Source: Brian C. Joondeph, M.D.
Vaccine mandates are one of many stifling measures brought on by the ongoing COVID pandemic, a consequence of those trying to “follow the science” and doing anything but or of government and bureaucrat officials using the opportunity to flex their authoritarian muscles. Whether they serve a useful societal function is an open question.
The CDC website cites a book chapter by research scholars Kevin Malone and Alan Hinman that describes vaccine mandates as a means of “drastically reducing infectious diseases in the United States.” Mandates present a challenge “when societal interest conflicts with the individual’s interest.” With vaccine mandates, there is the assumption that “Increased immunization rates result in significantly decreased risk for disease.”
According to the chapter,
Although no remaining unimmunized individual can be said to be free of risk from the infectious disease, the herd effect generated from high immunization rates significantly reduces the risk for disease for those individuals. Additional benefit is conferred on the unimmunized person because avoidance of the vaccine avoids the risk for any adverse reactions associated with the vaccine. As disease rates drop, the risks associated with the vaccine come even more to the fore, providing further incentive to avoid immunization. Thus, when an individual in this common chooses to go unimmunized, it only minimally increases the risk of illness for that individual, while conferring on that person the benefit of avoiding the risk of vaccine induced side effects.
Herd immunity, a term that can get one banned from social media and polite society, is the key. Both vaccines and natural infection can achieve herd immunity. Once herd immunity is reached, the risk-benefit ratio pivots from less benefit for every last person being vaccinated to more risk from vaccine adverse effects. This is the logical way infectious diseases have been approached in the past, until COVID apparently changed relatively settled science regarding vaccines, masks, distancing, and mandates.
The above premise assumes that the vaccine in question prevents contracting and transmitting the underlying infectious disease. Or as the chapter describes, “An important characteristic of most vaccines is that they provide both individual and community protection.”
Are the COVID vaccines providing both individual and community protection? If they are, then a case may be made for vaccine mandates although that is debatable. If not, then such mandates make no sense.
An excellent person to ask is Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, the largest COVID vaccine maker. In a recent Yahoo Finance interview, Bourla let the cat out of the vaccine bag,
And we know that the two doses of the vaccine offer very limited protection, if any. The three doses, with the booster, they offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and deaths—and, again, that’s, I think, very good—and less protection against the infection.
“Limited protection if any,” is not a strong endorsement. It’s a polite way of saying two doses of the vaccine don’t work as previously described and promised. And with a booster, the protection becomes “reasonable.” He didn’t say robust or excellent, only reasonable, meaning that there is limited benefit. And it’s a benefit to the individual, not to other people.
An umbrella provides “limited protection if any” in a hurricane and a raincoat offers “reasonable” protection but, in both cases, you will get soaked and blown around.
I must add the standard and necessary disclaimer that I am not anti-vaccine, having been personally fully vaccinated. Nor am I offering medical advice, only an analysis of this recent news item. Any vaccine decisions should be between you and your physician based on a thoughtful analysis of risks and benefits, as is standard for any medical intervention.
When Big Pharma doesn’t believe its own spin anymore, though, why should anyone else? Unless, as in the case of corporate media and US government officials, mostly of the Democrat persuasion, they choose to ignore the CEO of the largest vaccine maker, instead regurgitating their own misinformation.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said much the same last summer about the COVID vaccines, “They continue to work well with ‘Delta’ with regard to severe illness and death, but what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.” In other words, vaccines are no longer stopping one from catching COVID or transmitting it to someone else.
What they still do is offer “reasonable” protection, to use the Pfizer CEO’s description, against hospitalization and death. But is that an individual or societal benefit? That’s the crux of mandates.
Vaccine mandates are ostensibly to protect society by reducing infection and transmission and keeping hospital and ICU numbers at a workable level. Mandates prevent kids from catching COVID, bringing it home to their parents and grandparents, who may be ill-equipped to shrug it off as just a cold, as their child likely will.
But that bit is not working, at least according to the Pfizer CEO and the CDC director, as noted above.
Then it comes down to individual benefit, which there likely is. If the vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death, then there is a clear benefit to the individual. Or rather, this was a benefit but, with waning vaccine immunity and new variants, this individual benefit may no longer exist.
Look at the numbers the corporate media chooses to ignore, “Nearly 75 percent of UK COVID deaths were vaxed, govt’s data shows.” Even Israel, the darling country of vaccinations and booster reports, “Most COVID patients at Israeli hospital fully vaccinated.” In the U.S., too, where NBC News claims, “hospitalizations rising among fully vaccinated in US, Fauci says.”
Assuming there is some degree of individual benefit, that doesn’t justify a societal mandate with exclusion, shame, and punishment for those choosing not to comply due to a variety of reasons, including previous infection and natural immunity, concerns over short and long term adverse effects, or religious beliefs.
Using the same logic, we could mandate the elimination of cigarettes and other tobacco products. “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States,” according to the CDC, accounting for 480,000 annual deaths. This figure is higher than the number of COVID deaths per year, especially if one sifts out death “with” versus “from” COVID, a nuance only now dawning on the medical establishment.
Mandates could also be applied toward exercise and fitness, diet, body weight, alcohol, recreational drugs, and any other behaviors that increase the risk of individual harm or death.
But I am not going to live longer because my neighbor goes to the gym six times a week, eats a healthy diet, doesn’t smoke, and never drives over the speed limit. Similarly, if the Pfizer CEO and CDC Director are correct in their belief that my neighbor being vaccinated won’t prevent him from transmitting and me from catching COVID, then why make my neighbor take the vaccine if he chooses not to, any more than mandating him to eat right and exercise?
If I catch COVID, then that’s on me as would be true if I become diabetic or have a stroke due to my lifestyle choices. That’s the difference between individual and societal benefits. Vaccines, at least based on current variants and data, provide primarily individual benefits, which itself is diminishing.
One might make the argument that COVID-infected individuals consume health care system resources but, again, that same argument applies to smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol use, and other unhealthy but perfectly legal activities addressed by public health messaging but not draconian and punishing government mandates.
The U.S. Supreme took a step in the right direction by blocking vaccine mandates for large private companies. One opinion explained, “Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.” This is why there are no mandates for well-established lifestyle choices known to reduce illness, hospitalization, death, and cost to society.
Fortunately, the Omicron variant may act as the ultimate vaccine, spreading like wildfire through the world, causing mild infection for the vast majority, and leaving those infected with robust natural immunity. In my state of Colorado, the Denver Post reports, “The virus is everywhere” as “State health officials estimate between one in 10 and one in 15 people in Colorado is currently contagious.”
Eventually, everyone will be exposed and infected, with COVID becoming endemic like seasonal influenza, with a yearly vaccine available based on the best guess of the season’s viral strain and vaccines encouraged for those at high risk, just as we do now for the flu vaccine.
Yet the left keeps pushing COVID vaccine mandates, despite the Pfizer CEO, CDC Director, and the US Supreme Court saying, perhaps in a roundabout way, that they are of no benefit. Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s trend continues, with a thoughtful analysis of our public measures, following the science rather than simply saying “do this because I say so.”
It’s been a long two years of COVID and, at some point, we must heed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent words: “We’re going to have to start living with COVID.”