Friday, May 07, 2021

Vaccine Mandate Musings

Should vaccine passports, or vaccination itself, be mandatory? I can only share my opinions, which are conflicted. Here are my thoughts:

Because of federal medical privacy laws, vaccine passports would have to be issued only on request of the patient/person waiving such privacy, so disclosure is in one sense inherently controlled by the individual and would be voluntary. Additionally, the state and the CDC are routinely notified of your COVID-19 vaccination, so it is not hidden from them; governments already know if you’ve been vaccinated. Another argument is that apps can track your location, but of course location tracking can be disabled for any app or phone, and mandates can also limit tracking to when the app is opened. Many people post their vaccine status on social media and then inconsistently worry about privacy after sharing it with massive companies that have access to their personal data.

Private companies can already mandate vaccines, including medical and nursing home staff, or college campuses (which now offer remote classes), and require masks and distancing unless such private company requirements are banned by law. Some people may want to show these verifiable proofs and find them useful; for example to travel overseas without needing quarantines or invasive testing.  

There are also issues of whether to restrict private companies from offering incentives for people to show vaccination proof to open cruises, concerts, airline or restaurant seating, etc. A government mandate prohibiting private businesses from doing things that are perceived as helping their sales recover faster and protect public health can also be perceived as anti-capitalist and anti-libertarian. The protection of public health often conflicts with normal civil rights in troubled times; both are mandates of governments. In this case, the government in prohibiting private businesses from using customer safety as a competitive selling point is different from a government mandating essential safety practices. This is actually the opposite of asserting a state mandate to protect public health; by legislating a government monopoly on whether/how to do that, rather than trusting the private sector, as most conservatives would normally prefer. 

As businesspeople, if you felt safer during an epidemic or pandemic by requiring masking and distancing, would you want the state prohibiting you from doing what makes you feel safer or from doing what makes your customers feel safer? In Illinois, the state has said it won’t require a vaccine passport, but did not prohibit local governments or private businesses from doing so, and Chicago may require them short-term for concerts and full restaurant capacity so businesses can reopen faster while protecting public health and safety. Is a business offering incentives discriminating against ineligible customers, or is it a justifiable practice; similar to offering private events or other perks for preferred customers?

I know this is more nuanced than social media and news outlets present the issues to us, but there are both plusses and minuses to government mandates and vaccine passports/proof, and winners and losers. 

It also doesn’t address the issue of some people who can’t get vaccinated: the young, people with autoimmune diseases or other medical conditions, those who have had serious reactions to previous vaccines; even pregnancy is an unknown safety factor. Vaccine mandates without reasonable exemptions are going to harm some people; maybe far fewer than might get seriously ill or die from the disease if everyone was unvaccinated, but they would needlessly sacrifice some people for the perceived greater good instead of fine-tuning to make vaccinations even safer. Vaccines aren’t perfect; why pretend that they are?

My problem with routine vaccinations is that there is no willingness or incentive to track a minority that may be harmed by vaccines in order to make them safer by identifying people or traits that are unsuitable for a particular vaccine. The ingredients are also a problem for some; including mercury and aluminum, preservatives, allergens, and other chemicals. Why is there no good study on the safety of the complete vaccination program of some 16 vaccines; some with additional boosters? Why are vaccine critics quickly attacked as anti-science, rather than honestly assessing their claims? Why are calls to fine-tune the vaccination program to make it even safer quickly shut down as anti-vaxxers? I appreciate the elimination of TB, smallpox, measles, etc. But why ignore a minority for whom some vaccines - or some ingredients - may be contraindicated to reduce the criticism? 

Sorry, but I seem to have more questions than answers. 

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