What’s Left: Biden’s Vaccine Mandate is Necessary 

Samantha Wotring, Contributing Writer

In September, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to write rules that would mandate companies with over 100 employees to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or test the unvaccinated once a week. This mandate will cover close to two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, according to CNN. OSHA has completed Biden’s proposal and the only thing preventing the implementation of the mandate is the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) review. 

As expected, the mandate has already been subject to harsh criticisms and even preemptive measures to stop its implementation in certain republican states. The Texas Tribune reported that Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, for example, has already issued an executive order stating that no organization or company in the state can force its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Southwest and American Airlines, both based in Texas, have stated that they will continue to comply with Biden’s federal vaccination requirements, which are far stricter than the mandate Biden is proposing for businesses, according to the Washington Post. These challenges do not stop in Texas. Almost every republican state attorney general has signed a letter to President Biden, promising to use every avenue available to stop the mandate from being enforced. 

These challenges are bound to encounter some issues. According to the Washington Post, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh has the legal power to issue an emergency temporary standard if they determine workers face danger from harmful agents. This standard is then supposed to be replaced by a permanent law in six months. The letter sent to Biden from republican attorney generals also claimed that employees are not in danger of COVID-19 because of the high vaccination rate of the general population and that COVID-19 is not only an issue for workers, but for the entire population, and therefore can’t be mandated by the OSHA.

However, this does not take into account the science behind herd immunity. According to the Mayo Clinic’s vaccination tracker, as of Oct. 21, over 57 percent of the American population is fully vaccinated. While this is an impressive and promising number, it is still far below a percentage in which our population would be considered at low risk for contracting the disease. In fact, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, herd immunity for COVID-19 looks very different from herd immunity for diseases like measles. It is possible to get COVID-19 after being vaccinated or having had the disease before, which means that this disease requires an even higher vaccination rate to reach herd immunity. Despite a majority of Americans having received the vaccine, we are nowhere near the point we need to reach to consider ourselves “herd immune.”

An unvaccinated worker who has COVID-19 is a danger to other employees, so mandating vaccinations protects all workers from each other. Though OSHA’s power has been overturned in court before, never in recent history has our country faced a health crisis this severe. The pandemic certainly causes danger to Americans in the workplace.

The vaccine mandate is important, lifesaving and will fast-track the U.S. to long-hoped-for normality. The mandate would provide apparently much-needed reassurance that the vaccine is safe and beneficial to the entire country, not just the singular person who is getting vaccinated. Vaccination, and the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole, have been over-politicized since the beginning. This has led to large growth in the already present anti-vax movement in the U.S. According to the CDC, more than 90 percent of children 24 months and younger are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, yet widespread acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is far from our reality. Americans around the country who are anti-vax see the pandemic and the world’s desperate need for a vaccinated population as an opportunity to spread misinformation about vaccines and recruit new members to their movement.

Congressional Republicans have done little to quell the rise in anti-vaccine misinformation coming from from the far-right. According to a recent poll published by NPR, 19 percent of Americans say they will not receive the vaccine, while that same statistic is 37 percent among Republicans and 5 percent among Democrats. Without pushback from republican leaders on false claims, vaccines have become a partisan issue, igniting a fear within the party’s base. U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said, “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your bibles,” during this year’s CPAC conference about the Biden administration’s plan for door-to-door COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Hill.

Ideally, every American should have the choice of whether or not to get vaccinated. However, when so many choose to ignore the health and safety of our country’s children and the immunocompromised, a vaccine mandate becomes not only justified, but necessary. The health of our family, friends, neighbors and community members must be a top priority, and we must work to fight this spread of misinformation that puts us all in danger.