In much of America, vaccine hesitancy has turned into vaccine defiance. Several states have banned or are considering banning demands by businesses that people show proof of vaccination. Tennessee — where only 38% of adults are fully inoculated and the COVID-19 caseload is growing fast — has gone so far as to cancel public schools’ efforts to encourage eligible children to get their shots (including flu shots). For good measure, the state has fired its medical director for vaccine programs.
These actions make it harder to protect the public from COVID-19 as the highly infectious delta variant spreads. That must change.
The health-care industry is the best place to start issuing vaccine mandates. A handful of hospital systems have already imposed them — and proved they work. The Houston Methodist system, the first to act, retained all but 153 of its 26,000 employees as it pushed its vaccination rate from 85% to 100% (with about 600 staffers allowed medical or religious exemptions). A lawsuit brought by employees wanting to work unvaccinated failed.
Many colleges and universities are also demanding that students, faculty and staff be vaccinated. On Monday a federal judge upheld Indiana University’s mandate. Some banks are requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status. Morgan Stanley has told its workers to get their shots or stay home.
To discourage people from their getting their shots is unconscionable. But it’s no longer good enough to simply call on the vaccine-hesitant to protect themselves and others. Hospitals, schools and businesses are within their rights to insist on vaccinations — and ought to be doing just that.