(Oct. 25) All sides of the debate about vaccine mandates should be more discerning and less absolutist. The radical anti-mandate side, though — the one that opposes such requirements in any circumstance — is taking a monstrously immoral and deadly position.

Specifically, any public employee in a public safety-related job absolutely ought to be expected to be vaccinated unless a medical condition makes vaccination unwise, or perhaps unless the person is already presumed to have natural immunity due to a documented prior COVID-19 case.

One can be a freedom-loving, small-government conservative, opposed to most state-sponsored coronavirus mandates, and still readily support a vaccine imperative for most police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other public health personnel. Indeed, everyone ought to support vaccine mandates for those workers.

It is beyond dispute that state governments have the authority to require vaccines for the sake of public health. All 50 states require immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, chickenpox, measles, and rubella for public school kindergarteners. A number of states also require various vaccines to attend public colleges, and many states require even influenza inoculations for state healthcare workers.

Frankly, a vaccine mandate for first responders and health workers is plain common sense. We know three things beyond a shadow of a doubt. We know that the vaccines are more than 90% effective against earlier variants of COVID-19 and at least 66% effective against the delta variant. We know the vaccine lessens the severity, often substantially, even of the delta variant, and that it lessens the likelihood of an infected person spreading the virus to others. But we also know that even those who are vaccinated can contract, suffer from, and die from this disease if they are elderly or have any of a number of risk factors.


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