If conservatives want to advocate for small government, they should first call on President Biden to mandate vaccines.
Since vaccines were first approved for emergency use by the FDA last December under the Trump administration, hopes of getting back to the days of pre-COVID have skyrocketed. Although the rollout started off slowly (the CDC announced that slightly over one million shots had been administered by Christmas Eve), the consensus among the scientific community after Biden ramped up inoculations was that we were headed toward a relatively bright summer. One thing the medical community did not have in mind at that time, and frankly, failed to predict given the record-breaking number of shots administered throughout President Biden’s first 100 days, was that vaccine hesitancy would impede their progress toward reaching herd immunity.
As if failing to convince most citizens to get the vaccine was not enough of a blow to the efforts to end the pandemic, the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant worsened the state of the pandemic — almost all 50 states have declared a rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations. The administration’s decision to mandate vaccines for federal employees will indeed curb the impact of low turnout at vaccination centers, but unless accompanied by a nationwide vaccine mandate, it falls short of what needs to be done if we hope to overcome COVID in 2021.
Most of the Republican Party’s prominent figures have spoken out against vaccine mandates ever since inauguration day. GOP legislators including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have cast doubt on vaccine efficiency and even allege that vaccine manufacturers have kept possible side effects hidden. It is hard to think that the recent shift in tone within the party toward vaccination will sway their base of supporters or convince anti-vaxxers to get their shots. The damage done by the GOP, for political stunt, is now almost irreversible. With roughly 90 million Americans eligible for vaccination who remain hesitant, it is hard to see a way out of the pandemic in the near future.
The point of view embraced by most of the GOP, especially its hard-core Trump supporters, remains both invalid and highly hypocritical. They claim that vaccination should be a strictly personal choice, when it clearly impacts the whole nation as hospitals are reopening COVID units and ICUs are again fully occupied in some centers, something we had not seen since the peak of the pandemic. The more anti-vaxxers flood emergency rooms, the less space there is for anyone requiring immediate assistance, all because their neighbors decided that their opinion is more valid than that of a virologist or epidemiologist. That patients who have disregarded the benefits of a vaccine has led to a lack of health care for responsible citizens who have heeded authorities for the past year and a half is, to say the least, disappointing.
The attitude of GOP supporters toward vaccines will only make the efforts of crushing the virus more painful and lengthy. We already have an exhausted medical body that has faced the risks of contracting a virus way before any vaccine was made available. Republicans’ stance will only send more people into hospital beds, depleting limited medical resources. Those of them able to beat the virus will walk out of the hospital to once more call against public and national health insurance programs that they most probably benefited from to regain their strength. Put it as you please, anti-vaxxers are exhausting taxpayers’ money.
There is no reason to leave unchallenged the GOP’s rhetoric around vaccines and their supposed infringement of liberty. If chickenpox vaccines are obligatory in all 50 states, COVID vaccines, once fully approved by the FDA, can be too. Even if we are to believe that such a mandate does indeed go against individual freedom, nothing prohibits the Biden administration from implementing vaccination as a requisite for federal program eligibility. Millions across the U.S. benefit from federal student loans. All male applicants for student loans are required to register for selective service; none of them have so far called such measures an infringement of liberty. We either deal with GOP hypocrisy now or give up on ever going back to our normal lives. Those who call on us to “Open America” and “Drop the mask” are the reason we are still in this pandemic.
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