Opinion Graphic fall 2020

President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 announced his intention to federally mandate that Americans working in certain private businesses, health care fields and federal contractors receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing — and rightly so.

The private sector mandate will only apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. Combined with the other industries, it is expected to cover approximately 100 million Americans, according to Associated Press estimates.

Despite the Pfizer vaccine receiving full Food and Drug Administration approval and Moderna continuing to have FDA emergency use authorization, some 80 million Americans in the private sector and 17 million healthcare workers have not yet received their first doses, according to the AP. And in a time where emergency care centers are overwhelmed and new cases are up about 300% from this time last year, it’s necessary to intervene.

Following his announcement, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge suggested that Biden “lawyer up,” an indication of possible future legal challenges. Others, like Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe, argued the federal mandate will only increase polarization and distrust in federal institutions. Critics argue Biden should persuade and not mandate, but they’re wrong again — and the debate is indicative of why Arkansas has struggled so much with COVID-19.

Not only are their opinions contrary to the majority of full- and part-time American workers, with 52% in favor of employer vaccination requirements according to the results of a Gallup poll, but they also overlook the fact that time is of the essence.

Rutledge and Bledsoe act as if the solution to objection is persuasion. We might have persuaded many to quit smoking over the years with public awareness campaigns, but when hospitals have no room, classroom learning is continually interrupted by quarantines and COVID-19 deaths remain high, we don’t have time to persuade the skeptics.

With that in mind, the Biden administration issued a rule granting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the authority to issue $14,000 fines for each violation, and OSHA is expected to enforce the rule in the coming weeks. Additionally, fines for violating mask mandates on airlines and in federal buildings are now doubled.

It’s time to listen to healthcare workers and advisors who have repeatedly warned that current policies and conditions are not adequate to stave off the devastation of the pandemic.

Federal and state governments implemented incentives, made vaccine information publicly available and cracked down on social media misinformation. Health officials have combated myths of harmful vaccine side effects like male impotency, and yet the swarm of misinformation overshadows the validity of a science-backed recommendation of immunization.

We can’t entertain the outlandish vaccine rumors forever. We’ve gone through months-long lockdowns, economic turmoil, record unemployment, overcrowded hospitals, hundreds of thousands of deaths. Yet now, with several, effective vaccines, we’re expected to entertain syfy-inspired, “House of Cards”-style objections like secret government conspiracies, all in the name of “choice.”

No. With American worker support behind it and circumstances necessitating it, Biden’s vaccine mandate is a common-sense measure that could help pull America through one of the worst situations the country has faced.

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