Political Statement or Unethical Choice?

By Eric Vallen

Throughout the month of August, daily COVID-19 cases have nearly reached an all time high, with a peak of 280,000 new daily cases as of August 31, a number that hasn’t seen daylight since the COVID surge during the 2020 holiday season. Reacting swiftly, numerous health officials across the nation called for extensive vaccination mandates among health care workers in early August, as they found these worker’s situations “critically dangerous,” considering they are more susceptible to infection and likely come into contact with elderly, immuno-compromised, and very young patients. Considering that no true national vaccine mandate has surfaced, at face value the 35% national average of hospitals mandating their workers to take the vaccine would seem to be good news, however in reality, the situation has worsened. 

Due to a simple minority of hospitals deciding to mandate their staff’s vaccination status, the entire healthcare system has seen a political uproar, with thousands of nurses and aides protesting outside of their respective hospitals, claiming such mandates as “coercion” and “violating my natural rights.” If an individual were to not receive the vaccine within the time frames proposed by hospitals, generally coming between September 20 and November 30, they would assuredly lose their livelihoods. Reacting in favor of their supporters, Republican-dominated governments in the midwest and Rockies region have reacted in an opposite manner, as Montana passed a law specifically banning the existence of a vaccine mandate, with several other states moving to follow suit; however, these laws come with a cost— lives. 

Considering that the aforementioned governments are validating their citizen’s choices to not take the vaccine, they are actively putting their immuno-compromised, elderly, and younger citizens at more risk than is necessary, raising the question: when does one cross the line between standing up for one’s political views and destroying your moral standards? Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Republican groups and governments have continuously found the additional responsibilities one has to take when handling a pandemic as violations of their personal rights, however, are rights really experiencing encroachment if you’re protecting them by ending the lives of others? 

At this point, the COVID-19 pandemic “is a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and the national situation will not see better days if vaccination rates do not go up. As of September 1, the Biden Administration has taken no concrete actions towards the problem of vaccination rates and vaccine mandates, however, the Biden administration has an X-factor in their sleeve: Medicare and Medicaid. Several thousands of hospitals receive federal funding from Medicare/Medicaid, especially those within rural regions such as Montana, as local economies don’t exactly fit the requirements to support a fully fleshed out modern hospital. If the Biden administration were to propose reduced benefits for the Medicare system on an administrational level, hospitals in states that aren’t mandating their workers to receive the vaccine would see vastly reduced funds, lowering their capacity for patients amid a COVID surge, likely coercing them to bend to the federal government’s will. However, no such actions have been taken as of yet, but the political grumblings have grown ever louder as COVID numbers reach higher and higher numbers, we will just have to wait and see what course the federal government takes, and how states will continue to mold their policy around the controversial topic of the COVID-19 vaccine.