Walking around campus, one is struck by a sense of relative normalcy. The hallways are once again filled with students heading to class. Football and other live sports are back and the vibe on campus feels more akin to 2019 than 2020. Although there are still necessary precautions in place like masks inside school buildings, it is clear that the energy of campus has returned. This dramatic shift from just a year ago can be attributed not just to the COVID-19 vaccines but also to vaccine mandates.
The various COVID-19 vaccines are the most important tool we have to prevent COVID-19 infections. However, the societal benefits of the vaccine are more effective if all those who are eligible receive the shot. Large pockets of unvaccinated people can and have led to overcrowded hospitals and the rise of new COVID-19 variants. One of the most effective ways to increase the number of people vaccinated is through comprehensive vaccine mandates. State and local governments along with private companies should work to implement vaccine mandates now to help us increase the rate of vaccination in America.
One of the biggest questions with early vaccine mandates was whether they would lead to more people deciding to get vaccinated or whether they would prompt large-scale resignations. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted a vaccine mandate for city workers, which includes teachers. Although there was some resistance, in the end over 96% of teachers have now received a dose of the vaccine, with those who have not received the vaccine having been put on unpaid leave. In the weeks since the mandate was announced, over 18,000 shots were administered to teachers. This shows that when faced with the choice of receiving a safe and effective shot or losing their job, most people will choose to get vaccinated.
The positive impact of vaccine mandates on vaccination rates has been seen at the University of Michigan. Before the announcement of the vaccine mandate, 81% of students had reported they had received the vaccine. However, since Michigan instituted a vaccine mandate 96% of students have reported being vaccinated. Knowing that the vast majority of your fellow classmates are vaccinated allows you to feel more comfortable with in-person interactions. Whether in classes, at The Big House or in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, it is reassuring to know that the people around you are also vaccinated.
Critics of these plans have warned that there would be worker shortages in key industries, such as healthcare and childcare. There have been some instances of these shortages, even in New York, where the vast majority of workers got vaccinated. Many officials have brainstormed creative solutions to deal with possible shortages. In New York, N.Y. Gov. Kathleen Courtney Hochul, D-NY, responded to possible healthcare shortages with a plan to deploy medically trained National Guard members or allow retired medical professionals to return to work.
Many people who are anti-mandate claim that receiving the vaccine should be a personal choice. However, as we have seen with COVID-19 the impact of one’s choice does not only impact themselves. Unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID-19 and become infected themselves, thereby taking up space in hospitals and possibly spreading the virus to those who are unable to receive the vaccine due to their age or medical history.
Mandates are necessary not just in the healthcare field but in all fields. We have seen certain companies, such as United Airlines step up and institute vaccine mandates. After the mandate, thousands of United employees received their shot and those who didn’t were terminated. More businesses of all sizes should follow this lead and institute their own mandates.
The Biden administration has announced a policy that would mandate vaccines for a variety of companies. President Biden has said that the Labor Department will put in place a rule requiring companies over 100 workers to require their workers to receive the vaccine or face mandatory weekly testing. Additionally, any worker at a hospital or healthcare facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding payments from the federal government will be required to have all their employees vaccinated, as will all federal contractors.
Once implemented these rules will have a major impact on vaccine rates and allowing our country to overcome COVID-19. However, this plan will take time to be drafted and implemented, as the administration wants to ensure the bill will not be struck down in the courts.
Given the deadly nature of COVID-19 and its continued impact on unvaccinated areas, we cannot wait on the federal government to craft these mandates. More businesses and state and local governments should enact mandates to ensure that people are getting the shot and we can continue on a path back to normalcy on campus and beyond.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.