In 1777 George Washington mandated inoculations for smallpox for all Continental Army soldiers unless they had a previous history of smallpox infection(historyofvaccinations.org). Smallpox was devastating the Continentals. However, the British army had more immunity from previous infections in Europe and from variolation than the Americans. Some historians think this act by Washington changed the course of the American Revolution.
Tensions have always existed between the sometimes divergent goals of maintaining individual freedoms and the obligation of the government to protect the health and safety of the community i.e., the public health (Malone and Hinman, Vaccine Mandates, cdc.gov/coronavirus/vaccines). When conflicts arise, the preservation of the health and safety of the community transcends individual rights. The constitutional basis for the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws was established by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11(1905). The Tragedy of the Commons an analogy by Garrett Hardin (1968), describes how the self interest of the individual (for example, declining vaccination) may adversely affect the community (increased spread of infection) and, subsequently, perhaps then the individual himself.
Regarding COVID vaccines, the following are facts relative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines:
-The vaccines do not contain COVID virus particles; so they cannot give recipients the illness (cdc.gov/vaccines).
-Fetal cell cultures or tissues were not used in the manufacture and production of these vaccines (health.nd.gov).
As concerns “breakthrough” infections, “unvaccinated persons are now putting the vaccinated at risk” (Wen, MD, George Washington University). Dr. Fauci had previously alerted the public of the looming danger of the delta variant, and the importance of high vaccination rates to suppress its spread. When the delta variant exploded in the Deep South in July, 2021, Mississippi vaccination rates were hovering just above 30%. Numerous university infectious disease specialists and public health physicians have now reported that persons infected with the delta variant produce 1,000 times greater viral load than the original COVID-19 strain (Huffman, U. Of Denver). Even fully vaccinated persons may be colonized (“carry the virus) although asymptomatic. Low vaccination rates in Mississippi and the South and resistance to masking have invited the virus to evolve further. “The big concern is the next variant that might emerge could potentially evade our vaccines” (Walensky, cdc.gov/vaccines).
Religious leaders and pro-life organizations support vaccination. Christianity Today, January 13,2021. (Christianity-today.com) relates how Christians have historically advocated for vaccination as an expression of charity and love for neighbors. The Christian Medical and Dental Association, the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and multiple pro-life organizations support vaccination and state it is “morally permissible.” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary suggested that vaccination is not simply a personal choice. “Individuals should think more broadly about their susceptible neighbors” (Christianitytoday.com)
Therefore, vaccines provide both individual and community protection. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, other religion, or non-religious; get vaccinated. It is for the Common Good.
Glen Graves is a Northsider and a physician.