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Partisan efforts are keeping Covid vaccination rates down


When President Joe Biden announced a plan to send local public health workers door-to-door on a mission to increase Covid-19 vaccinations, conservative pundits warned that those foolish enough to open their doors would be forcibly vaccinated against their will.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went one step further, as is her wont, comparing those health-care workers to the Nazi Brownshirts who aided Adolph Hitler’s rise to power.

Greene has become the leader of a perverse effort on the far right that seems intent on keeping our nation’s vaccination rates down. To further that effort, she has introduced HR 2317 -- the We Will Not Comply Act -- legislation so vaguely titled that it would seem an endorsement of all defiance against the rule of law.

The bill would pervert the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, religion or place of birth, by extending those same protections to people who choose not to get vaccinated.

If passed, the bill would prohibit schools, colleges and employers from implementing vaccine mandates, and would incentivize people not to get vaccinated. Schools could still require students to get vaccinated for things like diphtheria, measles, mumps and polio, but not for the virus that’s causing a raging pandemic.

Fortunately, the bill won’t pass. It’s one of those “message” bills Congress is so well known for, and is not a real attempt at legislating. Greene’s message is clear. I’m not as clear as to what message my representative, Yvette Herrell, is sending by signing on to the bill as a cosponsor.

The horror stories about door-to-door forced vaccination were obvious attempts at partisan fear mongering. Nobody will be vaccinated against their will. But, required vaccinations as a condition of employment or public school enrollment will be an important part of our strategy to get vaccination rates to a level needed to stop the spread of this ever-mutating virus.

In May, Dona Ana County Manager Fernando Macias announced that all county employees would need to get vaccinated to keep their jobs. An executive order by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham requires state employees to either get vaccinated or agree to regular testing. And, President Joe Biden has required all federal employees and in-person contractors to be fully vaccinated.

United Airlines, Tyson Foods, Google, Netflix, Disney and Morgan Stanley are among the growing list of private corporations now requiring that employees be vaccinated. More are sure to follow.

We all have the right to make poor health decisions. But when exercising those rights has a harmful impact on others -- such as smoking indoors -- the rights of the group trump those of the individual.

Parents sending their older, vaccinated children to school have the right to expect that they will not be exposed to children who have not been vaccinated. Employers have the right to ensure that unvaccinated employees are not spreading the virus in the workplace, endangering both customers and fellow workers.

As the Delta variant of the virus has taken hold, hospitalization and death rates have risen sharply in areas of the country where vaccination rates are the lowest. That has caused millions of Americans to rethink their opposition to the vaccine.

But millions more never will. We can’t make them get vaccinated, but we should take reasonable steps to prevent them from spreading the virus.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.

Walt Rubel