you as such (precautionary principle). All businesses who ask for proof of vaccination will refuse to let you in. Obviously. But there’s a difference between being rejected because you can’t share proof of vaccination vs being rejected because you won’t show proof of vaccination. In the former, you are an anti-vaxer, an idiot who doesn’t understand The Science, and someone selfish who threatens herd immunity. Your vax status is what they discriminate against. But in the latter, it’s your privacy that they discriminate against. They don’t know whether you are vaccinated or not. They don’t know if you are an “anti-vax buffon” or not. 

Keeping your vax status to yourself is the most poignant way to completely reframe any interaction from one about science or idiocy to one about privacy and rights. “My vax status is none of your business” is the easiest way I know of that can rewire someone to see the issue from your perspective. 

Immunizes you from ignoble virtue signalling (if you’re vaccinated).

A certain portion of the vaccinated population which we’ll call The Ignobles thinks that they are morally superior to unvaccinated people. They are the ones who “trust The Science,” who choose to get the vaccine for other people (never for themselves!), and then virtue signal their considerateness. They are thus far more intelligent and moral than the “anti-vax buffoons” who choose not to get the vaccine. 

I can’t stand these people because 

  • their virtue signalling never involves commensurate risk (like infecting themselves with COVID)
  • they don’t understand what science is
  • they think that it’s appropriate, moral, or effective to be contemptuous and supercilious towards people who are unvaccinated

Let’s start with virtue signalling – there’s nothing wrong with it! But it should be in proportion to the risk something poses to life, the fear someone has for it, and the good that comes from the risk’s upside. Here’s a hypothetical person who could legitimately virtue signal: a guy so afraid of needles he’d have dental surgery without any anesthetic or numbing agent. He then goes to exposure therapy to overcome his lifelong fear of vaccines and tail risks in order to protect his younger brother who’s immunocompromised and susceptible to blood-clots. This guy would be truly virtuous, and I would welcome his virtue signalling.

But The Ignobles do not fear vaccines. They don’t think it’s risky to get (because public health and The Science says so), and they rarely interact with someone who’s doubly vulnerable to the vaccine and to COVID. To be clear, I don’t think the vaccine is risky to get either – compared to COVID. The severity and frequency of side effects are far far lower for the vaccine than for COVID. But the ignobles get the vaccine to be selfless and because The Science says they should.  If the ignobles truly wanted to be virtuous and selfless, they would’ve exposed themselves to COVID at the beginning of the pandemic and then recovered alone in a hotel for 14 days, all to develop herd immunity. 

By keeping your vaccination status a secret, you will be barred from virtue signalling in the way that The Ignobles do. 

Declare yourself a non-member of the official religion. 

Another issue with The Ignobles is that they don’t understand what science is, because they treat it like a religion. At its best, science is a reliable way to produce knowledge. It’s a procedure that removes human bias and subjectivity from your hunch about causation to reveal the true cause of something which is true for any and all. But if you “believe” or “trust” in something, it means that you have faith in it, which means you don’t understand it. How can someone believe in science? That’s like saying “believe in math” or “believe in reading.” 

More importantly, science can only tell us what is, never what ought to be. Anyone who says otherwise is either consciously or unconsciously trying to pass their own values as The Science. You might think that reducing the spread of COVID is what we should do, but that’s not a scientific question. It can’t be tested using the scientific method. And neither can a “consensus” of scientists describe what is true. Galileo and Copernicus are two thinkers who diverged from the scientific consensus. They were declared heretics even though they were more correct than the consensus. Eventually, everyone came to adopt their view, but only after Galileo and Copernicus suffered and died for their theories. Such is the nature of scientific revolutions (from Kuhn). The point that I’m making is that The Ignobles misunderstand science to be a belief system with priests (“the scientists”) and obligations (“public health orders”). In reality, science is just a reliable way to produce knowledge. 

By keeping your vaccination status a secret, you sharply declare yourself to not be a member of this religion. 

Lets you experience what life is like for (other) unvaccinated people. 

Lastly, and more importantly is The Ignoble’s contemptuous attitude towards people who are unvaccinated. 

This is the biggest reason for why the Ignobles are immoral, because this does the most damage to public health. Unvax’d people feel stigma and judgement from other people for their choice. But this is a terrible idea, from both the personal level and the macro public health level. 

From a personal level, casting stigma on the unvax’d incentivizes them to cover up and lie about their symptoms, putting more people at risk. Anger directed to someone more generally leads to resistance and anger from the other end – people dig in their heels even more, and leads only to more vaccine skepticism. Stigma leads to lower self esteem, which might be treated with drugs or alcohol or meeting only with other unvax’d people. 

From a public health perspective, stigma leads to a loss of trust between the unvax’d and health care providers. We know, for example, that young people are less likely to get tested for HIV when they notice that their health care provider judges them (source). Furthermore, do you think that someone will consider information to be as credible coming from a doctor or nurse if the doctor or nurse treats the person in a demeaning manner? No. Claiming that the stigma and judgement are the “consequences” of their choice is victim blaming, just as telling a gay man who got AIDS that “he should have picked a different lifestyle” is victim blaming. 

The proper way to treat someone who is sick (with COVID, or with any disease) is with compassion and care, not with stigma and contempt. We don’t know what someone’s reasons for not getting a vaccine are, and it’s important to listen and find out what someone’s reasons are instead of forcing them to do so.

By keeping your vaccination status a secret, you will constantly know what it feels like to be the object of contempt, and will hopefully never treat another person contemptuously as a result for their choice to get the vaccine or not. 

Now there is an exception here – some businesses only allow in unvaccinated people.

It turns your choice about getting a vaccine or not into an individual cost benefit analysis.

I think that people should not choose whether to get the vaccine or not using fallacious reasoning like appeals to authority or appeals to the people. Sharing your vaccination status might be enough to persuade someone else to get the vaccine. But this isn’t good, because people shouldn’t just copy what other people are doing in a situation of medical treatment. They ought instead to know what the risks are, and then do a cost benefit analysis. If you’re unvaccinated, by not sharing your precise status, you will avoid influencing people to not get vaccinated on the basis of your actions. If you are vaccinated, and if you have painful side effects, you will avoid making a disproportionate impression of the risks onto other people. I do however share the framework that I used to come to my vaccination decision, but I don’t share my conclusive result.  


Should governments mandate vaccine passports? This is the firmest that I can be, and my answer for this is a resoundingly loud NO. 

To forbid 20% of the population from accessing public spaces because they are unvaccinated is to attempt to coerce them into taking the vaccine. This is wrong. It is unethical for a government to coerce its citizens into receiving medical treatment like a vaccine without their informed consent, and consent can’t be given if there are government-imposed penalties for denying consent. 

Informed consent has been a very strong precondition for medical treatment since the 1950s when medical and experimental ethics were strongly established after we processed the scientific horrors of Nazi Germany. Furthermore, vaccine passports mean that people will need to disclose whether they are vaccinated or not, violating their privacy rights. Coercing people to get a vaccine is wrong. This doesn’t even take into account the people who are doubly vulnerable who will now be unable to live in public and risk having a life. It should be your choice alone to risk getting COVID and dying, not anybody else’s. 

I also oppose vaccine passports because I want to avoid creating a two tiered society with two tiers of citizens. This creates institutionalized and legal segregation. Segregation is bad because it takes away people’s equality of opportunity – many people won’t be able to access jobs, education, or healthcare because they don’t have the vaccine. This in turn is bad because it foments political and violent instability. The attempted insurrection in Washington in January of this year was an example of how a very small minority of people can completely change the social and political fabric of a nation in irreparable ways. You don’t need a lot of very angry and stigmatized people to overthrow society, and this does that. Segregation is wrong in Canada for the same reasons it was in Nazi Germany, South Africa, and the American South. As I recall from one excellent movie:

It’s just plain dangerous. They carry different diseases than we do. That’s why I’ve drafted the Home Health Sanitation Initiative.

The what?

A disease preventative bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. It’s been endorsed by the White Citizen’s Council.

From The Help (2011). Here’s where you can watch the scene.

The arguments are the same. 

Counter-argument: because vaccination is a choice, discrimination and segregation is acceptable, unlike being black or gay or a woman. 

You could argue that because vaccination is a choice, discrimination and segregation is acceptable, unlike being black or Jewish. But we also forbid discrimination for mutable characteristics too: religion, gender identity, and gender expression come to mind. However, I do not think that what makes discrimination wrong is because it discriminates against an immutable characteristic. I think what makes it wrong is that irrelevant factors are being taken into account into the decision. Being a woman doesn’t make you any worse of a software engineer, so it shouldn’t be a factor taken into consideration during the hiring process.

Then there’s the level of businesses – should businesses be allowed to discriminate on the basis of vaccine status? I think the answer should be no, for the same reasons I mentioned at the top of this article. At the very worst, a business should just ask someone symptomatic to leave or stay home. That being said, I can tolerate a business choosing to refuse service to people who are unvaccinated. What I cannot tolerate is a government deciding for a business who can serve or not serve, or a government forbidding alternatives for people who are unvaccinated (or who simply want to protect their privacy rights). 

You can argue that we require immigrants to have certain vaccines to enter the country. But they don’t ask me for my measels vaccination when entering a restaurant. They don’t ask me for my smallpox information when going to the gym. And they won’t either (I hope). They don’t even ask me about my vaccinations as a Canadian citizen returning home. So this is a false analogy. 

So, I oppose excluding 10-20% of our population from civil society and segregating them. It’s a violation of their rights to privacy, free association, security of the body, and movement. 

Counter-argument: doubly vulnerable

You might be someone who cannot at any cost get either COVID-19 or the vaccine. Let’s say you were pregnant and you just got a new kidney and the immunosuppressants are so strong that your body cannot fight off the spike protein from the vaccine or from COVID. A “double vulnerable.” 

In this case, you would want to know if I was immune before meeting me. Chances are that if I had COVID and met you, you would likely catch COVID and then be hospitalized or die. Not good. You could lower your chances of death by only meeting other vaccinated people. 

In this case, do you need to know whether I have been vaccinated or not? Shouldn’t you be able to meet people and participate in civil society and walk around without fear of getting COVID and dying?

It’s certainly helpful to know whether the person in front of you has been vaccinated because it reduces your chances of coming across someone who has COVID. But someone can still have COVID after getting vaccinated, so the risk to life is still as severe. It’s better then to ask someone before you meet them if they have any symptoms, gone to a club lately, etc. These are reasonable questions to ask, and I would answer them. I would also share if I had symptoms before meeting someone.

But by not sharing my vaccination status with you, I make you calculate whether to meet me on the basis of incomplete information. If someone refuses to tell you what their vaccination status is, then you need to assume that they could have COVID, and act accordingly. You would not meet them in person. Or you would choose to take on the risk of getting sick from them, and meet them in person. 

But more broadly, in a free society, if you don’t want to take on the risks that come with meeting other people (getting infected), then you shouldn’t meet other people. It’s on you, first and foremost to protect yourself. And it’s selfish and narcissistic to expect everyone else to make the world a safe space for you, if you’re doubly vulnerable. People have always chosen to take “extra risk” by walking out of their house when they walk out the doors of their houses. They could be bitten by a spider that’ll paralyze them forever, or get hit by a car and die. Before the pandemic, it would have been bonkers for someone who was immuno-compromised to expect everyone else to stay at home so that she could walk around, or to expect everyone else to wear a mask so that she didn’t get sick. In fact, you might have been referred to a therapist for agoraphobia if you were so afraid of getting sick that you wouldn’t go shopping and meet people anymore. 

The treatment for agoraphobia is not to convince the person that they are safe because such a sickness will never happen in their lifetime, or that they’re giving way too much weight of the risk of this happening. No, the treatment for agoraphobia is to teach someone that they are courageous individuals who are capable of confronting a dangerous world, and that the risk of death is not greater than the human spirit’s will to live. 

And I think that is how it should be.

But this is the weakest spot of my argument (in my opinion). I won’t share my vaccination status with a doubly vulnerable when I meet one because I think it should be irrelevant to them. It’s on them to protect themselves by staying at home, and they should venture out into the world courageously and risk death to live a life free of fear and mental illness. But I maaay make an exception.

Counter-argument: Keeping your vaccine status secret too damn hard!

I can empathize with this. Try your best. Good luck.

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