Opinion: Mandate vaccines everywhere

UMKC requires faculty, staff and medical students to all be fully vaccinated. (UMKC)

Thomas White

If you saw the headline and chose to read this story, dear reader, you must fall into one of three factions:  

  • I’m curious, let’s see where this goes.
  • Hello! I’m the choir, please preach to me. 
  • Hell no! Vaccine mandates are un-American and violate my rights!

Let’s all take a deep breath. That feels nice, right? Now let’s begin with stating some simple facts. 

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has full FDA approval. Johnson and Johnson’s COVID vaccine has emergency FDA approval, as does Moderna’s vaccine. The CDC recommends that all eligible individuals get COVID vaccines, which are free and available everywhere in the US. Over 4.7 million people have died of COVID worldwide. 

Despite these facts, we somehow find ourselves in a place of political division over a medical procedure. At a national level, opportunistic politicians are falling all over themselves to squeal about how a vaccine mandate would equate to tyranny. 

But was it tyranny when George Washington mandated smallpox inoculations for his troops in 1777?

Yes, our country has a founding ideal of individual rights and liberties. But we also have an equally strong ideal of collective responsibility. It’s even on our money – “e pluribus unum.” That Latin phrase means “out of many, one,” and it’s the traditional motto of the United States. 

It’s tempting to dunk on unscrupulous politicians like Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson. It would be easy to sit behind my keyboard and flame anti-vax crackpots. 

What’s really hard is getting through to the unvaccinated. 

We’ve used the carrot so far: lotteries for cash prizes, free Superbowl tickets, free beer, free hunting and fishing licenses, scholarships, driving laps at Talladega, hot dogs, and donuts. In Washington they even offered a program called “Joints for Jabs,” where people can receive legal marijuana for getting a COVID shot. 

We’ve tried damn near everything.

We’ve squeezed these incentives for all they are worth to get vaccine numbers up, and there’s no juice left. The unvaccinated no longer seem interested in carrots. So, the time has come to cut the carrot off the string and use the stick. 

We should demand that individuals do what is best for the collective and get vaccinated. Worldwide and nationwide mandates would be nice, but let’s start with UMKC. 

UMKC already has a limited COVID vaccine mandate. The university requires faculty, staff and medical students to all be fully vaccinated. Why not have one for the rest of us? I’d feel a lot better if every cramped classroom that I walked into was filled with vaccinated people. No one wants to return to remote learning, and a vaccine mandate is the best way to avoid that fate. 

UMKC should set an example to its community. Roos only move forward, right? Rockhurst is right next door, and they have a mandate. William Jewell has a mandate. Hell, KU had a small protest demanding that the university mandate a vaccine. Over 600 universities nationwide have mandated full vaccinations for students, and UMKC is falling behind.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld these vaccine mandates. The high court also has previously ruled that requiring vaccinations is constitutional for over 200 years

The unvaccinated should not be welcome on campus. They endanger each of us and themselves. It’s a choice to refuse the shot. That choice is your right, but it’s a choice that has consequences. You can make the choice to go to a bar, get blitzed and get behind the wheel of a car. Not getting vaccinated is the same choice. 

UMKC already has the power and ability to influence personal choices. We can’t smoke anywhere on campus, for example. So what seems more dangerous to you: secondhand smoke or secondhand COVID?

This university has made me switch to Outlook from Gmail, take 13 credit hours of French, sign master promissory notes for student loans and pay $270 for parking. It’s not unreasonable, then, for UMKC to ask you to take 20 minutes out of your day to walk to a CVS and get a free shot. 

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