The majority of cruise lines are requiring that all crew and guests be fully vaccinated prior to boarding. Above and beyond the polarised political rhetoric and anti-vaccination debates, is the mandate many cruise lines have put in place ethical at all?
The first question we must ask is why many cruise lines are forbidding unvaccinated individuals aboard (except children, in some cases). It is not to discriminate against individuals who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Instead, it’s in the interest of public health and the global economy.
Since 15 February 2020, the United States has had 628,503 deaths due to Covid-19, according to Our World in Data. That is the largest number out of any country in the world, higher even than in India or Brazil, which were some of the hardest-hit countries. The cumulative total of deaths in the world is 4.4 million.
If these numbers are not staggering enough, think of the billions the cruise industry lost from having to stop all of their operations throughout the pandemic. According to CLIA, the cruise industry generates more than US$150 billion worldwide and supports almost two million jobs. From mid-March through to the end of September 2020, the industry lost US$50 billion in revenue and 334,000 jobs.
It isn’t just about the cruise lines themselves, either. Alaska is the perfect case study. Like many cruise ports in the Caribbean and in other parts of the world, Alaskan ports and the people who live there rely on tourism, and mainly cruise tourism. The state lost more than 27,000 jobs, around US$2.2 billion in revenue and one quarter of its local businesses due to the pandemic.
As devastating as it was, cruising has returned to the state, thanks to a huge legal battle and new legislation. But what about the rest of the world?
We are incredibly privileged to live in a country that manufactures Covid-19 vaccines. We have one of the best vaccination rates in the world because we have access to them, and now that number should rise because of Pfizer’s recent FDA approval.
Most countries, including popular cruise ports, are not so fortunate. In the Bahamas, for instance, only 18.8% of its population have received at least one dose. In Saint Lucia, 18.9%. In Jamaica, only 9.6% (according again to Our World in Data).
The individuals living in these ports also derive much of their income from cruise passengers coming to these islands. They’ve had an incredibly challenging year and a half. These islands and countries need their economies to begin recovering. Yet they can’t do that if there are more and more waves of Covid-19, more and more variants trickling in, more travel restrictions and yes, more people dying. Vaccinated individuals, as we know, transmit the virus less than unvaccinated individuals, even with the new Delta variant. Having only vaccinated passengers on board not only protects those who are vaccinated but those who aren’t vaccinated, too.
That’s why vaccination requirements on cruise lines are ethical. At the end of the day, it’s not just about you and your personal choice. It isn’t a small decision that won’t make an impact, like getting your flu shot. It isn’t even about politics and which side you’re on.
It’s about looking around at all the people you talk to in a day, and saying that their lives and livelihoods matter, too. That their children deserve to be fed and clothed and go to school. That the people who cook and serve you food, who make your bed and the fun souvenirs you purchase on your cruise, that those people are worth keeping safe. It’s about humanity and about the right to life, without which the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness are forfeit.
So please, don’t disparage the cruise lines who are requiring vaccinations. It isn’t discriminatory, it’s necessary. We’re not done with the pandemic. We haven’t eradicated Covid-19, and most likely won’t any time soon, if at all. While the country is out of lockdown and many events are being held because of the number of vaccinated individuals, other countries are not so fortunate. Be kind, be respectful, and if you miss the pre-pandemic world, please get vaccinated.