Harrop: Biden’s vaccine ‘mandate’ does allow a choice; of sorts

Don’t want the needle? Then you can choose a weekly swab up your nose. It was an easy choice for me.

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

Let’s be clear. No one has to get the vaccine. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “The federal government does not mandate (require) vaccination for people.”

President Biden did not change that policy when he announced stringent new regulations. Without a doubt, the rules strongly encourage — one could say “pressure” — vaccination for eligible Americans who haven’t gone there. But no one is being forced.

Private-sector companies with more than 100 workers must require employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests to ensure they are not infected with covid-19. The alternative of testing is plainly an “out” for those who don’t want the shot.

Republican governors howling over what they call Biden’s “vaccine mandate” routinely ignore this escape clause. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, for example, plays to the cheap seats when he accuses Biden of telling Americans, “Look, you can either get vaccinated or I, as one individual, is going to threaten your ability to feed your family,” adding with a theatrical flourish, “And that’s just wrong. That is just wrong.”

Now, as one who has undergone both the tests and the vaccinations, I report that having a swab stuffed way up your nose is far less pleasant than getting the shots. But no matter: Workers have that option.

Whether a state or local government or employer can require or mandate a covid-19 vaccination, the CDC says, “is a matter of state or other applicable law.” Of course, no truly business-friendly state would deny private employers the ability to bar people who well might make their workers and customers very sick. Spreading pestilence would be bad for business.

And so Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey torments logic by calling Biden’s new rules for businesses “exactly the kind of big government overreach we have tried so hard to prevent in Arizona.” Wow. That comes after Ducey and his state’s Republicans plumbed new depths of government control by confiscating the right of these same businesses to demand proof of vaccination.

A friend and I were recently turned away from a museum because, although we were both fully vaccinated, my companion didn’t have proof of it with him. Behind us, an unvaccinated woman of color with a baby explained that she was planning, sometime, to get the shot. Her excuse got no further with the museum authorities than ours.

We did feel a momentary annoyance. “C’mon,” we thought, “Let us in. This is all so new.” But guess what? From then on, we were sure to carry our vaccine cards.

Politics played no part here. We are fairly liberal, and the woman following us didn’t offer a partisan reason for not having gotten the shot. If this inconvenience, this curtailing of enjoyable activities, pushes people to get vaccinated, then great. That’s the point of it.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was skewered for calling the administration’s new rules the “ultimate work-around” for a federal vaccine mandate. The tweet was foolish from a political standpoint, but the fact lives on that no one has to get the vaccine.

Some vaccine resisters are attempting their own workarounds by claiming religious exemptions. What they can get away with remains to be seen. United Airlines says it will place workers who get religious exemptions on unpaid leave until testing procedures are in place. They’re not fooling around.

Those who won’t get the quick jab in the arm, for whatever reason, have an alternative. If they want to keep their jobs, they might have to let someone push a 6-inch Q-tip-like swab up their nose on a regular basis, but — and repeat this for the last time — it’s their choice.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

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