The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive and costly global event since World War II. The human toll and economic devastation are incalculable. The extent of the damage will not be fully felt or known for years. Much of the human toll and cost was self-inflicted and avoidable. The loss of freedom has been breathtaking, with too many accepting this loss without question and little resistance.
Those who have asked questions have been vilified, scorned, suppressed, and censored. There is so much about how governments and societies have responded to the pandemic that simply makes no sense, so legitimate questions and public skepticism continue to grow.
The advent of vaccine mandates is exacerbating social divisions and will only increase the pandemic harms. We are relentlessly told by the COVID-19 gods — federal agencies, mainstream media, and social media — that they alone represent science, and any other interpretation of data or opinion is labeled dangerous misinformation. This attitude contradicts what we’ve generally been told regarding any serious medical diagnosis: “Always try to get a second or even third opinion.” Such advice makes sense because every human body is different and reacts differently to medical treatments and drugs, and no one doctor has perfect information.
Well before President Joe Biden’s ill-advised and divisive vaccine mandate announcement, I had been hearing from doctors, nurses, first responders, college students, and others facing the life-altering decision of having to choose between losing their job or enrollment or being coerced into taking a vaccine they do not want. Many of these individuals have already been infected and recovered from COVID-19 and have natural immunity, which, unfortunately, is not being recognized in lieu of a vaccine.
The situation faced by health care professionals is particularly troubling. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who had the courage and compassion to expose themselves to infection by treating COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic are heroes who should be appreciated and respected, not scorned and terminated. Many contracted COVID-19. Some tragically died; most survived.
Many who survived have witnessed and, in some cases, have also been treating patients with vaccine injuries. Unlike the NIH, CDC, and FDA, their personal experiences have made it impossible for them to ignore the reality that Covid vaccines are not 100% safe or that adverse events are minor and rare. To paraphrase Green Bay Packer offensive lineman Ken Ruettgers, whose wife suffers a neurological vaccine injury, “Vaccine injuries are rare and mild until one happens to you.”
The ethical standard that no one should be pressured, coerced, or fear reprisal for deciding against any medical treatment has been in place now for 75 years. It is a standard of freedom that has withstood the test of time and should not be ignored and violated.
COVID-19 vaccine mandates violate that standard without any significant benefit. Data shows that COVID-19 vaccines reduce the severity of symptoms and the chance of death but do not prevent infection or transmission. Since both the vaccinated and unvaccinated can transmit COVID-19, what is the rationale for discriminating against the unvaccinated and imposing such a freedom-robbing mandate?
Medical necessity is also being ignored. By definition, unnecessary medical treatments provide no benefit and only risk harm. For the young, healthy, or previously infected with natural immunity, the risk of serious harm from COVID-19 is low, and it may be entirely rational for them to decide not to expose themselves to possible vaccine injury. Others may disagree with such a decision, but it’s not their body. They have no right to question someone else’s health autonomy.
Significant practical problems exist. We are already suffering severe worker shortages throughout our economy, especially in health care. Vaccine mandates will increase these shortages, leading to disastrous consequences. There have already been reports on how mandates could weaken military readiness. I have been inundated with testimonials from health care professionals that paint a dire picture of current shortages and an even more dire future if mandates are enforced.
There continues to be much we don’t know about the coronavirus, COVID-19, and COVID-19 vaccines. A little modesty on the part of those in authority admitting they don’t possess perfect knowledge or policy prescriptions would be welcome. We have all faced fear, doubt, isolation, and stress throughout the pandemic. We have been forced to make crucial decisions with partial, imperfect, and often conflicting information. With this in mind, it would also be nice if everyone would afford each other much more respect as we all make difficult, personal choices regarding vaccination. Too much freedom and personal health autonomy have already been lost during the pandemic. Let’s not compound that loss with unnecessary vaccine mandates.
• Ron Johnson is an accountant, businessman, and politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Wisconsin.