As the supply of vaccines increases enough in the coming months to provide all adults the necessary doses, anxious questions come up, “How many people will be protected soon?” to “Does everybody have to get vaccinated?”
Interesting questions that the WHO, CDC, and Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seem to be dodging for the moment.
Despite the more than half a million fatalities and innumerable serious, long-lasting side effects inflicted by COVID-19 in this country, people often are leery of new vaccines and want to see how they play out in general use. There also are people who are unreasonably anti-vaccine.
So far, the studies on the COVID-19 vaccines in use have been positive. They truly are effective at protecting the recipients from disease, and those who do get infected generally have much milder cases. They also appear to reduce the chances that vaccinated people will pass the virus along to someone else. The vaccines themselves have been safe with manageable, short-term side effects.
It’s not surprising, then, that the number of Americans who say they intend to be vaccinated has grown over the last couple of months. At this point, 69% of those surveyed say they have been or will be inoculated, up from 60% in November, according to the Pew Research Center.
Businesses, schools, universities and other employers have more immediate reasons to push for employees and the adults they serve to be vaccinated: so that people can return to normal activity safely. Museums, malls, amusement parks, movie houses and stadiums might want to ensure that visitors are immunized to prevent business-deflating superspreader events.
But before society determines who, if anyone, must be vaccinated, we have to know whether such a mandate would even be legal. Does it mean the government could impose a fine, or an employer could fire you, or a school could refuse your child entry?
The affected businesses and public agencies need answers, which could come from Congress amending the language or a court ruling clarifying the situation. Or we could just wait a year or two until the vaccines go through the full approval process, risking the emergence of more mutant strains and possibly many unnecessary deaths.