Mandatory Vaccinations?

Ideas and Issues
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July 6, 2021

New Orleans    

President Biden has said that we are around the corner on the pandemic.  Lordy, we all hope so, but given what we have all been through it’s hard to ignore discordant voices and the hard facts in front of us.

Some people close to the public health community are furrowing their brows and warning that the Delta variant is likely going to be an increasing problem as fall comes around.  There are reports from nursing homes about increasing rates of infection even among the vaccinated.  Walmart Supercenters are reportedly super spreader sites where, regardless of the company’s policy or local regulations, people should wear masks.  Put all of that together with the word from business and political figures arguing that it would be nigh to impossible to reimpose shutdowns or mask mandates and expect compliance now that they are being lifted. What a mess.

Meanwhile the vaccination drive has lost some of its intensity.  Vaccine hesitancy is part of the problem.  Wyoming leads with 30% of those unvaccinated saying that’s the reason their sleeves are still rolled down. There are more and more creative efforts being taken to induce people to get the shots.  Raffles, giveaways, drawings, and about everything imaginable are being thrown at people, including money and bonuses to get the shots.  Who can tell if it will be enough?

In this situation, why aren’t more businesses, institutions, and governmental bodies requiring vaccinations?  Houston Methodist Hospital system certainly required vaccinations and either terminated or accepted resignations from 153 of their staff that refused.  Part of the problem for some businesses is the fear of requiring the shots and then facing liabilities if anyone contracted the virus, because the FDA has still only given emergency approval to any of the shots.  Supposedly, the FDA is moving towards a permanent designation soon, but we need something now.

Concerns about liabilities would not exist for employers if they required vaccinations from any new hires.  Why wouldn’t all healthcare institutions particularly agree to take such steps?  Our union has proposed having this discussion with nursing home and community home companies where we have contracts.

Recently, a human relations director at a manufacturing company looked me in the eye when I asked this question, and said their reticence was solely based on the difficult in hiring for their staffing vacancies.  What a catch-22!  Some 25% of workers at home are not going back to work because of low vaccination levels in the workplace, and workplaces won’t make hiring those with vaccinations a priority as a requirement.  Who’s on first, what’s on second?

If we all want to get back to a real normal rather than this false security we may be enjoying now, we’re likely going to have to make some hard decisions as a community and tighten down the rules of the road on vaccinations going forward.  How can we avoid it?