Rules of the Road

Vaccines are the simple equivalent of “Stop” signs.

The current ‘debate’ about the COVID vaccine has become an absurd argument about “freedom.”

Vaccine hesitancy is real and is, in many cases, understandable — many people of color distrust a medical community that has alternately exploited and neglected them; others may simply distrust medications still operating under emergency authorizations, or be particularly susceptible to side effects, or have other medically-based qualms.

Those are valid subjects for debate among people and policymakers alike, but you’re not likely to hear them. Instead, we are relentlessly subjected to insane arguments equating vaccination efforts to the Holocaust, with proponents labelled “brownshirts” and opponents screaming about their freedom to resist masks, vaccinations, or any other considerations of the greater public health.

 The emergence of the “delta” variant now sweeping this country and many others shows how quickly the course of a pandemic can shift. The longer we let the virus persist, the more likely it is to mutate into something much more deadly. It wasn’t the initial “wave” of influenza in 1918 that killed so many people – it was the second and third waves that followed. We have just finished our first wave.

The 40 percent of the country not yet fully inoculated, therefore, are defining their freedom as the right to be free to put the rest of us at real risk!

So, we are at an impasse between democratic FREEDOM and public SAFETY.

But the right of government – at all levels – to prioritize safety over freedom is virtually UNCHALLENGED in every other area. Stop signs, red lights and speed limits on our highways impede the freedom of individual drivers to protect EVERYBODY.  Prescriptions for certain drugs and building codes are two other examples where safety trumps absolute freedom.  

The rules of the road for drivers recognize a trade-off in everyone’s interest – and generate hardly a whiff of disagreement.

The rules of the road for pandemics should be just the same. REQUIRING people to get vaccinated –to protect themselves and all others—is essentially no more intrusive to OUR FREEDOMS than requiring people to observe and obey traffic laws.

The simple scientific fact is that to truly eliminate COVID-19, we have to prevent it the opportunity to replicate and mutate.  That happens when we reach the “herd immunity” tipping point where a substantial majority of ALL people have been immunized.

But so many people are resisting the vaccine –for whatever reason– that now appears to be impossible.

That is where the role of government comes into play.

The Congress should pass a law requiring EVERYONE to promptly get a FREE vaccination OR be liable for a $5,000 fine and/or a year in jail.

There may be a moment or two of legal screeching but trust my Harvard Law School education that the howls of protest will end quickly. The government exists for the express purpose of protecting all Americans, and vaccine mandates fall squarely within its authority.  The phony excuses and protestations to the contrary are just plain baloney.

So, let’s go full speed ahead and mandate vaccinations for all U.S. residents. And please continue stop at red lights – freedom is important, but so is life.

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