Hire Back Workers Fired for Refusing Vaccine Mandates

            Once every generation or two, a crisis prompts the hysterical demands for quick solutions that lead to unsound decisions. Post-Pearl Harbor, worries about fifth columnists were followed by the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. 9/11 led to two wars, excessive airport security and the privacy-destroying USA-Patriot Act.

            The Covid pandemic sparked panic; panic fuels overreaction.

Enter vaccine mandates.

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York in October 2021, declared a city-wide vaccine mandate for municipal workers. “This mandate is a bold step that protects our families, friends, and communities, including those that are not yet eligible for the vaccine such as our city’s youngest residents,” he said weeks before expanding the requirement to private-sector workers employed by 184,000 businesses. Similar strictures quickly spread across the nation.

            Setting aside the debate between personal autonomy and the public good, it has since become clear that the rationale for the mandates—that unvaccinated people were spreaders—was flawed. Thousands of workers who were fired for refusing the shot were wronged. They ought to be compensated.

            The injustice resulted from that most common of honest mistakes committed by government committee: a conclusion based upon information that was out-of-date. Seven months before de Blasio’s decision, clinical trials had indicated that the Pfizer and Moderna double-doses were highly effective (94-95%) at preventing Covid-19. Eager to lift lockdowns and restart the economy, de Blasio and other mayors thought that restoring municipal services and in-office work depended upon citizens not having to fear infection from city employees as well as private-sector workers.

By the time public-health officials and politicians had imposed mandates, however, the dominant delta and omicron variants had already radically changed the calculus. The first round of vaccines, it was evident by summer 2021, were a lot less effective at preventing “breakthrough infections” of these less severe, more contagious versions of the disease. Government was fighting the previous battle.

The newer bivalent vaccines didn’t fix the problem. According to a CDC study released in November 2022, People who received the original monovalent vaccine 2 to 3 months before receiving the new bivalent booster enjoyed a vaccine effectiveness rate of just 28-31%. An overwhelming majority of Americans, vaccinated or not, have been infected.

“We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Vice President Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that most people dying of Covid had been vaccinated, told The Washington Post on November 27, 2022.

As liberals liked to say during the pandemic: follow the science. By the time the vaccine mandates went into effect, science said that the odds of a vaccinated NYPD officer contracting and spreading the virus weren’t much lower than those of an unvaccinated cop. Whatever you think of the anti-vaxxers who lost their jobs to mandates—that they were ignorant, paranoid, selfish—they didn’t represent a significantly greater threat to public health than those who did get the jab. Since that supposed danger—that higher danger—was the reason given for letting them go, and that danger differential wasn’t a big deal at the time, they never should have been targeted for termination in the first place.

Mandates no longer apply to private businesses in New York. Yet it remains in force for city employees. Asked in October 2022 about the contradiction, Mayor Eric Adams replied: “I don’t think anything dealing with COVID is—makes sense, and there’s no logical pathway.” State and city employees remain subject to mandates across the nation.

This is not an attack on vaccines. I’m fully vaxxed, boosted four times, and even though I’ve gotten Covid twice after being vaccinated, I’m pro-vaccine. If you’re vaccinated and get a “breakthrough infection,” you almost certainly won’t be hospitalized or die. That’s the benefit being touted by the CDC and the medical community. I have asthma but my recent illness, as the XBB.1.5 subvariant raged, felt like a cold. I believe the vaccine has saved my life.

Dr. Anthony Fauci declared the pandemic over in April 2022. As we return to our normal activities and assess the traumatic politics of the last few years, we should follow the example of President Ronald Reagan, who signed a law apologizing to the Japanese Americans sent to detention camps and paying them compensation.

Let’s cancel mandates and rehire the thousands of teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters and other workers who lost their jobs because they refused vaccines at a time that their employers couldn’t see clearly. We should issue back pay and an apology to these victims of hysteria.

Penance is good for the soul. In this case, it would also alleviate the shortage of workers in these key professions.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

6 Comments. Leave new

  • The People’s CDC website and their YouTube videos are really good(“COVID Weather Report”). Also discovered more recently The Death Panel podcast.
    Refreshing socio-political analysis of COVID situation NOT from right wing conspiracy theorists…Death Panel hosts are sociologists and epidemiologists and one is immunocompromised so COVID response is important for her life. Heard their “COVID Year 3” show and it blew me away. It really explained a lot about the shitshow of how COVID response is about keeping society and economy status quo and not really about health.

  • Setting aside the debate between personal autonomy and the public good, it has since become clear that the rationale for the mandates—that unvaccinated people were spreaders—was flawed. Thousands of workers who were fired for refusing the shot were wronged. They ought to be compensated.

    Ted is mostly wrong on the science but probably mostly right on the media/politics.

    A lot gets lost in translation: science -> science/medical policy advocacy -> politics -> journalism | <- political analysis.

    There are a number of scientific disciplines involved (epidemiology, virology, vaccines, modeling/data science, public health…) each involving different people with their own views who had to parse the situation in real time.

    It was hard to get politicians to really understand much of the basics let alone the new ideas, this was already an issue with scientists turned administrators.

    Next the politicians were scared and didn't trust the public's attention span and wanted preserve their position of authority more than getting a point across to change attitudes.

    The media of course – even in compliant stenographer mode – further dumbed down the message.

    Ted may have a point turning that what politicians / the media reported of the Covid strategy, such that it was, turned out flawed with hindsight (actually it was clearly confused already at the time).

    On the other hand that "rationale" was based on a lot of background that made it out of professional circles only to specific channels such as podcasts, Twitter threads and Medium.com articles, etc. Also for once e.g. the German media and public science did a much better job than the English speaking world.

    Unvaccinated people clearly were – and are – indeed higher spreaders, all else being equal. Vaccinations significantly reduced transmission especially in the first couple of months; more generally the time window to infect others after being infected is shorter due to the faster immune response compared to an immune system of a naive person that has to start from scratch (this is true even when their "viral load" as measured with PCR can be at almost the same level as PCR also picks up on "dead" virus particles). This was of course deemed too nuanced to put into messaging that kept relying on earlier concepts such as herd immunity.

    Perhaps more significantly, all else being equal, unvaccinated persons were a much harder draw on the medical system on all levels, including ICUs. As this became (and is) the main indicator for the crisis response it was presumably also mainly behind the political carrot-and-stick measures to push vaccination. This point was mainly left out of the messaging for a variety of reasons.

  • alex_the_tired
    January 27, 2023 6:25 AM

    Okay. Fingers crossed it doesn’t go to moderation.
    Let’s put the blame where it belongs. At the baby boomers’ pampered feet. (I will explain.)
    About 1.1 million COVID deaths happened in the United States, a country run, basically, by the baby boomers. About 810,000 of the COVID deaths were boomer/silents. Those under 50 comprised a little over 70,000 of the deaths.
    We can argue about what the numbers would have been without vaccination, but the trend is clear. This was an old person disease. And the boomer generation did what it always has: put itself first, second, and last. The COVID response — even before the science was in — was driven by the very realistic and easily understood notion that diseases that young people can bounce back from can kill older people.
    As for Ted’s point about people who didn’t get vaccinated being owed something. Pish. Pish and tosh. Heck two toshes. Sure, there are people who genuinely cannot get vaccines because they have bad reactions. That’s a pretty small group though. Then there’s all the rest. These weren’t informed opinions they were shrieking. These were the religious hysterics and the tinfoil hat crowd that still thinks autism is caused by the mercury that isn’t in vaccines. I will not roll the latter in with the former.

    • hi alex,

      the correlation of mortality (and overall severity) with age is quite extreme for Covid19, much more so than for comparable diseases.

      I remember the Imperial College London group at one point crunched the numbers and found a near-linear relationship fatalityage with risk doubling for every 8 years of age. Other studies put this number even lower at 5 years.

      -> That means the risk of dying from Covid for a 54 year old are around 25% compared to a 70 year old person. For a person of 38 it is a quarter still or 6 %.

      However, that also means there is no magic cut-off, no number such as 50 years old etc. where people are safe. It’s only relative. Of course there are a number of other risk factors that put also younger people at higher danger. Since this includes obesity this includes a substantial portion of the U.S. population.

      There are some interesting studies showing that in the U.S. expensive private high quality homes effectively scored remarkably similar to the very worst in that mortality of their clients was largely predicted by the local Covid infection rate. This is to say that absolutely nobody got the maxim “let the young get on with their lives and shield only the old” to work in the real world.

      So you are quite correct to say that most of the sacrifices made by society was to the benefit of older generations. Perhaps we may want granny to survive? A comparison with China is instructive here, although we may have to wait to see how their endgame plays out.

      Unfortunately the covid “skeptics” (sic) in my experience were also recruited from circles who had otherwise come to a quite healthy state of questioning authority in other domains.

      To me the most striking aspect of the US response, such that it was, was that even the most basic measures (free and easily available vaccines, tests, etc.) were dialed down the moment they decided that all the rich people (who tend to be old) were covered.

      • alex_the_tired
        January 28, 2023 11:02 PM

        Andreas5,

        Sure, it isn’t like in Star Trek where the computer intones “fatal radiation dose in 34.2 seconds” for a ship filled with over a thousand people. Some fat 20-year-old with asthma would succumb while a 99-year-old farmer would shake it off, but what strikes me as strange is that through the whole eternity of this damned thing, I don’t think a single commentator on the national level pointed out, “Hey. This thing is, mainly, putting the boomers in its cross-hairs. And we — literally — shut down the entire friggin’ economy. Does anyone honestly — seriously now — does anyone honestly think that if this was a disease that just killed Gen Xers or Millennials or Gen Zers, that we would have changed a single thing?”
        As soon as someone suggested “Hey, the Gen Xers are dropping like flies, can we do something” a boomer at the New York Times would have cranked out a column lecturing everyone about how hard the boomers had it, and what do these whingeing crybabies the Gen Xers want, anyway? That we should stop the whole world?

      • It is an interesting thought experiment/scifi movie script.

        Act 1 might well play out as you say…

        In the second act they belatedly come to the realization that Gen Z contains army “volunteers” and also their own grand-kids. Oops.

        For the endgame, liberals would search for a way to contain the fallout to the children of the lower classes (hat tip to the final season of Torchwood) and contract Zuckerberg to build robot soldiers. Conservatives would aim for letting the virus burn itself out and instead double down on erasing abortion and contraception to re-populate the army and generate replacement grand-kids.

        Ok, so it is a documentary.

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