Readers’ Forum: How COVID-19 vaccine mandates are causing people to question the science

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It’s no secret — pandemics are rough. From plummeting markets to unexpected returns, difficulties with school to profound learning experiences, losing those we love to appreciating those we have, this era of history has brought a unique set of ups and downs.

Through these ups and downs, it’s clear that our society is incredibly resilient. Rapid developments in science and medicine have led to the creation of various COVID-19 vaccines — the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there are many who don’t want to receive the vaccine. Why is this? Do they not want this pandemic to end? It’s difficult to see why anyone wouldn’t want to contribute to the end of this era.

Because of this hesitancy, many have supported vaccine mandates requiring all individuals to be vaccinated, whether they like it or not. In fact, President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order, requiring employees at companies with more than 100 employees — as well as all federal employees — to be vaccinated, or they will lose their jobs.

Concerned by this mandate, I recently set out to explore vaccine hesitancy. As it turns out, many people have legitimate reasons for refusing the vaccine, and for these individuals, a vaccine mandate would do much more harm than good. 

I am not anti-vaccine. I am vaccinated, and I think vaccines are critical in overcoming COVID-19.

However, I am anti-mandate.

Before we place requirements on these individuals, let’s at least understand who they are and why they might be hesitant. I recently conducted a survey of 191 people, 182 of them being a part of the BYU community. Participants were asked if they were vaccinated, what reasons led to them getting vaccinated or not, which of those reasons was most important and whether they supported a government vaccine mandate.

Of those vaccinated in the survey, the most prominent reasons given for doing so were to avoid giving the virus to others, to avoid getting the virus and to have less COVID-19 restrictions. These are things we all want.

So, what keeps people from vaccination?

Eighty percent of those not vaccinated said they didn’t feel it was necessary, since they were young and healthy. Fifty-five percent said they did not trust the vaccine. Forty percent said they had minor health concerns, such as side effects, while 25% said they had political concerns about their rights being taken away. Ultimately, 63% of all survey participants were opposed to a government vaccine mandate. 

Understanding why individuals are not vaccinated helps us understand the effects a vaccine mandate would have. Imagine an individual who has concerns about the safety of the vaccine. They are scared about the potential effects a vaccine could have and choose not to be vaccinated. How would this individual feel about a vaccine mandate? Not only would they still have distrust in the vaccine, they would not trust the government either.

Let’s take a person who is not particularly opposed to the vaccine but does not feel that as a healthy individual, they are at risk from COVID-19. A vaccine mandate would cause them to distrust the government, as they are forced to give up control of what goes into their own bodies. 

Some believe a mandate is the only way to defeat this virus, but there is a better way. We do not need to force people to choose between financial ruin for them and their families, and subjection to a vaccine they have health concerns over. Rather, let us encourage, invite and inform, not force, scare and control.

Ethan Beere
Bentonville, Arkansas

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