The current discussions around mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports is interesting. I use the term “discussion” loosely. It’s more like two baboons in a cage screaming at each other and throwing feces. I generally don’t like when someone tells me that a thing is mandatory. Dammit, we’re supposed to be a free people. Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do. If I want to sit in my recliner and drink beer and eat donuts all day, that’s my god given right. Except there are plenty of things that are mandatory. A drivers license to drive. Education through high school is compulsory. You must be licensed to cut hair, open a business, be a gym instructor or chiropractor. As a society we’ve made all sorts of things mandatory. In theory, we’ve made those choices collectively through our elected representatives. They weren’t edicts handed down by the king of the seven realms. We voluntarily put those restrictions on ourselves.
Ok, but requiring vaccines are different. That’s my personal health information. Maybe. But we already mandate vaccines. There are a whole host of required vaccines various states require to attend public school. I chose to work in health care. I was mandated to get whole bunch of additional vaccines if wanted to be employed. There’s nothing new about requiring a vaccine.
Except this one does feel different. It’s brand new. It did not have the full edge-case testing over a long period of time that other well established vaccines had. As a broad statement, I think it’s pretty safe. I was one of the first folks to get it when it was made available to health care workers. I’m older and was going to be regularly exposed to folks with the virus that shall not be named. I made a risk assessment and decided it was worth it. But I have a number of coworkers who are young and are thinking about starting a family. They haven’t gotten the shot because of the unknown factor when it comes to pregnancy. I think that’s very understandable and a reasonable risk assessment for someone who’s young and healthy. Except our hospital just announced that they are making the vaccine mandatory to continue employment. That bothers me. Mandating a vaccine that does not yet have full FDA approval to healthy young people doesn’t seem right. Maybe health care is a slightly different scenario, but making the shot mandatory is being talked about in all walks of life. Healthy college kids, people who’ve already had Covid, and many non-essential businesses. Making something like the flu shot mandatory to work as an accountant or a Starbucks barista never would have been accepted in this country. Jenny Mccarthy made sure of that. Why is this any different?
And then there’s the vaccine passports. I generally don’t pay much attention to that discussion. In the back of my mind I just didn’t think proving health status was something that this country would seriously consider. Other countries may do it and that’s fine, I just won’t go there. France is attempting to require a vaccine passport to go to bar or restaurant. Our news will never show it, but tens of thousands of people are in the streets of France, day after day, protesting this. It’ll never be seriously considered in this country, will it?
And then this morning I read something on Twitter that made me realize we’re closer to a passport than I thought. Geraldo Rivera made the following statement: “All Americans need to be Vaccinated. With #VaccinePassports. I have right to know if you’re contagious”. Not that I think Geraldo is the authority on anything… but for some reason that bugged me. I have the right to know if you’re contagious. Think about that statement. I’m starting to think more people that I ever thought would be willing to submit to carrying proof of vaccination status around with them. I find that frightening. I can stomach certain types of jobs requiring a vaccination as a condition of employment. I don’t have to work in that field if I don’t want to be vaccinated. But requiring a shot and proof to be out and about in society doesn’t fly for me.
There is a massive list of communicable diseases that people are walking around with every day. You’re encountering them all the time without knowing it (how do you think you get the common cold?). Could you imagine the outcry if we required people to carry proof that you don’t have HIV? Yes, I know that’s not an airborne/droplet transmission vector. It’s an extreme example of forcing people to share private health information. There’s plenty of airborne diseases – measles, TB, influenza, chickenpox, RSV, pertussis, etc… The CDC estimates that a third of the population is colonized with MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a staph bacteria. It’s very easily spread and was probably our biggest infection control issue in the hospital pre-Covid. Should I have to show my status on any of those if I’d like to drop into my local bar for a drink?
We’re potentially heading down a slippery slope. I don’t know what the right answer is. My fear is that humans are frightened herd animals. We tend to make panic decisions that may have unexpected consequences we haven’t fully thought about yet. Mandates of anything are very hard to roll back once enacted. A vaccine passport is a genie we won’t be able to put back in the bottle.