Most Americans support vaccine mandates

Ignore the hyperventilating minority -- and the reporters obsessed with them

Joe Biden announced a fairly modest plan to require employees at large companies to either get vaccinated or be subject to frequent Covid tests, and a number of America’s political journalists absolutely lost their minds.

1 big thing: America's civil war of 2021” Mike Allen shouted from the pages of Axios, immediately following an invocation of “a solemn 24 hours as America remembers” September 11.

Biden’s war on virus becomes war on unvaccinated,” shrieked the AP’s Zeke Miller.

I’m hardly the first person to note this, but the political press’ obsession with conflict and division is turning the United States into a conflicted and divided country. The conflict-first framing left Allen and Miller blind to an important fact: vaccine mandates are popular, with supporters outnumbering opponents two-to-one.

In July, for instance, the Covid States project — a polling consortium put together by researchers at Harvard and other leading universities — found that “support for government vaccine mandates is high and increasing,” with 64 percent of the survey’s 20,000 respondents approving of measures to require everyone to get a vaccine. Majorities of nearly every demographic sub-group — rich and poor, black and white, urban and rural, old and young — supported a mandate. The one exception was Republican voters, with only 45 percent support.

They found, moreover, majority support for a universal vaccine mandate in all but three states — Wyoming, with 46 percent, and the Dakotas, where support hovered right around 50 percent.

Other pollsters have produced similar numbers. An August AP-NORC poll found that 50 percent of workers supported vaccine mandates at their own workplaces, with one quarter opposed and another quarter indifferent. A USA Today-Ipsos poll conducted later in the month found 61 percent support for a universal vaccine mandate with religious and medical exemptions, with 39 percent opposed. Gallup similarly found 58 percent of employed Americans support a mandate at their workplace, with 38 percent opposed.

Another important vaccination fact overlooked by conflict-obsessed reporters: for the overwhelming majority of adults the mandate question is moot, because they’ve already gotten vaccinated. Over 75 percent of adults have had at least one shot already, according to the latest from the CDC.

“Mandates don’t directly affect the vaccinated because they’re vaccinated, but what they are doing is putting an imposition on the unvaccinated, many of whom are choosing not to be vaccinated at this point,” as David Lazer of the Covid States Project explained in August.

At this point, an employer mandate should be understood as a narrow measure targeting the stubborn minority of adults who still haven’t gotten the shot. It’s not even an ironclad mandate — if you don’t want to get vaccinated, you can simply opt to take regular Covid tests.

Finally, at this point in the pandemic a vaccine mandate is simply sound public health policy. In endorsing vaccine requirements for healthcare workers, the nation’s leading medical organizations urged “all other employers across the country [to] follow our lead and implement effective policies to encourage vaccination. The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it.”

Georgetown health law expert Lawrence Gostin summed it up more succinctly in a recent piece for Scientific American: “Vaccine Mandates Are Lawful, Effective and Based on Rock-Solid Science.”

We are now 18 months into this pandemic, a time when safe, effective and free vaccines have been widely available for the better part of the year. Policymakers and public health experts have been offering carrots to the unvaccinated for months. Now it’s time for the stick.