ANALYSIS - National Vaccine Mandate Could Alienate Many Americans, Fuel Distrust Of Government


ANALYSIS - National Vaccine Mandate Could Alienate Many Americans, Fuel Distrust of Government

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 04th August, 2021) If the Biden administration tried to enforce a nationwide vaccine mandate it could alienate many Americans and increase distrust of the government unless it is implemented effectively, experts told Sputnik.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden during a press conference said the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant is a "preventable tragedy," that will get worse before it gets better. He referred to the current crisis as a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

With COVID-19 cases surging due to the Delta variant, Biden last week ordered all Federal employees to get vaccinated or wear masks. In remarks last week, Biden said it was legal for businesses to require vaccinations, citing a Justice Department ruling, but said he was unsure if it was legal for the government to do the same. The White House, meanwhile, has said that a national vaccine mandate is not currently under consideration.

The daily COVID-19 case count spiked more than 500% during the past 30 days with a rising trend seen in 48 of the 50 US states. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been warning that the Delta coronavirus variant appears to cause more severe illness. The CDC also issued new guidance recommending that all Americans - including those vaccinated - wear a mask indoors in locations where the infection rate is high.

"I am struggling to see the vaccination mandate... it could further alienate people with questions or those who already distrust the system," University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Health Policy and Racial Equality, Rachel Hardeman, told Sputnik when asked about a possible nationwide mandate. "It absolutely needs to be handled properly."

Hardeman said such alienation could exacerbate racial inequities given a large number of African Americans are hesitant to take the vaccine because they are already distrustful of the government.

She said frequent and honest conversations, building confidence using trusted and respected voices in various communities and other strategies are important ways to increase people's willingness to get vaccinated.

Dr. Michael LeNoir, who served as the 114th president of the National Medical Association, however, sees the distrust across several demographics and believes masks and vaccine mandates have to become law.

"We have a recalcitrant group of people," LeNoir, a California-based immunology specialist who has been a physician for more than 50 years, told Sputnik. "Where did all these scientists suddenly come from?"

For a variety of reasons, he added, young people think the vaccine will weaken them while athletes believe it will lower their performance.

Meanwhile, right-wingers and supporters of former President Donald Trump oppose masks and vaccines for political reasons, the doctor said.

"Trumpites should realize that they'll die and the party will lose political power," Dr. LeNoir warned, while observing that right-wing media outlets have begun to change their tune.

Overall he said people need to accept these new restrictions because the "noose will tighten." For example, he mentioned that the National Football League (NFL) announced that players who fail to get vaccinated will not get paid.

He also said there are several approaches for addressing the issue including underscoring the evidence and urging Americans to think of the moral obligation to their family and the community.

"It's an opportunity to take one for the team," Dr. LeNoir said.

As schools prepare to open across the United States, CDC officials are recommending that all teachers, staff and students of K-12 schools wear masks, even if they are vaccinated. As the delta variant explodes across the country, especially in places where vaccination rates are low, children are unprotected against the virus.

Washington, DC-based teacher Michelle Hunt-Bell said that people are frustrated and confused by the conflicting advice coming from the CDC and Biden administration.

"COVID may not ever go away but you can't keep locking things down. Some people won't wear masks and those who were vaccinated will ask, 'Why did I take the shots then?' There's going to be a lot of pushback," Hunt-Bell told Sputnik. "People are gonna say 'no.' Those who aren't vaccinated or who are vaccine-hesitant will resist."

The experts said it is especially important for minority communities to overcome this distrust given they are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Dr. LeNoir said Blacks, Latinos and immigrants have borne the brunt of the pandemic largely because they have had to work in the worst environments.

"Black people have more chronic diseases, are affected more and are dying in greater numbers," Dr. LeNoir said. "African Americans are the ones who work at the grocery stores and out in public. They are the bus drivers, those people cleaning, working in nursing homes and in people's homes taking care of their children."

Hardeman said minorities must be able to access the vaccine even after they overcome this hesitancy.

"With politicization of the issue and the history of harm to African Americans and people of color, I'm not surprised we are where we are," Hardeman said. "People who are looking for the vaccine should be able to get it. Anecdotally, the needle is moving slowly."