An international divide: COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Across the world, thousands of individuals have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine shot. As of October 27–the time I am writing this —3 billion people worldwide have obtained the vaccine. Many countries have sat back and waited, including President Joe Biden, who recently lost patience with anti-vaccine activists. Many people have split opinions on the topic of mandates, especially in the United States. Many Democrats support the use of vaccinations and masks.

Meanwhile, many Republicans ignore the health restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID. A similar type of politics occurs not just in the United States but throughout every country. Citizens of Italy and Canada, among others, have hosted demonstrations to protest specific vaccine mandates subject to public employees. Though their governments have the health of their citizens in the best interest, people do not want to follow the “unconstitutional guidelines.”

Starting in Europe, the Italian government introduced a mandate for all public workers to show a government-issued COVID pass on October 15. According to an article from CNN, people must have a “green pass” as proof of either full vaccination, recent recovery from infection, or a negative test. The punishment for not showing this is a 1,500 euro fine ($1,730) and suspension without pay. In Trieste, a large port in the northeast corner of Italy, 6,000 people participated in a demonstration threatening to block operations. Fabio Bocin, a port worker in Trieste, said, “The green pass is a bad thing, it is discrimination under the law. Nothing more. It’s not a health regulation, it’s just a political move to create division among people.” Police in riot gear blocked off another rally in Rome. However, a certificate has been in effect on long-distance trains and indoor venues since September 1, 2021.

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According to a CBC article, 2,000 people rallied in Calgary, Alberta, to protest vaccine mandates and COVID public health measures. Most of the protestors work for government and health offices, which require employees to receive two doses of the COVID vaccine. COVID-19 patients fill nearly 700 hospital beds in Alberta, and about 2,400 people have died in the province. Just last week, ICU beds were at 130% capacity. One of the saddest parts of this is people have started comparing the Holocaust to vaccine mandates. They say that the genocide committed towards Jews in the 1940s relates to the order forcing public workers to receive the vaccine. Other rallies were scheduled in Edmonton and Lethbridge later in the week.

Many people in Massachusetts, on the other hand, support a mandate in the state. According to a survey from the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, 75% of Massachusetts adults want a universal vaccine mandate. Some other results include: 71% support mandates for kids at school, and 78% support a mandate for college students. The Boston Globe reported that numbers are about ten points lower than those in Massachusetts. The political divide, in terms of COVID, around the country is backed by multiple surveys. 10 of the 11 most supportive states of a mandate lean Democratic, while 18 of the least supportive states lean Republican.

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COVID-19 has run rampant in the United States over the past 18 months. With the vaccine’s introduction in December 2020, many people thought we were nearing the end of the road. Though we are still amid the pandemic, vaccine mandates can help convince holdouts to give in. Like the rallies and protests in Italy and Canada, people have submitted lawsuits against state directives. A report from the Wall Street Journal states that most judges have struck down the challenges. Judges in Maine, Oregon, and Massachusetts upheld a vaccination requirement for government employees. Nationally, US President Joe Biden has talked about implementing a vaccination requirement for private companies.

As reported by CNBC, Republican officials and small businesses are gearing up to challenge a mandate that will apply to 130,000 businesses in the United States. Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order that bars anyone from mandating vaccines in Texas, though he is vaccinated. “I will never ask a Texan to do something I’m not willing to do myself,” was something he said in December before receiving his shot. We see many of the same beliefs throughout the Republican Party, with government officials choosing to get the vaccine but opposing vaccine regulations. Nearly every GOP attorney general signed a letter to the President in opposition. However, David Vladeck, a professor from Georgetown University, stated, “States, however, probably don’t have legal standing to challenge the rule.” This stands in line with the previous lawsuits article from the Wall Street Journal. It is tough to argue against a mandate to combat one of the most significant public health crises.

COVID vaccine mandates are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Through all the protests and lawsuits around the world, people continue to divide the country politically. It may be impossible to convince some right-wing Conservatives to receive a vaccine. However, GOP officials, especially Donald Trump, need to step up and widely support vaccines. Without the majority of the world vaccinated, the pandemic may never end.

Alex Kwas is a freshman member of The Quill