Corporations and individuals must combine forces on this last mile to defeat COVID-19... let us protect each other to return to the lives we cherish

October 14, 2021 | Rohan KulkarniPhil Fersht

“Freedom” appears to be the current central theme of individuals who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19m as one of many reasons for refusing to be protected against the deadliest pandemic in over a hundred years. It is essential to recognize that many reasons for not getting vaccinated can be overcome by the enormous data we now have, with over 45% of the world’s population vaccinated with over 6 billion doses.

The data shows that the vaccine effectively prevents deaths and serious illness, the side effects are marginal compared to the effects of COVID-19, and it is the only way to get back to the normal we are desperately seeking to experience again. That translates into supporting all those on the front lines as well as evangelizing vaccinations.

Healthcare workers and teachers are not the villains here

Healthcare workers have gone from being heroes that we cheered at the Pandemic's peak to being threatened, ridiculed, and harassed in recent months. A school association (NSBA), representing locally-elected school board officials that oversee more than 50 million US public school students, has requested the FBI and President Biden to provide them with protection due to the increased threat levels to officials and teachers.

These threats are in response to healthcare workers and teachers encouraging vaccination or enforcing mask mandates, both intended to help protect individuals from contracting COVID-19. In a civil society, threats are a non-starter in any facet. To harass those who protect and cure us of diseases, to threaten those that educate our young minds is unacceptable and unfathomable.

Such behaviors could have profound implications when there is already a high turnover of healthcare workers, sometimes 100% attrition in a typical year, which could very quickly translate into a critical shortage. Our kids are performing below average compared to other OECD countries, and lacking teachers will make the US even less competitive than we are already headed.

We must balance vaccine mandates: If those who are providing services are vaccinated, then those receiving those services must also be vaccinated

The federal government has mandated vaccines to all its employees, as have many states and cities. Corporate America has taken its cue from that mandate to issue its corporate mandates for vaccinations. Many enterprises, including hospitals systems, are issuing ultimatums to their employees to be vaccinated or lose their employment.

The holistic effort to vaccinate vast populations either through free access or mandates appears to be effective with about 66% of the US population over the age of 12 being fully vaccinated and the delta variant on the retreat.

Freedom is a fair concept and must be equally dispensed. If those who are providing services are vaccinated, then those getting those services must also be vaccinated. That would be reasonable to ensure that everybody has a level of protection.

Protect our people to return to business as usual

The airline business has been returning to a level of normality given the strict protocols in place for testing and vaccination. Restaurants in certain cities are experiencing some “normal” due to protocols in place for vaccine evidence. Such examples are beginning to expand across the US and globally.

A critical driver of that return to normal has been the vaccine, which has been highly effective and will likely continue to improve on its efficacy with the boosters. This data is important to support the need for a wider proliferation of vaccines.  For example, recent data from the US shows that 50,000 “breakthrough” cases from the delta variant with vaccinated citizens only resulted in 59 actual hospitalizations. 

Consequently, corporations and small businesses must have the freedom to do what they need to protect their people. Keeping their employees safe is paramount, and if that means mandating vaccines or refusing services to those who are not vaccinated, so be it. This is the path to going back to being in business as usual and enjoying the fruits of freedom.

The bottom line: Freedom must be an equal opportunity right; if individuals choose not to get vaccinated or refuse to mask up because they do not want to surrender their freedom to a mandate, then they must accept not getting healthcare or education, or other services from establishments that have a vaccine or mask policy.

Nurses and teachers are two of our most trusted professions. If we vilify and threaten them how will the rest of the society fair? So, we are calling upon corporations, small businesses, and individuals to help enable healthcare workers and teachers to refuse services to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to do so. Healthcare workers must be allowed to refuse treatment in non-emergency conditions as should teachers be allowed to refuse to teach kids who will not be vaccinated or wear a mask in a public setting. In these unparalleled times, we must protect each other to return to the lives we cherish. That is the only way forward.

Posted in: Governance Practices and ToolsHealthcarePolicy and Regulations

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