President Joe Biden recently ordered that all larger businesses force their workers to be vaccinated or else be tested once a week. The new emergency rule, to be promulgated by the Department of Labor, may be well-meaning. But that doesn’t mean it’s wise.
Resistance to this government coercion is already mounting. Twenty-five state Republican attorneys general have threatened to sue. Meanwhile, some Republican governors are enacting policies prohibiting vaccine mandates. We could soon see the surreal situation in which businesses are simultaneously required legally to mandate vaccines and banned from doing so.
How have we come to such a chaotic pass? Policy failures have many chefs. Public health communication has been badly muddled. Government officials have looked down their noses at the vaccine-hesitant, forgetting that disdain doesn’t sell.
Social media companies have censored heterodox voices—even eminent scientists—giving rise to a paranoic sense among some that the truth is being suppressed. Perhaps worst of all, the media turned legitimate COVID public policy debates into political wedge issues that exacerbated the country’s bitter tribal divisions. What a mess.
The mandate will only make things worse. Not only is the rule constitutionally dubious, but even without getting into those thick legal weeds, there are abundant common-sense reasons why Biden’s vaccine policy is a very bad idea.
The “Science” Keeps Changing: Remember when we were told that masks didn’t protect, that we could get infected from touching stairway banisters, and that the inoculated were virtually safe from all infection? We now know that these “follow the science” assertions—thought to be factual at the time they were made—aren’t true.
Our best understanding today is that the vaccinated have a significantly lower risk of serious disease than the unvaccinated. But they can become infected. They can also die from COVID—rarely, to be sure—as a vaccinated friend of mine did recently. Still, when the vaccinated are infectious, it generally is for a shorter period of time.
But. The Pfizer vaccine, once thought to be an invincible COVID stopper, appears to lose some efficacy against hospitalization over time. Booster shots may be needed. Still, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel just refused to approve them except for those most at risk. If that decision changes—as it well could—would Biden want boosters mandated too? If so, how many? Once we start down Mandate Road, there could be no end.
The truth is that we don’t know enough about COVID to know what the future holds. Mandates ignore that reality by imposing a uniform policy on everyone that seems right today, but may prove wrong tomorrow.
Vaccines Aren’t Risk-Free: What’s that you say, there is little health peril from the vaccines, so why not just make everyone take it anyway? But the risk is not nonexistent. For example, a small number of young people have experienced myocarditis and pericarditis, potentially serious conditions that cause chest pain, shortness of breath, heartbeat fluttering, and so on, after taking the vaccine.
Such side effects may be unusual, but so too is serious COVID illness among the young. That being so, shouldn’t the patient have the right to make the ultimate risk-versus-benefit decision instead of being forced into the government’s choice?
In a Free Society, Moral Objections Matter: Millions of us have moral objections to the vaccine. For example, a significant minority of religiously motivated pro-lifers object to taking medications that were developed with—or tested upon—fetal cell lines derived from an abortion, as these vaccines were (and almost all medications are).
Should our government—which, remember, can’t legally force religiously motivated pacifists into the military during wartime—compel these religious dissenters to be inoculated? No! That’s not the American way.
People With Natural Immunity May Not Need Vaccines: There is significant evidence that people who recovered from COVID have sufficiently robust natural resistance and may not benefit from the vaccine. Should they be compelled to take it anyway? Where is the science in that?
Previewing the turmoil to come if blunt mandates are imposed, lawsuits have already been filed to protect those with natural antibodies from employer-ordered vaccine directives. Once Biden’s national policy goes into effect, such litigation will proliferate.
The No Mandate for Illegal Immigrants Hypocrisy: Hundreds of thousands of migrants are pouring across our southern border and being released throughout the country unvaccinated. Apparently, the mandate doesn’t apply to them. People forced to receive the shot against their will won’t put up with such rank hypocrisy when the touted public health benefit is so badly undermined by Biden’s open-border policies.
Mandates May Backfire: Resistance isn’t futile. Many employees—including some nurses and other health care workers—will give up their jobs rather than be forced to inject a substance into their bodies that they don’t want. This could cause serious dislocations. For example, an upstate New York hospital is suspending live births because so many maternity ward personnel quit rather than comply with the facility’s mandate.
Meanwhile, some teachers unions are also fighting mandatory vaccination—opening the potential for an acute teacher shortage. Now, multiply these early indications of stiff resistance across the country, and serious turmoil becomes a real possibility.
Basta! It doesn’t have to be this way. We needn’t be at COVID war with each other. Persuasion and humility—rather than coercion and hubris—should be the policy watchwords of the day.
What would such a governmental approach look like? Urge people to take the vaccine, sure. Explain repeatedly why it’s a good idea (which it is). Marshal the best arguments that can be found, while welcoming reasonable dissenting opinions so that people believe they have had a chance to hear all sides. Be honest about what we don’t know and when our understandings shift, be candid about what changed and why.
In short, treat us like free Americans. Not only will that reduce the rancor, it will also make it more likely that people will accept the shot.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.