But somewhere along the pandemic’s long and tortuous road, which saw his native Switzerland imposing first one lockdown, then another, and finally introducing vaccination certificates, Rimoldi decided he had had enough.
Now he leads Mass-Voll, one of Europe’s largest youth-orientated anti-vaccine passport groups.
Because he has chosen not to get vaccinated, student and part-time supermarket cashier Rimoldi is — for now, at least — locked out of much of public life. Without a vaccine certificate, he can no longer complete his degree or work in a grocery store. He is barred from eating in restaurants, attending concerts or going to the gym.
“People without a certificate like me, we’re not a part of society anymore,” he said. “We’re excluded. We’re like less valuable humans.”
As the pandemic has moved into its third year, and the Omicron variant has sparked a new wave of cases, governments around the world are still grappling with the challenge of bringing the virus under control. Vaccines, one of the most powerful weapons in their armories, have been available for a year but a small, vocal minority of people — such as Rimoldi — will not take them.
Faced with lingering pockets of vaccine hesitancy, or outright refusal, many nations are imposing ever stricter rules and restrictions on unvaccinated people, effectively making their lives more difficult in an effort to convince them to get their shots.
In doing so, they are testing the boundary between public health and civil liberties — and heightening tensions between those who are vaccinated and those who are not.
“We will not allow a tiny minority of unhinged extremists to impose its will on our entire society,” Germany’s new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said last month, targeting the violent fringes of the anti-vaccine movement.
Vaccine passports have been in place for months to gain entry to hospitality venues in much of the European Union. But as Delta and Omicron infections have surged and inoculation rollouts have stalled, some governments have gone further.
Austria imposed Europe’s first lockdown for the unvaccinated and is scheduled to introduce mandatory shots from February 1.
Germany has banned unvaccinated people from most areas of public life, and the country’s Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach, warned in December that: “without mandatory vaccination I do not see us managing further waves in the long term.”
And France’s President Emmanuel Macron last week told Le Parisien newspaper that he “really wants to piss off” the unvaccinated. “We’re going to keep doing it until the end,” he said. “This is the strategy.”