Vaccine Mandates: Both tenable and constitutional, here’s why

Doctor or nurse filling a syringe
with COVID-19 vaccine.
Tuesday, September 1, 2020.
(Photo by: Marco Verch)
Doctor or nurse filling a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday, September 1, 2020. (Photo by: Marco Verch)

Written by Collin Kilmer

The Biden Administration announced new COVID-19 measures on September 9 that will require many Americans to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. These directives are reasonable and absolutely necessary. According to the CDC, the refusal of millions of Americans to be vaccinated is substantially increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The pandemic has already endured for a year and a half, severely damaging the economy and killing over 650,000 Americans. Bold action is essential, and President Biden is stepping up to the plate.

Until recently, the federal government and most state governments have encouraged Americans to get vaccinated through information campaigns and incentives. However, as shown from the decrease in vaccination rates reported by the CDC, these efforts have been unsuccessful. As a result, the Biden Administration is implementing further steps to fight COVID-19.

The first and likely most controversial part of the plan is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency temporary standard that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers to be tested weekly or vaccinated against COVID-19, as written in Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan. Additionally, the plan states all federal employees, contractors and most healthcare workers employed at facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement will confront vaccine requirements. 

The constitutionality of these initiatives is rather clear. In the 1905 Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, Henning Jacobson sued the state of Massachusetts over the vaccine requirement that he believed violated his personal liberties. The Court, however, ruled that the law was constitutional and that Henning would have to pay the penalty imposed. 

In a speech delivered on September 9,  Biden stated, “My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? … We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

The pandemic has real effects in our community. Although 54.3% of the population in Hamilton County has received at least one vaccine dose as of September 13, there are more people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Hamilton County right now than at any other time in the pandemic, according to the CDC. The CDC COVID-19 tracker indicates more unvaccinated people are contracting COVID-19 and proportionally more are hospitalized.

The difficulties I have personally faced because of COVID-19 have been relatively minor and inconvenient. But, unfortunately, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and far too many have lost a loved one. There is an urgent need for a change of direction, and the steps taken by the Biden Administration to control the pandemic are imperative. The alternative is allowing pain and suffering to continue in a worsening pandemic that we have the ability to improve.

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