Vaccine Requirements, Age, and Fairness

by jefftkjefftk1 min read2nd Nov 20217 comments

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Covid-19
Personal Blog

In talking about potentially resuming contra dancing, with a vaccination requirement, one reaction I've received from several people is that it's not fair to start until everyone can get vaccinated. The idea is that since some people are younger than the current limit, or have children who are younger, it would not be appropriately inclusive to resume.

I do really like that contra dancing is so open. I started dancing at NEFFA when I was very little, and have brought my kids with me to all sorts of dances. They've danced at family dances and in a carrier at regular dances, and come with me when organizing local dances, playing dance weekends, and on tour. Including children in our community is very important to me.

On the other hand, if this means we can't hold dances until all ages can get vaccinated, we're going to be waiting a long time. While we are now frustratingly close to allowing vaccination for kids 5-11 (FDA approved last week, CDC is meeting today), the 2-4 cohort is not expected until 2022 at the earliest, with younger children even later. Which means for the next few months at minimum, if we are going to require vaccination (no one has been pushing for allowing unvaccinated children), the choice is between a dance for adults and older children, or no dance.

The feedback from both the spontaneous Porchfest dance and the outdoor contra was really positive: this is something a lot of people have really been missing. While I would much prefer it if all ages could safely be included, given a choice between (a) dances for ~98% of regular participants now and everyone later and (b) nothing now, everyone later, I think we should go with (a).

(Asking other parents (n=5), I haven't found anyone who thinks dances need to hold off for age fairness reasons; I've only heard this from non-parents (n=4). I then asked Lily (7y) and Anna (5y) what they thought, and they both said that until everyone could get vaccinated it wasn't fair to resume, even if that takes a very long time. I asked what they would think if they could get vaccinated but Nora (4m) still couldn't, and Anna said yes while Lily said she couldn't decide.)

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My local ballroom came close to closing permanently due to lack of revenue. Forcing dance spaces to keep closed for several additional months would drive many of them out of business permanently.

You could just host the event, requiring vaccination for adults and full access for all children below the FDA minimum? Perhaps you could do a rapid test on the unvaccinated children. 

I strongly endorse Zvi's encouragement to start living your life again.

You're citing a post from June 2021 when covid rates in the US were at their post-vaccination pre-Delta all-time low, and when most people did not expect the rise in cases we've seen since. I also don't really disagree with that advice, even now, for individual choices. But I don't think it's the right approach for deciding whether and how to organize large public events?

I've read pretty much all of Zvi's blogs since then, and he doesn't seem to have changed his mind. The rise in cases, especially the rise in hospitalizations, seems mostly confined to the unvaccinated. That's not really relevant to gatherings of only vaccinated people.

What exactly would the risks be of the event with the rules I proposed?

I would second LukeOnline's suggestion. As an alternative, you could do an alternating schedule with "closed" events that require full vaccination and "open" events that allow unvaccinated children, and people could decide when and whether to attend.

Taking the "wait" argument to its logical extreme, it seems to me one could argue not only waiting for kids to get vaccinated, but waiting until COVID rates are minimal, so immune compromised people can safely attend.

I don't think it's necessary or appropriate to take everything to its logical extreme, but it seems to me that if one is going to advocate waiting for one group but not another, it's important to clearly articulate the moral principle behind that distinction.

I'm not a dancer, but my instinct is that a "reasonable accommodation" model is appropriate here: there's a moral imperative to make events as accessible as reasonably possible, but not to cancel any event that isn't 100% accessible to every person.

One possibility would be to require a rapid antigen test only for those who are unable to be vaccinated. While rapid antigen tests aren’t as cost effective as other interventions, they would be mitigating the highest risk factor (which would increase cost effectiveness by whatever factor vaccination protects against transmission).

The logistic and financial costs associated with rapid antigen tests can also borne by the individuals who need them, which makes it easier to implement than some alternatives.

A significant downside is that it increases complexity. For instance, would a rapid antigen alternative allow adults who could get vaccinated but do not want to an alternative way of choosing to attend (without lying)?