Defeating the Pandemic: The Necessity of Vaccination Mandates

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Our country’s mental health depends on defeating this pandemic. The key to victory? Vaccine mandates.

COMMENTARY

Florida has just reported the highest 1-day total in new COIVD-19 cases—21,683—since the start of the pandemic, largely due to the Delta variant.1 Studies show that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, particularly against hospitalization and death.2 In fact, roughly 97% of those recently hospitalized were unvaccinated.

Vaccines are now readily available, but only 65% of all Americans 12 years old and above have been partially vaccinated.3 This figure is both alarming and tragic; alarming because the low number of vaccinations has allowed the Delta variant to take hold, and tragic because the painful and sorrowful consequences of this pandemic will not be stamped out at this rate.

The defeat of this pandemic falls under the purview of all mental health professionals. We have a major role to play in being proactive and vocal in our support of vaccinations for all Americans.

Safely and Effectively Defeating the Pandemic

The stark reality is that the worst pandemic in more than a century has not been defeated. More than 639,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. The anguish it has caused is undeniable. Yet, even after 19 months of hardship and sacrifice, we are still debating the need and efficacy of our medical miracle: the vaccines. Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to finally defeat the pandemic.4 That is not a political or ethical or personal statement. It is a medical, scientific fact. It is a certainty.

This pandemic can be eradicated, just like diphtheria, smallpox, polio, measles, and mumps. How did we eradicate those illnesses? The American public overwhelmingly accepted vaccines for these diseases.

An important characteristic of vaccines is that they provide both individual and community protection. When a sufficiently large proportion of individuals in a community is immunized, those individuals serve as a protective barrier against the transmission of the disease in the community, thus indirectly protecting those who are not immunized. The proportion of the population that must be immune to provide this herd immunity varies according to the specific disease. For measles, that proportion was 90%. The proportion for COVID-19 is believed to be approaching 90%.5

The Political Challenge

From the very beginning, the COVID-19 pandemic became a litmus test for political devotion. Americans took political sides as to whether mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing were necessary mitigation measures. Public health experts were ridiculed. Science and medicine were ignored. The exact same political jockeying has been evident with the vaccines. Millions of unimmunized Americans hold the belief that the vaccines are untested, unsafe, and/or ineffective. Misinformation about the vaccines is prevalent on certain internet sites. Republican leaders—both national and statewide—have discouraged the use of vaccines, until they realized that their constituents were dying in higher numbers because of their reluctance to get vaccinated. Better late than never, Republican leaders and right-wing news outlets are changing their message about the necessity for vaccines.6

In our time of political divisiveness and misinformation, vaccination mandates are necessary. It is not about losing individual rights and freedoms. It is about saving lives and doing what is best for the country at this time of profound existential crisis.

The Need for Mandates

Vaccination mandates have an important history in the United States.7 In 1855, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to enact a school vaccination requirement. In 1905, the US Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upholding the right of states to compel vaccinations. Challenges to mandatory vaccination laws based on religious and philosophical belief have led various courts to hold that no constitutional right exists to either religious or philosophical exemptions. In 1990, the US Supreme Court again acknowledged that courts will not recognize a privacy right to refuse state-mandated vaccinations.7

Now is the time for vaccination mandates. We cannot allow misinformation and misplaced political leanings to cloud our judgment about the necessity for widespread immunization. Until we reach the 70% to 90% mark, COVID-19 will continue to wreak havoc in our country. And more dangerous variants could emerge—including vaccine-resistant ones—if herd immunity is not reached as fast as possible.

Disney and Walmart have mandated that all employees must be vaccinated. Google and Facebook have issued similar mandates.8 Netflix is requiring all cast members in US productions to be immunized.9 Saks Fifth Avenue is requiring all their employees to be vaccinated. All employees of the Washington Post must provide proof of full vaccination. All employees of Lyft are required to be vaccinated. President Joe Biden announced a requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated or submit to regular testing with mitigation requirements.10

Concluding Thoughts

Vaccination mandates are the way for us to finally defeat this pandemic. The US government will not mandate vaccines, but states, cities, schools, colleges, and businesses can. We must not wait another day. Each passing day leads to more illness, more angst, and more death.

Our country’s mental health depends on our success in defeating this pandemic. Achieving herd immunity is the key to success. Mental health professionals at every level must be at the forefront of our efforts in this direction.

Dr Blotcky is a clinical psychologist and freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. Anthony Scaramucci is a financier and former Director of Communications in the White House. He lives in New York City.

References

1. Bella T, Kornfield M. Florida breaks record for new coronavirus cases as surge of infections rip through state. The Washington Post. August 1, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/08/01/florida-highest-coronavirus-cases-record/

2. Katella K. 5 things to know about the delta variant. Yale Medicine. August 3, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid

3. Smith-Schoenwalder C. CDC data: Coronavirus coverage lowest among 12-15-year-olds. US News and World Report. July 14, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-07-14/cdc-data-coronavirus-vaccine-coverage-lowest-among-12-15-year-olds

4. COVID-19 vaccines: get the facts. Mayo Clinic. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vaccine/art-20484859

5. Choi I. Dr. Fauci said up to 90% of population needs to get vaccinated for herd immunity against virus. Business Insider. December 27, 2020. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.businessinsider.com/fauci-up-to-90-population-needs-vaccine-for-herd-immunity-2020-12

6. Miller R, Rand DG. More Republican politicians are endorsing vaccination. It just might work. The Washington Post. August 3, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/08/02/republicans-endorse-vaccines-effective/

7. Malone KM, Himan AR. Vaccination mandates: the public health imperative and individual rights. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/guides-pubs/downloads/vacc_mandates_chptr13.pdf

8. Bella T. Disney and Walmart mandate that employees be vaccinated as COVID-19 cases spike nationwide. The Washington Post. July 31, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/07/31/disney-walmart-vaccine-mandate-delta/

9. Whitten S. Netflix will require Covid vaccinations for actors and some crew on U.S. productions. CNBC. July 28, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/28/netflix-to-require-covid-vaccinations-for-actors-some-crew-on-us-sets.html

10. Benveniste A. More companies are requiring vaccinations for employees. Here’s the latest list. CNN Business. Updated August 1, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.wbaltv.com/article/more-companies-are-requiring-vaccinations-for-employees-heres-the-latest-list/37192324#