MINOT, N.D. — I'm a supporter of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that's not just words.
I've been vaccinated.
Every eligible member of my family has been vaccinated.
But I'm worried vaccine mandates of the sort Sanford Health and the Mayo Clinic are in the process of implementing may do more harm than good.
How might things play out? We have some precedent.
“In April, Houston Methodist became the first health system in the country to require all its employees to get fully vaccinated," the Association of American Medical Colleges reports. "While most complied, the health system suspended 178 workers without pay for missing the June 7 inoculation deadline.”
I don't think it's unreasonable that a large minority of Sanford and Mayo's employees might similarly buck their deadlines for getting vaccinated, and that news is going to bolster the argument coming from our anti-vaccine friends and neighbors.
"The argument against vaccine skeptics is that medical experts and doctors say the vaccines are safe and necessary to prevent serious complications from COVID-19 infections," Jim Geraghty notes at National Review. "The vaccine skeptics can point to the holdouts in the medical community and observe, with some accuracy, that not everyone who works in health care is convinced about the benefits and risks."
The legal experts are probably right that employers like Sanford are on firm legal ground when it comes to mandating the vaccine, though they'll need to be careful with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. But are these mandates from medical industry employers and government agencies and universities going to persuade Americans to believe in the vaccines?
Even if you convince a vaccine skeptic to get the shot, if only for the sake of keeping their job or avoiding other sanctions, have you not engendered some rancor in that person which might manifest itself as increased hostility to calls for things like vaccines in the face of future public health crises?
How much more of the public health industry's credibility are we willing to expend on expediency?
And here's another problem: The vaccine employers like Sanford are mandating still hasn't been approved by the FDA, which lends some credibility to those choosing to demure.
Over 163 million Americans are fully vaccinated, representing nearly half of our nation's population, and yet the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still being delivered under an “emergency-use authorization” while the bureaucratic ditherers at the Food and Drug Administration conduct a “rolling review” process that will, one day, allow them to issue the final stamp of approval.
The Biden administration is indicating that the FDA's final approval may come at the end of August, by which time over half of the American population — including the 70% of the active-duty military who have had at least one shot — will have been vaccinated.
Can we be excused for wondering what the point of that process is?
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking for mask mandates even for the vaccinated.
Is it too much to ask that the people who say vaccinations work act as though they work?
Can we acknowledge that this cognitive dissonance from the federal government is contributing in no small part to the confused attitudes about the COVID-19 vaccine among the American public?
Again, I believe the vaccine is safe. I talked to my doctor about it. I talked to our pediatrician about it for my children. We got the shots. I wouldn't have let that happen if I thought it was unsafe.
If our government did more to show us, with its own actions, that the vaccine was safe, perhaps mandates wouldn't be necessary.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.