Serbia's Novak Djokovic was unable to defend his championship title...

Serbia's Novak Djokovic was unable to defend his championship title in the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, after he was deported for being  unvaccinated against the coronavirus. Credit: AP/Mark Baker

In the city of Los Angeles, where I live, you can't enter a restaurant, a government building, a gym, a bar, or a coffee shop without showing proof of vaccination. I know some establishments are less apt to check than others, but each time I walk past a "no vaccination, no service" sign, my heart skips a beat.

The few times I've entered a restaurant lately, I've joyfully whipped out my proof-of-vaccination card. I enjoy doing my part. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is not any kind of sacrifice.

It is an act that is, paradoxically, both selfish and selfless.

You're doing something for yourself — reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus and reducing the likelihood of hospitalization or death in the event of a breakthrough infection.

You're also doing something for others — your loved ones, your friends, your casual contacts and people you've never even met.

This is the ultimate win-win.

As the omicron variant of this awful virus rages like wildfire through our communities, I want to be inoculated to the max. If an expert told me I would benefit from a fourth shot, a fifth or a sixth, I would rush to the nearest pharmacy for another dose. That's how much I believe in the science behind vaccines, in the advice of experts and in the idea that individual rights and preferences must take a back seat to the public health.

That's also why I'm so angry that so many eligible people remain unvaccinated.

I'm thrilled that they are not able to mingle everywhere at will with those of us doing our part to get the pandemic under control.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not talking about children under 5, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, nor those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated. (Most people with underlying conditions, including autoimmune disorders, are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obviously, this is a decision for patients and their doctors.)

My ire is directed at the vaccine refuseniks, those who have murdered their better angels because they don't like being told what to do.

Or they don't trust the government.

Or they feign a religious objection.

Macron's strategy

Earlier this month, with COVID infections in his country at a new peak, French President Emmanuel Macron caused a stir when he used a vulgarity to describe how he wants the willfully unvaccinated to feel when they realize their movements will be limited.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien, Macron, who was pushing for new, restrictive legislation, was quoted as saying the equivalent of "The unvaccinated, I really want to annoy the hell out of them. And so, we're going to continue doing so, until the end. That's the strategy."

On Sunday, the law gained final approval in the country's National Assembly. Henceforth, most people 16 and older will have to show a "vaccine pass" in order to legally enter restaurants, bars, theaters, fairs, seminars and trade shows, as well as to travel on public transportation. It is no longer enough to show a negative COVID test.

Draconian?

Mais oui!

Laudable?

Bien sûr!

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story about an Italian cellist who had not left his house for four days. Why? Because he refuses to get vaccinated against COVID and Italy, too, has imposed harsh restrictions on the unvaxxed.

For people like him, wrote the Post, "The choice is to get inoculated or face exclusion."

Even the pope has lost his patience.

"Vaccines are not a magical means of healing," Pope Francis said recently during his state-of-the-world annual speech. "Yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease."

Measles precedent

Several years ago, after a measles outbreak began at Disneyland and spread mainly to unvaccinated people, California lawmakers realized our state had a problem.

Too many parents were receiving medical or personal belief exemptions from school vaccine requirements, allowing childhood vaccination rates to fall — precipitously in some counties.

Medical exemptions exist for children such as Rhett Krawitt, a Marin County boy with leukemia who could not get a measles vaccine because chemotherapy had damaged his immune system. In 2015, Rhett, then 6, spoke publicly about the need for healthy people to get vaccinated and educated many of us on the concept of herd immunity.

At the time, Marin County had one of the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the state. It now has one of the highest. Also, it has the highest COVID vaccination rate in California. Rhett is now 13, and fully vaccinated against COVID.

The personal belief exemption has always been specious; virtually no religions oppose vaccines. Even Christian Science, which historically advocated for prayer rather than medical intervention, encourages vaccination.

"We see this as a matter of basic Golden Rule ethics and New Testament love," the church said in 2019.

The concept of a personal belief exemption is nutty in a uniquely Californian way.

If a parent did not care to vaccinate a child, or at least did not care to vaccinate according to the schedule recommended by the CDC and approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, all they needed to do was invoke a personal belief.

As the debate over closing that loophole raged in 2015 in Sacramento, I spent a fair amount of time in such places as Santa Cruz and Marin County with college-educated mothers who truly believed they knew better than pediatricians and epidemiologists when it came to protecting their children against disease. It was a disconnect I could never really understand.

Eventually, the Legislature outlawed the personal belief exemption, and then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. A few years later, the Legislature tightened up requirements for medical exemptions too. And soon, California schoolchildren will be required to get the COVID vaccine.

Here's the thing about these pro-vaccine laws: They do not deprive anyone of freedom. If you don't want to get vaccinated, you don't have to. No one is going to hold you down and stick a needle in your arm.

But if you aren't vaccinated, you don't get to go to school, you don't get to sit in theaters or restaurants or work out at the gym.

You can home school, watch Netflix and lift weights in your garage.

Really, it's up to you.