The Case for Making Vaccination Mandatory: From a CA Assemblymember

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5 mins read
Coronavirus vaccination

This is alarming: California’s new COVID surge would have put many counties back into the most restrictive tier under our reopening blueprint. It’s time we do something uncomfortable: make vaccination mandatory — at schools, gyms, hospitals, workplaces and other public places.

Universities across the US are making the responsible choice by requiring that students and staff get vaccinated. A federal court just upheld their right to require vaccination. Many more schools, hospitals, businesses and workplaces should do the same.

In upholding Indiana University’s vaccination requirement, Judge Damon Leichty wrote:

"Progress has been made because of the vaccine, not despite it. ... Indiana University has acted reasonably here in pursuing public health and safety for its campus communities.” 

Of course, this is 100% correct.

Vaccines allowed us to vanquish smallpox, polio, mumps, tetanus and measles, just to name a few — and in the process, they saved millions of lives and prevented incalculable loss and suffering. That’s why we still require school-age children to be vaccinated.

Because vaccines work.

We’re so fortunate to have developed such an effective vaccine for COVID-19 so fast. It’s free. It’s widely available. And it’s our path to a fully open society.

But COVID is again surging in many cities and states. That we find ourselves here is inexcusable.

In Undervaccinated Arkansas, Covid Upends Life All Over Again, New York Times

Good governance is all about finding the right balance. And balancing individual liberties with public health and safety? That’s one of our most fundamental, ongoing projects. It’s why we have representative democracy ⁠— to find the right balance⁠ — and correct things when we lose balance.

And when it comes to vaccinations, those pushing the narrative that vaccines are some diabolical form of “coercive government control” — rather than what they are, common-sense, responsible public policy — these people are the radicals. Theirs is the extreme view here.

Opinion | Stop pleading with anti-vaxxers and start mandating vaccinations, Washington Post

What of the freedoms of those with legitimate health reasons for not getting vaccinated? What of the liberties of those of us who are vaccinated but don’t want to have to roll the dice — however low the odds — every time we go to work, school, the gym, the store?

Because we all deserve to live our daily lives free from the fear of contracting COVID — regardless of the irresponsible choices of others.

Those choosing not to vaccinate do not have the right to endanger the lives and health of others. That choice comes with real consequences.

This danger was recently made very real to those of us working at the California state Capitol where a small COVID outbreak occurred. A disconcerting level of Capitol staff remains unvaccinated, putting all of us at increased risk.

The story will be repeated at workplaces across the country. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Workplaces, gyms, hospitals, they can do the right thing: require vaccination. And, while other states passed reckless laws against vaccine requirements, California has not. In fact, we now have a convenient system that provides digital copies of vaccination records.

California launches electronic vaccine verification system, ABC7 News

This tool can verify a person’s vaccination status. It’s free. And it’s time for more businesses, workplaces, hospitals, gyms and public venues — entities that care about public health — to step up and use it. To do the right and responsible thing: require vaccination.

For more information on the electronic vaccine verification system works, using the SMART Health Card framework, read this Medium article by Dr. Vishnu Ravni.

This article originally appeared as a Twitter thread. | Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash


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Before being elected to the California State Assembly in 2018, Buffy worked as a community organizer, an advocate for kids, and a grassroots activist with experience at the local, state and federal level. She was born in a small town in rural California and grew up in a trailer, raised by working class parents who pushed her to work hard and think big.

Buffy is proud to have been an architect of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. She is credited with innovating Obama’s grassroots organizing model – from right here in Oakland. In addition to playing a critical role in his momentous electoral victories, Buffy served alongside him in the White House. In her leadership role at the Office of Public Engagement, Buffy brought stakeholders and advocates from across the country together to support and eventually pass the Affordable Care Act, which has provided more than 20 million Americans with health care, including 5 million here in California.

Since arriving in Sacramento, Buffy has been a tireless advocate for working families across California, using her experience as an organizer and leader on policy to fight for and pass bills defending the rights and strengthen the livelihood of all her constituents.

Buffy lives in Oakland with her husband Peter and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Josephine, also known as JoJo.

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