OPINION: COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory

Julia Jackson  

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Jackson are her own. Jackson is not a certified health professional. This article should not be referenced for medical advice. Always consult a medical provider with questions regarding your health. 

     COVID-19 vaccines have become a hot-button issue at the center of a storm of disinformation over the course of the pandemic. Controversy has especially surrounded the question of vaccine mandates, coming on the heels of the Biden administration’s decision to enforce a partial mandate for certain employers through the Department of Labor. 

     While the idea of a vaccine mandate may seem to violate bodily autonomy, enforcing vaccination against COVID-19 is ultimately for the greater good. 

     First and foremost, vaccines work. Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are all proven to be safe and effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Current case numbers reflect far more positive cases and hospitalizations in unvaccinated adults than breakthrough cases in vaccinated adults.  

     Based on data from 13 states, Science News reported that in late July, “26 adults per 100,000 vaccinated people had been hospitalized for COVID-19 … compared with about 431 hospitalized people for every 100,000 unvaccinated individuals.”  

     Similarly, a CDC study of the New York adult population found that “a total of 1,271 new COVID-19 hospitalizations (0.17 per 100,000 person-days) occurred among fully vaccinated adults, compared with 7,308 (2.03 per 100,000 person-days) among unvaccinated adults.” 

     Because vaccines are the surest way to protect against COVID-19, our population will be safest if the majority is vaccinated, plain and simple.  

     Initially, the primary practical barrier to achieving this goal was accessibility; however, COVID-19 vaccines are more accessible now than ever before. The federal government has already mandated that vaccines be provided free of charge, with or without health insurance, making the vaccine more accessible than almost all other types of healthcare in the U.S. 

     With the partial vaccination mandate, the administration has also required employers “to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination,” according to a statement by the White House. 

     Furthermore, vaccination mandates follow a historical precedent in the U.S., according to “Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights” from “Law in Public Health Practice,” as cited by the CDC.  

     The first mandate was introduced against smallpox by Massachusetts schools in the 1850s, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination in the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. By 1977, schools in all 50 states required vaccinations under the Childhood Immunization Initiative. Owing largely to school vaccination mandates coupled with large-scale public campaigns, naturally occurring smallpox and polio were eradicated in the U.S. 

     Traditionally, mandates have been invoked at the state level, but employers are also similarly able to enforce vaccination, and many will be required to do so under the new mandate.  

     While some may raise objections, “Law in Public Health Practice” clearly outlines: “No constitutional right exists to either a religious or philosophic exemption to [vaccination] requirements, although most states allow religious exemptions and several allow philosophic exemptions.” 

     What must be recognized at this point are medical exemptions. According to Yale Health, those who are immunosuppressed, are pregnant or breastfeeding or have severe allergies to components of the vaccines may be recommended not to be vaccinated. These groups are also some of the most vulnerable to the virus, which is even more reason that those who can be vaccinated, should be. 

     A vaccination mandate is nothing new and nothing to fear. The sooner we understand that vaccination is not a political issue but one of public health, the safer we will be.