I’ve dedicated my life to working on political campaigns to elect Democrats. But I’ve never hated Republicans, much less wished illness or death upon them. In fact, I would much rather see Republicans live and vote for GOP candidates in future elections than see them die long before their time.
That’s why I'm glad President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all civilian federal employees and onsite contractors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to frequent testing and other restrictions, and urged states and localities to give a $100 incentive to people to get vaccinated.
States, local governments, businesses and other organizations should impose the same vaccination requirement on their employees and contractors. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should require that all employees, customers and others entering workplaces show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
We all already get government-issued Social Security numbers, and most of us carry around government-issued driver’s licenses. These government IDs haven’t taken away our freedoms. Carrying around a card saying we have been vaccinated against the coronavirus won’t deprive us of our freedoms, either.
Public health mandates aren't political
Most states ban smoking in many indoor areas to prevent people from getting cancer and other illnesses. The federal government and states restrict emissions of pollutants from factories and vehicles. Schools require children to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox and other diseases. Every jurisdiction bans drunken driving. These mandates are not about politics. They are about protecting us from illness and injury and saving lives, just as a mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations would do.
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If you are not vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease could send you to the hospital or kill you, regardless of which political party you support. So if ever there was a threat to our country that all Americans should respond to on a nonpartisan basis, this horrific plague is it.
Sadly, many Republican elected officials are now condemning some of their own supporters to hospitalization and death with their resistance to vaccines against COVID-19. This makes no sense. Former President Donald Trump’s greatest accomplishment was Operation Warp Speed, which led to the development of safe and effective coronavirus vaccines in record time. His supporters should be eager to get vaccinated.
And thankfully, President Biden has ensured that enough vaccines are now available for every American. Both the former and current president deserve our gratitude.
Yet, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published in early July found that while 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, only 45% of Republicans have. The poll showed that only 6% of Democrats said they are unlikely to get vaccinated, but that 47% of Republicans said they are unlikely to take the vaccine.
Millions of Americans, including me, got vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as we could and were grateful for the opportunity. I received my first dose in February by agreeing to volunteer at a vaccination clinic at a public housing senior complex in Washington, D.C.
It was gratifying to play a small part, along with doctors and other trusted health professionals, in getting dozens of vulnerable seniors vaccinated, enabling them to leave their apartments where they were confining themselves out of fear and giving them protection from a killer disease.
I joined the seniors in rolling up my sleeve for the lifesaving shot. As we waited for the required 15 minutes post-inoculation, we listened to old Motown music and celebrated the miracle of the vaccine and our victory over the virus.
Yet five months later, only about half the people in the United States are fully vaccinated, though the vaccine is now readily available for all Americans, except children under 12. If many people stay unvaccinated, more of them will be hospitalized and more will die.
Our nation was united in World War II, when an estimated 418,500 Americans died. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic that has left us with a confirmed U.S. death toll of more than 610,000, we must unite again. It would be tragic if we waited until hundreds of thousands more Americans die to mandate vaccinations.
Mandating vaccinations now is necessary not just to protect the people who refuse vaccinations but to also protect the people they come in contact with, and to protect us all from new and potentially more deadly variants that could develop in the unvaccinated.
There were three positive moves Monday on mandating coronavirus vaccines. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that health care employees must get vaccinated in the next two months. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that city employees must be vaccinated by Sept. 13. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that all state employees and many health care workers must be vaccinated by Aug. 23. In both New York City and California, frequent testing for COVID-19 can be substituted for vaccinations.
President Biden’s addition of federal workers and contractors to the list of those required to get COVID-19 vaccinations will save lives. We’ve had more than enough funerals and more than enough Americans desperately gasping for breath in hospital intensive care units. We need to defeat the coronavirus, and mandatory vaccinations for as many Americans as possible are the best way to achieve this victory.
Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, an ABC News contributor, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and managed the Gore campaign in 2000.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine: Biden right to mandate shot for federal workers