We have three words for President Joe Biden, who on Thursday is expected to announce that federal workers will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or else undergo periodic coronavirus testing:
“Go for it.”
A vaccine mandate for federal employees is a dramatic step, but fully justified amid a resurgent, deadly pandemic that simply must be brought under control.
Biden’s proposal will, we believe, set a precedent for a get-tough approach across the nation that is more necessary by the day to reach the “vaccine hesitant” who are willfully endangering public health.
We trust the president will ignore the loud carping and hysteria from his opponents, which we can hear already. They will surely blather on about government overreach and forced vaccination, ignoring the fact that mandatory vaccination, in schools and in the workplace, has been repeatedly upheld by the courts for decades.
The worst of the critics will again spout the worst lies and nonsense — Biden’s trying to change your DNA! — on social media and anywhere else where the gullible are to be found.
Enough is enough. We urge every business and institution to follow in Biden’s footsteps. Resistance to getting the vaccine has descended into stubborn lunacy, driven by pure politics — Republicans have been much less likely to get the vaccination — and selfish, unacceptable disregard for public health.
Far from herd immunity
Despite abundant and widespread information about the safety of the vaccines, not to mention cash lotteries and other incentives used as carrots to lure the reluctant, America is far from the herd immunity that would protect the population as a whole.
Only 49% of American adults — including 52% of Chicago adults — are fully vaccinated. Large swaths of the country, including pockets of southern Illinois, have vaccination rates that are even lower.
So we strongly urge other institutions, public and private, to get in step with Biden’s plan. We urge our own employer, the Chicago Sun-Times, to do so as well. Make the vaccine a requirement of the job, with exceptions made only for those who are medically unable to get the shot.
It’s really the only way to ensure that schools, hospitals, grocery stores, offices, factories and other workplaces are safe for everyone. It would be a huge step toward ending this “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.
More vaccinations would eliminate a large number of new infections, 97% of which now occur among the unvaccinated. Life could get fully back to normal. Our economy would get a big jump-start as the pandemic eases.
All it takes is more people getting a shot that is free, highly effective and proven safe.
If carrots are not enough, time to use a stick.
Common sense out the window
There’s also a strong public health case to be made in favor of mandating vaccination in other circumstances during the pandemic. Airlines, for one, should require passengers to be vaccinated, or to test negative for the virus. The close confines of an airplane are a perfect vehicle for transmitting the virus.
The organizers of Lollapalooza got it right when they announced that concert-goers must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get into the festival — and we trust they’ll follow through.
If common sense and logic prevailed, the nation would not need vaccine mandates to get people to do the right thing. They would willingly get the shot for their own benefit, and as good citizens wishing to protect others, too, including young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine.
But common sense and good citizenship have never quite taken hold when it comes to COVID-19, for which the blame lies squarely with right-wing conspiracists, a former president and the likes of Fox News.
All progress against the coronavirus could go for naught if a more deadly, more contagious, and vaccine-resistant variant develops in the breeding ground of the unvaccinated. We dare not risk that happening.
Why kids don’t die of polio
The United States has a history of mandating life-saving vaccines. It is legal, constitutional and anything but “un-American.” It is why we no longer fill our graveyards with children who died of polio.
Every government and business should do the same now — make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for working in an office, getting on a plane or going to a concert.
Let’s get serious about getting America back to normal.
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