Sunday, December 5, 2021

Should There Be A COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate?

It is easy to opine on issues that don’t personally affect us.  We’ve all seen folks on television or in our own lives who righteously stake out positions when they are far beyond the reach of their effects.  Conversely, we’ve seen the irony and the hypocrisy of individuals who ‘evolve’ almost instantly when a controversial issue becomes relevant to their personal circumstances.  Senator Rob Portman of my state of Ohio, for example, was against same sex marriage until he wasn’t.  Readers are encouraged to look up what led to a reversal in Senator Portman’s view.

Charles Darwin didn't realize that politicians can evolve.

The pandemic has also exposed much public (and private) pontification from individuals, businesses, organizations, government agencies – all of whom may have agendas that extend beyond any actual public health concerns.  One issue that has created raw fissures among us is the concept of mandating vaccines.  There are spirited arguments on various sides of this issue.  There’s the public health angle.  There’s the personal freedom argument.  There are business concerns regarding worker retention.  It’s now a legal issue.  It permeates commerce, education, travel, politics and nearly every sphere of our lives.

As of this writing, it has yet to be determined if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring vaccinations of businesses who employ more than 100 workers is lawful.  The ETS has been stayed by the courts.

But here’s my point.  Assume that every business of any size must have all employees fully vaccinated. I have no doubt that tens of millions of Americans would support this from a public health standpoint.  This mandate would protect employees as well as customers.  In addition, the more of us who are vaccinated the closer we are to overpowering the pandemic before new variants emerge.  Can you say, 'Omicron'?

So, how does one oppose a measure that seems to have no legitimate counter-argument?

Think of it from a small business’s point of view.  Say you run a small retail shop, perhaps in a rural area or a part of the country where there is vaccine reluctance.  You have 7 employees and 5 of them have decided against the vaccine and would sooner quit than submit to the mandate.  The prospect for hiring new employees is non-existent, even though you have raised wages substantially and have offered a hiring bonus.  

What would a vaccine mandate do to this business and millions of similar businesses?  While the employer might favor a vaccine mandate in principle, do we expect that he or she would support a measure that would incinerate his livelihood?   And, are the folks who are arguing for a broad vaccine mandate at risk of losing their livelihoods if they prevail?

It’s quite different to argue a position when you’re not in the line of fire.


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