Jack-booted thugs busting down doors, mad scientists injecting unwilling citizens with drugs: this is what some no doubt think when the term ‘vaccine mandate’ is used. To my knowledge, no one in a position of power is advocating for anything of the sort.
Personally, I do not want the government to forcibly inoculate people — there are extremely dark implications to the forced use of medicine by the state. Rather, I prefer that most interaction with the government— be it going to the DMV or applying for some sort of permit— be accessible only to those who have been vaccinated.
Of course there must be exceptions for those who are unable to get vaccinated due to age or medical condition. Additionally, rural communities which currently have less access to vaccines should be exempt until their access is at parity with the rest of the country.
Vaccine hesitancy itself was on the decline back in May as per a Department of Health and Human Services report, with the figure then being at most 16% of the population, half of whom responded that they would definitely not get the vaccine. Given that 66% of the population currently has at least one dose of the vaccine, there is clearly a gap. Much of the gap is filled by children; census records indicate that about 22% of the population is under the age of 18, with those under the age of 12 being unable to receive the vaccine until Oct. 24.
Even if all children between the ages of 5 and 11 were vaccinated as soon as possible, that would still leave 6% of the population— children under five years of age— unvaccinated in addition to the previous hesitant 16%, putting the country below 80% vaccination.
While vaccination rates are increasing, that increase has slowed significantly since the initial burst of enthusiasm seen this past spring. A vaccine mandate will likely convince some of those who are hesitant if it means they can no longer attend sporting events, concerts, or a night out on the town while unvaccinated, even if using masks.
On Sept. 9, the Biden Administration announced a vaccine mandate, applying primarily to a third of the country: government employees, healthcare workers, and staff of large corporations. Despite some resignations over the mandate, workers have overwhelmingly complied with the order. It would seem that simply an official mandate has helped convince many who were on the fence about the vaccine. A healthy majority of Americans approve of the president’s mandate, making it far easier to enforce.
A key shortcoming of the President’s vaccine mandate, however, is that it does not extend to all Americans, only about a third of the country, many of whom are likely already vaccinated.
Furthermore, the mechanism that the administration has chosen to use is fines. The issue I have with fines is that unless they are based on percentages, they are useless when trying to coerce large corporations who can simply take the financial hit if they think it will make them more money in the long run. Given the current labor shortage, some companies may be tempted to simply pay the fine rather than risk losing some of their workers.
As someone with both leftist and libertarian political leanings, I am fairly sympathetic to people's suspicions regarding government mandated medicine. Under no circumstances do I want the state to forcibly vaccinate anyone. Getting the vaccine should, to an extent, be optional; however, until the pandemic is over, being vaccinated should be the price of engaging with society.
Personally, I’m sick and tired of having to capitulate to the most backwards, anti-science portion of our society. Why should we all continue to live in a plague ravaged world because a small group of ignorant maniacs refuse to adhere to common social norms?
Nick Finan is a junior political science major. Reach him at email@example.com.