An opinion piece for reflection
Democrats and Republicans are going head-to-head over President Biden’s executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccines on federal workers and employers with over 100 employees to all be vaccinated. Per AP News, this requires about 80 million Americans and the roughly 17 million health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. Not surprisingly, Congress, the federal court system, and their staffers are exempt from Biden’s vaccine mandate. Illegal border crossers are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccines. Also excluded are teachers who must currently abide by their state regulations. While both parties seek an end to the pandemic, Democrats generally support the President. In contrast, Republicans view the forced mandates as unconstitutional and scoff at Biden’s “unconstitutional overreach” and lust for power.
Democrats widely view Biden’s COVID-19 mandate as necessary to help control the spread of the pandemic. Not only do Republicans view the forced mandates as an infringement on personal freedom, but they are concerned over financial and staffing repercussions that can harm businesses, especially during these trying times. Under the mandate, companies will be forced to have employees vaccinated or tested weekly, and it is unclear who will pay. The administration has said that companies that don’t comply can face fines of almost $14,000. This means that costs related to the mandate will mainly be carried on the backs of hardworking private sector employers and thus will likely be passed onto consumers like you and me.
Vaccines by force not only takes power out of the people’s hands but also sets a dangerous precedent for control over the rights of individuals to make their own medical decisions, hopefully, based on science. One of the amazing factors that make America great is the presence of individual rights. This gives adults the power to make their own healthcare decisions, aided by advice from their doctors, science, and so forth. Once government starts to take away the rights of individuals, it is a slippery slope. Will flu or other shots be mandated next? And what other mandates will follow? Should individuals refuse to comply with the mandate, what will be the consequences? Can they be legally stopped from going to work, stepping in a building, or using a public or private service? And, legally, must they divulge their vaccine status, a personal healthcare matter, to do business in America?
The Washington Post points out that so-called “good policy” can be bad for economics. They explain it will be expensive for businesses to set up testing, get everyone vaccinated, keep up with boosters, and make accommodations for non-compliant employees. Plus, if employees quit over the mandate, it will be expensive and difficult for businesses to find replacements. And they expound, “…if one result is that less educated people leave the labor force, those Americans may bear the costs of that decision for years to come.” Permanently lower wages may be one consequence. The fear is that vaccine mandates are counterproductive.
Despite the CDC’s general recommendations for individuals to get the vaccine as a tool to bring the pandemic under control, there is a segment of the population that simply do not want the vaccine. Reasons many include moral and ethical factors, medical concerns over the vaccines themselves, and distrust of the government. Forcing people to be vaccinated can also lead to resentment against the government, increased mistrust, and financial ramifications such as a drop in the workforce and economic downfalls. The mandate also delivers an unfair burden on businesses, especially those with between 100 and 500 employees. Many of these businesses are already suffering from the pandemic.
Some ask, might it not be better to run a campaign using science and education to encourage people to get the shots, rather than mandating shots by force, which can create worse opposition? This question is not only being debated by big-wig politicians but also by individuals on social media apps who are concerned. One post suggests it’s best to let people apply critical thinking and decide for themselves whether to be vaccinated. The author suggests that anti-vaxxers do not use breakthrough cases as an excuse not to get vaccinated. He explains that breakthrough cases* are the exception and not the rule and that most infected individuals who were fully vaccinated and not immune-compromised generally survive COVID-19 infections. The author offers an analogy, “Imagine someone hearing that a person they know got hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk – and then making a decision going forward, to walk down the middle of the street. Anti-vaxxers are blindly walking down the middle of the COVID -19 lane.”
The CDC maintains that vaccines remain a critical tool to control the spread of COVID-19 and prevent deaths. A recent study supports the latter that shows that the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19. However, some people have valid reasons for not wanting the vaccine. While the mandate demonstrates the President’s support for vaccinations against COVID-19, citizens are questioning whether these compulsory vaccinations might be too much of an aggressive measure. They also demand to know, if the vaccines are so important, why are certain groups like Congress exempt?
As politicians battle over legal and ethical aspects of the mandate and individual rights, the subject becomes increasingly politicized and draws focus away from science and education. Only time will tell how well the mandate will work. Will people comply, or will it drive a greater resistance in the millions of Americans who are eligible for shots but are yet to be vaccinated? Can employers enforce the mandate, and what will be the ultimate cost? And where will their burden end? And after this mandate, what others will follow? Just some food for thought.
*In public health, per the CDC, breakthrough cases occur when a fully vaccinated person later gets the disease they were vaccinated for. This is not exclusive to the COVID-19 vaccine.