I hear the argument "I vaccinate to help protect others" or "You should be vaccinated to reduce the chance that you infect the elderly" a lot. I personally believe vaccines so far do a fine job in lowering the chance of getting COVID-19. And lets, in this case, assume it does. Are you actually vaccinating for others?

Arguments for, and seem logical to me:

  • Vaccines lowers the chance of getting COVID-19, thus lowering the chance of infecting someone that could possibly die or go to hospital for it.

Arguments against:

  • Isn't it my choice to do what I want with my body? Meaning that it's unfair to say I should vaccinate for others.
  • Even if I am vaccinated I can infect someone. (I am not sure if people can get less ill when infected by someone that is vaccinated but as far as I know now, it's the same for everyone).
  • No one knows how the long term will end up on the vaccine, so who knows will it be worse for me and/or others in the future.

The last one of the 'argument against' part seems the most logical/strongest to me, but for the others I'm kind of unsure of how strong these 'arguments against' are against the 'arguments for'. But this is all I could think of right now that seem to be reasonable and (mostly) fact/logical based.

I would be mostly interested in answers that prove/argue the "Vaccinate to help protect others" statement wrong in a logically way. Since I find it hard to prove people wrong in this and think it would be cool if you could prove them wrong. Besides I also think it's important for some people to think about this when they live with people that might die from COVID-19 and aren't vaccinated. Obviously answers with different results are just as much welcome. But try to keep it logically, not opinion based.

Also please try to speak as clear as possible for me, I have read some other popular posts on this Stack Exchange site and I consistently find it hard to follow. To clarify, I'm fine in searching up words but some words/sentences just get too much to understand.


3 Answers 3


The question of whether you are vaccinating to help others turns entirely on your internal motives. It does not turn on the effects, or even if the reasons that you came to your decision were true or false or counterproductive.

So if someone vaccinated in order to do X, it all turns on whether X is a special case of the general purpose, "to help others."

Philosophically, a more productive question is whether this is a good way to help others.

  • Well said. If I get vaccinated so I can get a lollypop from the doctor, I will still protect myself and others, regardless of my intentions.
    – Tvde1
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 15:08
  • That's a logical accident. Just as if you get vaccinated and so breed the supermutant virus that wipes out the human race. You vaccinated TO get the lollypop.
    – Mary
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 0:32

Let me address some of the arguments against vaccination you made:

“Even if I am vaccinated I can infect someone.”. This is very misleading. You can infect people when you are infected yourself (with or without symptoms). If you are fully vaccinated your chances of getting infected are ten times lower, and so are your chances infecting someone else.

“No one knows how the long term will end up on the vaccine, so who knows will it be worse for me and/or others in the future”. There has been no vaccine in history with long term side effects. Nobody has come up with a plausible mechanism how the vaccine could lead to long term negative effects, especially since the vaccine dissolves in your body within hours. On the other hand, there are viruses with well-known long term effects like shingles. Covid is known to have long-lasting very negative health effects in many cases. And long term, without vaccine you will have multiple infections with unknown but much more likely risks.

“Isn't it my choice to do what I want with my body? Meaning that it's unfair to say I should vaccinate for others.” Isn’t it very unfair if you put me and everyone else at risk? More, if your actions lead to infection rates staying high with massive effects on the economy, which cost me and everyone else money? You are living in a society. And “it’s unfair” is really a very bad reason not to get vaccinated.

In the end, you are not protecting others, you are protecting everyone including yourself. Since vaccination does protect you, it’s irrational to refuse vaccination already. But if it didn’t, if there was a vaccine that prevented you from infecting others while not protecting you, then you need to look at super rational behaviour: Everyone getting vaccinated would protect everyone. So the rational decision is to vaccinate yourself, and to convince everyone to get vaccinated as well.

And in the end, if the only effect of the vaccine would be to protect others, you are a human being and not an animal. If you want to be considered a part of human society, protecting others is your duty.

  • 1
    Covid infection rates are three times lower among the double-vaccinated imperial.ac.uk/news/227713/… Reduction in infection rates for respiratory vaccines are relatively modest, because they protect the lungs, where the most danger from infection is, but not so much the nose where infection is easiest. This is why we should still wear masks. Vaccines do have occassional side effects, & rare deaths blog.ons.gov.uk/2021/10/04/…
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 10:36

"No one knows how the long term will end up on the vaccine"

We have no reason to expect long term effects from the vaccine - it is a new style of vaccine, & clinical trials have been accelerated, but there is intense scrutiny & research on after effects.

Whereas, we do have evidence of long-term effects of covid, with implications it can cause heart tissue damage, causing life-long health effects.

The recurrent issue with vaccines is that, yes there is a non-zero risk from taking them, but, it's dramatically lower than the risks from the disease. Adverse reactions to the vaccine are around one in a million. Vs fully vaccinated people are around 100 times less likely to be hospitalised.

UK death rates from covid currently are about double that from endemic seasonal flu, & similarly kills overwhelmingly people over 85 years old. So if you are younger, & feel anxious about vaccines, it can seem like a risk you don't need. But that has to be based on distrust of vaccination in principle, and as very probably the single most powerful medical practice that has saved more lives than any other, you have to ask why distrust has been so widespread.

Smallpox was a horrific disease, killing 30% if those infected, disfiguring the rest, it was moderately infectious with an average of 3 infections passed on per sufferer. Yet people violently protested vaccine mandates. Vaccination was made compulsory in the UK in 1853, but opposition was so strong that once the disease was wiped out, & with voluntary rates over 90% providing herd immunity, compulsion was ended in 1889, less than 40 years later. Yes the vaccine killed some. But nothing like the disease. So what's going on?

People are willing to attribute catching a disease to luck, & even layer on a moral dimension of whether someone looked after their health. A medical intervention is a bit like pulling the lever in a trolley problem, it may be that less deaths occurred, but culpability for them shifts to the lever-puller.

But the major part has I'd say to be linked to people's intuitions & instincts about hygeine. Feelings about cleanliness, like it 'being next to godliness' greatly predate germ theory. If someone spits in their own drink, & then consumes the drink & spittle, most people will feel disgust, even though what was in their mouth only goes back in. We have an intuition about a bodily envelope, & bodily emissions that leave it become suspect. Broken skin makes us feel protective, in a way which isn't reasoned. These same instincts about hygeine make people uneasy about vaccines, I think.

And following the general trend of post hoc rationalisation, that we use reason to justify what we feel, rather than feel what we have reasoned our way to, we can understand the disgust response driven by a hygiene intuition, leads to a rationalisation process for a minority, that would rather believe all scientists and doctors are in a conspiracy to maim children, than that the risks of the vaccine are reasonable to take against the risks of the disease.

This has implications for public policy:

Increasing Vaccination: Putting Psychological Science Into Action

The psychology of uncertainty, vaccinations, and protecting the most vulnerable

Victims, vectors and villains: are those who opt out of vaccination morally responsible for the deaths of others?

The last point to make, is public trust in government competance is another crucial variable. The countries of the former Soviet Union have very low vaccination rates, and low levels of trust in public health measures. Many African countries have also seen low vaccine uptake. Trust is hard to win, and easily lost. Accountability, investigations into failures, and a whole network of scrutiny are needed to build up trust. Russia made mistakes in rushing through the Sputnik vaccine without meeting internationally recognised safety & effectiveness standards, which just made it look like he valued publicity more than those things. In Africa rumours about vaccines being used after expiry based on a real story, led to the waste of many in-date vaccines, and consequent loss of life.

  • 1
    Comments are not for discussions. Their sole purpose is to suggest improvements of the post. If you are seeking discussion about something, please open a chat room. Comment discussions on disputable content have always been and will always be deleted.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 8:04

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