If all Americans were as willing as federal employees to get vaccinated, there would be far less misery. Overall in the United States, 74.1 percent of Americans over five years old have at least one coronavirus shot, and 62.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Mr. Biden’s executive order on Sept. 9 to federal workers achieved impressive results ranging from the Agriculture Department’s 86.1 percent to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 97.8 percent. In the combined civilian and active duty force of the Defense Department, 93.4 percent have at least one dose. This compares favorably with the uptake of the mandated childhood measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, 91.6 percent for children born in 2017-2018. There are very few cases of measles in the United States. In contrast, influenza vaccinations are not mandated for most of the population. Only 52 percent of people older than six months were vaccinated in 2020. The shots are less effective than covid inoculations; millions in this country are stricken by flu each year, with tens of thousands requiring hospitalization.
In many cases in the private sector, workers have accepted shots when required to get them. Tyson Foods set a Nov. 1 deadline and reported over 96 percent uptake. At the same time, a vocal minority have refused to obey mandates. In Chicago, 35 police and 26 Fire Department workers have been put on no-pay status and sent home for refusing to report their vaccination status. About 23 percent of the city’s first responders are not fully vaccinated, the Chicago Tribune reported. Some 600 Google employees have signed a document calling on the company to rethink a vaccine mandate for its 150,000 workers. Large organizations may survive a loss of a few workers, but it can be crippling for smaller organizations, including small hospitals battling a severe shortage of acute-care nurses and schools experiencing shortages of teachers. The U.S. Marine Corps, numbering about 183,000, has several thousand Marines who have refused to get vaccinated by the Nov. 28 deadline. In the past, the military has required a list of vaccinations for active duty members. The Corps leadership has said those who do not get the shot or exemption will be kicked out. But can the Corps afford to lose several thousand? “We don’t have extra Marines,” the Marines’ top general, Commandant David H. Berger, said in a video message.
Mandates should carry some consequences, but with flexibility, including religious and other exemptions where appropriate. For some organizations, regular testing and face mask requirements might work for those who won’t get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines didn’t impose a vaccine mandate but is charging the unvaccinated an extra $200 a month in health insurance premiums and is requiring weekly coronavirus testing. All this said, however, the fastest route out of the pandemic is for everyone to roll up their sleeves.