Biden admin treads lightly on vaccine mandates to avoid backlash, but doesn’t shy away

President Joe Biden’s administration is seeking to implement as many mandates on COVID-19 vaccines as it possibly can while still avoiding a major backlash from the American public and those who would be impacted by the rules, including military service members and civilian federal employees, who have been forced to disclose their vaccination status and submit to social distancing and weekly testing if they refuse vaccination.

According to the Associated Press, the administration also discussed imposing vaccine requirements for interstate travel, but decided not to at this time. Such a requirement would likely violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but Biden has already shown that he doesn’t care about pesky things like the Constitution by extending an eviction moratorium that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.

White House officials told the AP that Biden was trying to be restrained in using mandates to ensure that they would be well-received by the public. He didn’t, for example, mandate vaccines for air travel.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t become even more aggressive about requiring vaccines in order to participate in aspects of American life. Vaccine mandates are “the right lever at the right time,” deputy director of strategic communications and engagement for the White House COVID-19 response Ben Wakana said.

Vaccination rate jumps twofold

Between what Biden has done so far, along with rising concerns over the delta variant of COVID-19, the rate of vaccinations in the U.S. doubled this month to 450,000 a day, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the White House is openly encouraging the private sector to require vaccinations for employees, something that a Kaiser poll says the public narrowly favors, 51% to 45%. And Biden is mulling whether to require teachers to be vaccinated as kids begin returning to school for the fall.

According to Kaiser, about one-fourth of those who are unvaccinated said they would probably get the vaccine by the end of the year.

And up to one-third said they would be more likely to get the shots if they obtained full, permanent approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instead of the emergency authorization they now have.

Attitudes toward shots dividing America

Public health experts see mandates as justified because the vaccines seem to be effective, especially at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.

“The country is completely fatigued with lockdowns, business closures and masking,” professor of health law at Georgetown University Lawrence Gostin told the AP, “and vaccines are literally our only tool. We’ve tried masking, distancing, occupancy limits, even entire lockdowns now for coming along nearly two years. And the virus just keeps raging back. And the vaccines are the only thing we have now to defeat the virus. We need to use that tool and we need to use it vigorously. And I think there will be large public support for that.”

Americans’ attitudes toward vaccines have become yet another thing that divides them. It’s now the minority who oppose vaccines and remain unvaccinated, but it’s a very vocal minority with the ability to cause major headaches for Biden if he forces the issue.

That’s because mandates like these for vaccines and face masks fly in the face of Americans’ constitutional freedoms and portend a government that increasingly thinks it has the right to impose its will on its people. If more than a vocal minority don’t wake up soon, we may lose our freedoms permanently in the name of so-called safety.

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