We have tools in place to mitigate the escalation of new cases, but we need to act now with a sense of urgency — and that means intensifying efforts to increase vaccination coverage across all age groups, using a range of strategies, including broad vaccine mandates like the Biden The government’s requirement for companies with more than 100 employees to have employees vaccinated or tested weekly.
Unfortunately, the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last week upheld an earlier suspension of Biden’s new vaccine mandate. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has temporarily suspended enforcement of the rule, which would go into full effect on Jan. 4. The court’s decision was ill-considered and threatens to unnecessarily prolong the pandemic in the United States.
Although nearly 196 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, this number is only 59% of the US population. Despite the ready availability of vaccines in the country for more than six months, 30% of adults are not fully vaccinated. It’s not clear what proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated to receive community immunity, but Belgium currently has one of the world’s highest rates of Covid-19, despite 74% of the population being fully vaccinated. Germany has vaccinated 10% more of its population than the United States, but the seven-day incidence this week reached a record 336.9 cases per 100,000 people, up from 249.1 cases reported last week.
As countries in Europe see an increase in cases, the World Health Organization said it was “very concerned” and noted that, at the current rate, more than 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March. A winter spike in Covid-19 cases was expected as the virus spreads more easily the more time people spend indoors, but the magnitude of this latest wave will be determined by the level of vaccination in the community and we need to do better.
In just 11 months, the US has managed to administer more than 437 million doses of vaccines, a remarkable achievement, but with more than 100 million people unvaccinated, the level of immunity is not nearly high enough to ward off new wave. In the past 14 days, the number of cases in the US has increased by 17%, now an average of more than 85,000 cases per day. Hospital admissions and deaths are still declining, but the rate of decline is slowing and is likely to pick up again soon.
To avoid a major Covid-19 peak in the winter, we must first and foremost vaccinate millions of people and do it quickly. The latest poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 20% of American adults say they definitely won’t get the vaccine or will only get it when they need to. For many in this hard-core resistant minority, only a mandate related to their job is likely to influence their decision.
Vaccination mandates are not new to the United States. All 50 states, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia require vaccines for children who attend school. The United States Department of Defense requires 17 different vaccines for military personnel. Many healthcare facilities require an annual flu vaccination for all employees.
The United States Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of a vaccine mandate. Sign up for the majority in Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905, upholding the state’s smallpox vaccine requirement, Judge John Marshall Harlan wrote, “But the liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution to every person within its jurisdiction does not mean that every person has an absolute right has to be times and under all circumstances, wholly liberated from restraint.” Harlan continues: “True liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle that recognizes the right of every individual person to use his own, whether it be his person or his property, regardless of the harm caused to others. can be inflicted.”
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas upheld United Airlines’ Covid-19 vaccine mandate, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said federal anti-discrimination laws don’t prohibit employers from demanding the vaccines for employees.
Early experience with Covid-19 vaccine mandates shows that nearly all workers choose to get vaccinated when faced with the choice between vaccine compliance and losing their job. After United Airlines required all employees to receive a vaccine, 99.5% of US-based employees complied with the policy. As of November 1, 93% to 99% of the military had been vaccinated. The percentage of New York City firefighters who received at least a first dose of vaccine rose six points and 27 percentage points in the past week since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate on Oct. 19.
Nevertheless, Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote of the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans to confirm Biden’s stay on the mandate: “The mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that barely makes any attempt to take into account differences in workplaces.” In politically charged language, the judge continued: “The public interest is also served by preserving our constitutional structure and preserving the freedom of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own beliefs – even or perhaps especially when those decisions frustrate government officials.” .”
There are several other pending lawsuits that are also seeking to block the national vaccine mandate, some focusing on whether OSHA, which was created by Congress to “provide “safe and healthy working conditions and to protect our human resources,” has violated its charter. . It seems likely that the fate of the government’s vaccine mandate will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. As we are still faced with a highly contagious and deadly pathogen, time is of the essence.
While the Court’s decision is uncertain, it is abundantly clear that if we are to overcome this pandemic, many more people will need to be vaccinated. Vaccine mandates are a critical public health tool that has been shown to significantly increase vaccine compliance. On Thursday, the American Medical Association and more than 60 other groups urged the nation’s employers to voluntarily implement the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate plan. Hopefully the Supreme Court will soon decide whether a broad vaccine mandate is constitutional, and ultimately whether we are a country that is one for all, not all for one.