It is time to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear view mirror. After more than 600,000 deaths in our country, large numbers of people with “long COVID,” with its debilitating and longstanding complications and enormous economic hardship, it is time. How? Immunizations should be required for all persons with the exception of anyone with a bona fide medical contraindication or a true religious objection. If we required this, in three months, assuming the public complied with law, we’d be done with the pandemic. Instead, it drags on and on (”We’re beyond urging COVID best practices, it’s time start mandating in Maryland,” Aug. 4).
Does this represent governmental interference with freedom? Of course, it does. But it is also warranted. The government’s primary function is to advance the health, safety and welfare of the citizens. How better to do it than by mandating lifesaving immunizations against COVID-19? We already require immunizations for children if they are going to attend public schools. The government requires seatbelt use, motorcycle helmet use, and forbids noisy parties in neighborhoods in the middle of the night.
Is it constitutional for the government to require immunizations against a communicable disease? In 1905, by a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court held that it was permissible for the government to mandate smallpox vaccinations. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, “upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members” in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 US 11 (1905). I would imagine that smallpox vaccinations in 1905 were a heck of a lot less tested and more experimental than our COVID vaccines, which have been safely administered to well more than 100 million Americans and many more around the globe. And, the vaccines work. Close to none of the deaths from COVID in our country are to the already vaccinated.
However, the people who run governments, sometimes called “leaders,” are not leading. Instead of being forceful and leading us out of the abyss of the pandemic, they pussyfoot around questions of masks, social distancing and hand washing. They propose financial bonuses and lotteries to entice the unwilling to do what is only logical. In order to defeat the virus and its variants, we have to do much more. We have to vaccinate the population. We’ve had enough government guidance. We need mandatory vaccinations.
Irwin E. Weiss, Towson
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