Why the mandate matters

A look at vaccine mandates and the role they play in the fight against COVID-19

Charlotte Dross

In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, President Joe Biden declared that Americans should not only be celebrating America’s independence from Britain, but from the COVID-19 pandemic as well. 

That moment in time represented a breakthrough in the nation’s recovery from the virus and return to normalcy. 

Or so we thought. 

Now, only a few months later, the Delta variant has caused hospitalization and death rates to surge. Yet vaccination rates are not increasing at a proportional rate. 

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant is more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants and causes more severe illness in unvaccinated individuals who contract it. But individuals who are fully vaccinated are less likely to contract or spread the disease. 

In light of the growing infection rates, Biden has urged people to protect themselves and their communities by getting vaccinated. On Sept. 9, he issued an Executive Order requiring that all federal employees receive the vaccine. 

He also mandated vaccines for a few other select groups of people, including health care workers at Medicaid or Medicare who work with hospitals and other health care settings. 

I personally believe that this vaccine mandate is a step in the right direction. 

There is much that we don’t know about the Delta variant. Truthfully, we don’t fully know how to prevent its spread. There are still breakthrough cases of fully vaccinated individuals contracting the virus. 

But what we do know is that the number of vaccinated people being infected is significantly lower than the number of unvaccinated individuals contracting the virus.  

The CDC stated that receiving the vaccine reduces one’s chances of breakthrough infections with symptoms by sevenfold. Even more, hospitalization and death rates are reduced by twentyfold.  

These statistics speak for themselves. Clearly the vaccine is effective in fighting COVID-19. 

In late August, the CDC reported that 51.1% of the total American population had been fully vaccinated. That leaves nearly half of the nation unaccounted for. Nearly 164.1 million people. 

With each passing day, more unvaccinated people are being hospitalized and dying. This is not a matter of politics. This is a matter of life and death.  

These past few weeks of school have felt more normal than the entirety of last school year. All classes are in person. On campus dining venues have brought back indoor seating and some self-serve stations. Festivities like Parents and Young Alumni Weekends are once again taking place. 

 This return to semi-normalcy was largely made possible by the vaccine requirement for all students, faculty and staff at Washington and Lee. 

As polarized as American society has become today, I can safely say that there is one topic that most people would agree on: we are ready to live in a world where the pandemic isn’t an added stress on our lives.  

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. It has disrupted our social and professional lives, eroded our mental health and made the future a daunting, unknown abyss. 

But one thing we can control is whether or not we protect ourselves from the virus. And the most effective way to do that is to get vaccinated. If it takes a vaccine mandate for herd immunity to be reached, then I’m in support of that mandate. 

On July 2, Biden promised Americans a “summer of freedom.” Perhaps the Delta variant momentarily postponed that promise, but it’s well past time that we claim our freedom from COVID-19.