This is a particularly pressing question now as many unvaccinated workers have or are about to lose their jobs. Nearly 3,000 New York City employees — including essential workers such as police officers, firemen and teachers — face termination for refusing the shots.
The time has come for reconsideration. Whatever justifications once supported COVID-19 vaccine mandates have largely disappeared.
Mandates are typically justified as a way to protect the population from infection. The more people vaccinated, the less likely anyone is to become infected and to transmit the virus on to someone else.
Mandate advocates argue that even if people decide to endanger their own lives by remaining unvaccinated, their decision endangers others by exposing them to disease. Moreover, they claim failure to vaccinate could lead to large numbers of sick people, overwhelming the healthcare system and interfering with others ability to obtain care for COVID-19 and other medical needs.
The evolution of the pandemic and the emergence of the Omicron variant have undermined these arguments. When they were first authorized, the COVID-19 vaccines were highly effective in protecting vaccine recipients from infection. But vaccines’ effectiveness against transmission has progressively declined with successive waves of viral variants. With the now predominant Omicron variant, full two-dose vaccination is roughly half as effective against infection as it was against the highly transmissible Delta variant. Breakthrough infections are now common and not the exception.
The need to “flatten the curve” to preserve healthcare resources has also largely dissipated. As of February 9, 80% of ICU beds are in use nationwide, ranging from a low of 44% in Wyoming to 93% in Alabama.
But COVID-19 patients only fill 27% of the ICU beds nationwide, ranging from 10% in Connecticut to 42% in Idaho.
In New York, 78% of ICU beds are filled — but COVID-19 patients accounting for just 18% of the total ICU beds. Those figures are on par with the much-maligned Florida, where 82% of ICU beds are occupied, with just 17% of the total being COVID patients.
Before COVID-19, normal ICU bed occupancy ranged from 57% to 82%. Level 1 trauma centers and tertiary care centers routinely operated ICUs at 80% to 90% capacity. With some local exceptions, hospitals are not now exceeding their normal occupancies and are not near critical capacity levels.
Moreover, 44 states and the District of Columbia are reporting declining rates of new COVID hospitalizations over the past two weeks. Only 6 states are reporting increases ranging from 2% to 15%.
Read the full article at The New York Post.