The case for vaccine mandates.
Category: Op/EdBy: vic-eldred • 5 days ago • 20 comments
This past week Joe Biden reversed himself on his previous promise to avoid vaccine mandates. It's not an unreasonable thing to do. The highly contagious delta variant is now killing more than 1,500 Americans every day, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. In his recent speech Biden unveiled a 6 point plan. Biden said “If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated.” “If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce.” Clearly, Biden is well within his rights when it comes to federal employees and those who interact with the federal government. The question is can he mandate vaccination elsewhere?
There is such precedent:
"In 1901, the city of Boston registered 1,596 confirmed cases of smallpox, a highly contagious, fever-inducing illness infamous for causing a severe rash on the face and arms that often left survivors scarred for life. In Boston alone, 270 people died from smallpox during the extended 1901 to 1903 outbreak. That’s why public health officials in Boston and neighboring Cambridge issued their compulsory vaccination orders, hoping to reach the 90 percent vaccination rate required for herd immunity.
Jacobson, who served as the pastor of a Swedish Lutheran church in Cambridge, had been vaccinated against smallpox in Sweden when he was 6 years old, an experience that he later said caused him “great and extreme suffering.” So when Dr. E. Edwin Spencer, chairman of the Cambridge Board of Health, knocked on the Jacobsons’ door on March 15, 1902, the pastor refused vaccination for himself and his son.
A few months later, Cambridge was in a full-fledged smallpox “panic” with the city ordering the closure of all schools, public libraries and churches to stem the spread of the disease. Police officers accompanied health officials like Spencer, who went door to door vaccinating as many as 100 people a day.
But while the Cambridge vaccine order was compulsory, it wasn’t a “forced” vaccination. People like Jacobson who refused to get vaccinated faced a $5 fine, the equivalent of nearly $150 today. On July 17, 1902, Dr. Spencer issued a criminal complaint against Jacobson and other anti-vaccine activists to collect that $5 fine.
The broader battle over the validity of vaccination science reached a fever pitch during the smallpox outbreak. Anti-vaccination groups, citing alleged cases of death and deformity from bad reactions to smallpox vaccine, called compulsory vaccination “the greatest crime of the age,” claiming that it “slaughter[s] tens of thousands of innocent children.”
In response, newspaper editorials characterized the smallpox vaccination controversy as “a conflict between intelligence and ignorance, civilization and barbarism.” The New York Times dismissed anti-vaccine activists as “a familiar species of cranks” who were “deficient in the power to judge [science].”
It was against this heated backdrop that Jacobson fought his $5 fine, first in a state trial court and then by appeal in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Jacobson wanted to present evidence that vaccines themselves were dangerous and ineffective, but the judges wouldn’t hear it. Instead, Jacobson’s chief argument became, “Compulsion to introduce disease into a healthy system is a violation of liberty,” specifically the personal liberty he believed was guaranteed by the U.S. and Massachusetts constitutions.
The highest court in Massachusetts also rejected Jacobson’s claims, siding instead with the authority of public health officials to determine the best methods for fighting an epidemic. Not ready to give up, Jacobson appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1905, where he was accompanied by officers of the Massachusetts Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Association.
In the case known as Jacobson v. Massachusetts , Jacobson’s lawyers argued that the Cambridge vaccination order was a violation of their client’s 14th Amendment rights, which forbade the state from “depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” At question, then, was whether the “right to refuse vaccination” was among those protected personal liberties.
The Supreme Court rejected Jacobson’s argument and dealt the anti-vaccination movement a stinging loss. Writing for the majority , Justice John Marshall Harlan acknowledged the fundamental importance of personal freedom, but also recognized that “the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.”
I happen to agree that it is time for mandates. We probably should have done it 3 months ago. We have plenty of vaccines and they are now easy to get. My only concern was the nature of that speech. It was very divisive. It fixed blame and it may actually increase resistance among unvaccinated Americans. The new requirements, which Biden imposed Thursday could affect 100 million American workers.
Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb was on CBS Face the Nation today and warned that the vaccine mandate could end up being counterproductive.
"The downside of this mandate in terms of hardening positions and taking something that was subtly political and making it overtly political could outweigh any of the benefits that we hope to achieve" he said.
The Biden plan includes the following:
Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Ensure their Workers are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly
Requiring Vaccinations for all Federal Workers and for Millions of Contractors that Do Business with the Federal Government
Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Over 17 Million Health Care Workers at Medicare and Medicaid Participating Hospitals and Other Health Care Settings
Calling on Large Entertainment Venues to Require Proof of Vaccination or Testing for Entry
Requiring Employers to Provide Paid Time Off to Get Vaccinated
It is subject to legal challenge and it will be challenged.
“Many of us are frustrated with the 80 million Americans who are not vaccinated” Biden said.
It shall be interesting.