Follow the science and enact vaccination mandates — because they work

The Freedom From Religion Foundation considers vaccine mandates to be imperative — because they follow the science, because they work and because they overcome individual resistance.

Now a new study by the Wisconsin State Journal reveals just how successful mandates really are. The Journal reports: “Wisconsin colleges and universities that required Covid-19 vaccines for students are reporting vaccination rates no lower than 80 percent, while those without a mandate report rates as low as 55 percent.” As the Journal notes, “Experts say they are among the most powerful tools at this point in the pandemic to convince unvaccinated people to get the shot.”

The vaccination rate in the United States is at 68 percent overall (79.5 percent for those 12 and over, 81 percent for those 18 and over and 99.2 percent for those 65 years and up) . Compare that to Italy, where the full vaccination rate is 84 percent. Italy, which had been hard hit with Covid deaths and came back fighting, has a successful “green pass” similar to a vaccination “passport” mandating vaccination for Italians and visitors in order to enjoy indoor dining, shopping, tourism sites and museums. Now it is showing international leadership by requiring all workers to be vaccinated (or undergo regular testing). Even the pope has made it compulsory for staffers at the Vatican to be fully vaccinated, on pain of docked pay. Other European countries are implementing strict penalties against the unvaccinated.

The opposition to previous masking and social distancing mandates, and now vaccination campaigns and mandates, has been almost exclusively religious in nature, as a series of pro-religion decisions by the Supreme Court in favor of churches or religious citizens fighting Covid mitigation shows. Objections range from religious fatalism (“God will decide if I live or die”) to QAnon conspiracy theories, as propagated by Cardinal Raymond Burke and others. But, mostly, religious objections are based on the idea that public health measures simply do not need to be followed by those with “sincerely held religious beliefs,” whose zealotry blocks them from realizing that their civic duty is in protecting the health of the community.

Unfortunately, there is currently a clamoring for religious exemptions based on “personal belief.” Otherwise praiseworthy mandates by the federal government or states such as California have been far too generous in proactively announcing exemptions that do not even require objectors to prove they belong to a sect that bars vaccinations, or that they have consistently refused in the past to be vaccinated.

In the case of the Wisconsin campuses whose vaccination rates were studied, it’s unfortunate that the University of Wisconsin System failed to adopt a mandate, leaving it up to each campus. (Instead, unvaccinated students need to be tested regularly or are offered a limp series of bribes.) Even Marquette University, a Catholic institution, has put the UW System to shame by adopting a mandate and achieving a 94 percent vaccination rate as a result.

The exception in the UW study is the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which did not impose a mandate but where, luckily, 95 percent of the students are fully vaccinated, now exceeding the Dane County vaccination rate by double digits. But the survey clearly proves that in Wisconsin, the vast majority of public and private colleges that do not have mandates are falling far behind those that do.

Why does FFRF think mandates are so important? The answer is found in another news story in the Wisconsin State Journal reporting that the unvaccinated in the Badger State are more than five times as likely to become infected, 11 times more likely to be hospitalized and 15 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the fully vaccinated.

“With herd immunity calculated at 94 percent or above for Covid-19, it’s past due for governors to inaugurate vaccine passports — and for counties to pick up the slack when religious governors refuse to do so,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

By definition, overcoming a pandemic requires international inoculation, reminds Gaylor. “It’s heartbreaking that so many poorer nations are anxiously awaiting the life-saving Covid-19 vaccines spurned by so many privileged Americans,” she adds.

Atheists can take pride in being the sector that is most vaccinated in the United States, but to achieve herd immunity it is going to require far broader participation. Mandates will do the trick.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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