President Biden Vaccine Mandate

Anthony Lopez, Staff Writer

U.S. President Joe Biden recently unveiled a sweeping plan to further combat COVID-19, a virus that has in recent months seen a resurgence of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. With only just over half of the population fully vaccinated and 80 million of those eligible lacking even a single shot, Biden hopes that firm policies and executive actions aimed at encouraging vaccination might aid the United States in finally escaping the pandemic that has plagued the world for over a year and a half. Among other orders, President Biden declared the requirement of vaccinations for all federal workers as well as healthcare workers in participating Medicare and Medicaid hospitals. The Labor Department will also be issuing mandates for companies employing over 100 people to be vaccinated, and if employees opt to remain unvaccinated, they must submit to weekly testing.

It must first be acknowledged that there remains precedent for the government to enforce vaccine mandates, most notably found in the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case of 1905. During this trial, the Supreme Court argued in favor of the state, deeming mandates to combat the smallpox epidemic constitutional. Employers, too, have an established legal right to require their employees take vaccines.

In all, it is a sweeping set of demands from a president desperate to turn the tide of a seemingly endless pandemic. But many have not seen it as President Biden has, considering the orders as nothing more than a tyrannical overreach from a wannabe authoritarian. So let us evaluate the pandemic as it stands at the moment and see if Biden truly has become the controlling ruler people insist he has.
There was an oft-repeated phrase heard in the summer months: “those who wanted to get the vaccine already had gotten it.” That was mostly true; while the beginning of 2021 saw massive percentages of people flocking to vaccination centers, by June, the rate was slowly beginning to plateau. Only about 10 million became fully vaccinated in August, a stark contrast to the nearly 50 million who received their full dosage in April.

This is a worrying decline, a sentiment echoed by the world’s leading scientists that vaccinations are one of the most effective ways of fighting back against COVID-19. Social distancing and mask usage were our primary means of defense last year and now serve as additional forms of protection even with the vaccine. Because even with a shot in the arm, the virus can still infect. It may pose a smaller threat to the vaccinated and help prevent visits to the hospital, but breakthrough cases may still occur. However, the threat of the virus still falls predominantly on the unvaccinated. This is now, if I may harken back to another oft-repeated phrase, “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” So why is Biden insisting upon it? Why can he not simply let those who do not wish to be vaccinated simply be as they are?

The notion that people are resistant to vaccine mandates is only a half-truth; there are of course people who simply do not wish to be forced into taking it, and some among those who have already received their shots remain hesitant to this grand display of authoritative power. But many others do not wish to receive the vaccine at all, using the proliferation of these mandates as an excuse to cause a greater uproar.

It is a foundational core of American liberty that the rights of its citizens should not be infringed upon by authoritarian entities. Yet, at a certain point, we must pause to consider how one person’s demand for liberty becomes a hindrance to another. The refusal to take the vaccine, the willingness to let COVID-19 attack without any precautionary measures, does not simply end with the individual. In a pandemic, particularly one afflicted with a rapidly transmitting virus, the decision to forgo necessary lines of defense that are so readily accessible for the entire population can be devastating.

In short, the demands of the one can not be granted priority when they might risk the wellbeing of the other.

Neglect to take precautionary measures and, in particular, to take the vaccine will invariably cause harm to oneself and to others. The vaccinated, though more protected, are still threatened by the effects of the virus. Even more threatened are the unvaccinated. This group does not merely include the resistant Americans among us; there are many who physically cannot take the vaccine and must rely on the others around them to pick up their slack. Despite being over a year and a half into the pandemic, cases remain high and ICUs are in danger of reaching maximum capacity. With the Delta variant posing an even greater threat, the new wave of this pandemic will hit the unvaccinated hardest of all.

We are among the most fortunate countries, endowed with a surplus of vaccines and a system that ensures its access for the entire country. There is no greater mark against American exceptionalism that despite our many advantages, we still insist upon our own failure so long as we are granted the choice to do so.

It is an admirable stance at times. We wish to such a grand degree to remain independent that even in the face of great loss we are grateful that we could walk that path, that we were able to make such a decision. It is admirable but ignorant. When we are over a year and a half into a pandemic that has taken so many lives, such stubborn independence simply cannot remain unchecked.

Our blind defiance of authority is not the only culprit here. We must address the year and a half of disinformation designed to destabilize our trust in resources that are meant to save our lives during a pandemic, and we cannot overlook the decades of propaganda against vaccines that have been supercharged online and believed by far too many.

In the age of information, it can be difficult to know what to believe, and often those struggling to find the truth fall prey to misinformation. But more so than that, people fall prey to indulging in their own biases, choosing to accept what they wish to be real rather than what actually is.

It is the tragic indictment of our selfishness and arrogance that we have reached a point of the pandemic wherein the federal government must step in, attempting to persuade the private sector to enforce vaccinations.

There can be no more half-measures to the pandemic response; we cannot wait another year and a half for Americans to eventually come around and take the virus seriously. We cannot wait for a change that may never even arrive. The federal government should never have had to reach this kind of impasse with the unvaccinated, where they must work to persuade employers to mandate vaccines. But the most bullish of the unvaccinated, who have had every opportunity to protect themselves and others, have forced their hand.

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