The results were stunning. Sure some Frenchmen protested, but 3.7 million booked vaccine appointments in the first week after Macron’s announcement, and “a record of nearly 900,000 vaccinations in a single day on July 19.” Macron is saving lives and helping to restore his country’s economy and mental health.
Meanwhile, in the United States, we are still pleading with the unpersuadables to stop listening to anti-vaccination cranks and risking their own lives and others around them (e.g., children not old enough to get the vaccine, those vulnerable to breakthrough infections). Polling suggests outreach will not get us far. “Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will.”
The White House continues to point to some encouraging signs. “The five states with the highest case rates — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada — had a higher rate of people getting newly vaccinated compared to the national average,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “That is a good sign. This is the second week in a row.” Fair enough.
And by all means, we should continue outreach to the 19 percent who probably or definitely will get vaccinated. We should encourage local leaders, clergy and others close to the unvaccinated to push skeptics to get vaccinated. However, we need to come to grips with the most recalcitrant 45 percent of the unvaccinated and to start showing there are consequences (apart from illness and death) to their self-destructive behavior.
Just as the federal government mandated masks on interstate travel and in federal buildings, the federal government can require proof of vaccinations in these venues after the vaccines get final approval from the Food and Drug Administration. It is mind-boggling that we have yet to require all military personnel to be vaccinated.
Likewise, public schools for decades have required a slew of age-appropriate vaccines for children. There is no reason not to expand the list of required shots to coronavirus vaccines for approved age groups and the personnel who come in contact with them. Surely the Education Department should nudge schools — and even give financial incentives — to do so.
Moreover, there is no reason the White House cannot strongly encourage states, localities and private entities to start requiring proof of vaccination. Rather than simply note that “there will be institutions, there will be private-sector companies, and others who make decisions about how to keep their communities safe,” as Psaki did last week, the administration could invite professional sports leagues to require both athletes and fans in attendance at sports venues to show proof of vaccination. It could cajole major employers and universities, health-care facilities and big retail chains to follow suit. The federal government can also defend private entities that demand proof of vaccinations (e.g., cruise lines) against reckless politicians (e.g., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) trying to prevent private businesses from maximizing safety.
No one has a right to work in a way that places them at risk to others or themselves. Conservatives, of all people, should realize private businesses have the right to run their operations as they see fit. Government should protect the private sector when it takes socially responsible actions.
Some politicians are figuring it out. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has begun to call on private businesses to require workers to be vaccinated and signaled that he would introduce similar measures for municipal employees. He should be applauded. Why isn’t New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) doing the same?
We should praise red state governors such as Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey for expressing exasperation with the mass of her residents who won’t get vaccinated — and then encourage her to mandate vaccinations at state facilities and, at the very least, urge Alabama employers to require their workers to get vaccinated.
To the detriment of those who behaved responsibly by getting the vaccine and those who are still unprotected (e.g., young children), we have indulged the willfully reckless vaccine deniers for far too long. If deniers want to ignore science and endanger themselves, they can do so at home, outside or at private establishments that do not care to require proof of vaccination. The rest of us deserve to enjoy reopened communities and the peace of mind that comes from living in a country where virtually every covid-19 death or hospitalization is now preventable.