I am all in on Covid-19 vaccinations, and I have been since they were rolled out last December. It was encouraging to see rapidly set-up clinics move our state’s residents through professionally and efficiently, putting life-saving shots in arms in those early months.
For a while it appeared as though we were going to quickly vaccinate our way out of this mess. But we know that has not happened. The more contagious Delta variant fueled a second surge. Vaccine hesitancy or outright refusal coalesced into a politically-charged movement that stalled progress.
And so here we are, and this is where we will be until the virus runs its course or until those who have remained unvaccinated decide to get the shot. The former is going to happen before the latter.
President Biden is trying to force the issue with a series of steps, the most controversial of which is the order for all private employers with more than 100 employees to require their workers be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Non-compliance can result in fines of $14,000 per violation.
“My message to the unvaccinated Americans is this, what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” Biden said last Thursday. “We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA-approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”
That is all true. However, the president’s sledgehammer approach is wrong-headed for a couple of reasons:
There are legitimate constitutional questions as to whether a President has that authority. The Wall Street Journal reports the Biden administration is relying on OSHA’s emergency powers to enact a rule if “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards.”
Republican Governors and Attorneys General were drawing up legal challenges to the rule before Biden finished his speech. The debatable authority of OSHA to enforce the rule and the political opportunism of some on the right combine to ensure the country will be subject to weeks of court fights and media-enhanced histrionics.
A court or courts will inevitably halt the order, which means the shots won’t be administered and the testing won’t be done, but the country will be even more divided between the vaxers and anti-vaxers. Biden did not help with his antagonistic tone, which is sure to drive the non-vaccinated crowd even deeper into their corner.
Yes, all Americans, except those with legitimate health concerns or religious reasons, should get vaccinated. It is nothing short of a scientific miracle that brilliant researchers have developed a life-saving drug that will stop a pandemic.
Much of the opposition to the shots is rooted in mistrust of government and resentment of government telling individuals what to do. Tragically, those beliefs are making the rest of us less safe.
However, President Biden did not help matters with the heavy-handed dictum directed at the private sector and millions of employees. If anything, he guaranteed that the anti-vaxers will become even more resolute in their opposition.