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An employee registers students before they receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Los Angeles, CA, on August 30, 2021. Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
  • A recent survey finds that most people in the United States support COVID-19 vaccine mandates, at least in some settings.
  • The results also showed that personal precautions have changed little in recent months.
  • In this article, we also discuss the ethics of vaccine mandates.

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Amid growing concerns regarding the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a survey concludes that more than half the U.S. population support vaccine mandates for air travel, crowded events, healthcare professionals, and government workers.

Health officials expect that variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19, will continue to emerge.

Despite the spread of the Delta variant, some people are beginning to resume their pre-pandemic lifestyle.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research recently conducted a nationwide survey using online and telephone interviews from August 12 to 16, 2021. The researchers recruited 1,729 participants.

The survey comes as the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the U.S., surges across the country.

According to the results, more than half the U.S. population support vaccine and mask requirements for air travel, crowded events, healthcare professionals, workers with exposure to the public, and people working in a government or military capacity.

The survey also reveals that only 58% of people in the U.S. stay away from large groups, while only 51% wear a face mask when surrounded by individuals outside their homes. However, vaccinated people are more likely to take these measures than those who have not received full vaccination.

Despite the rising concerns of contracting the virus among the public, the population’s use of personal preventive measures has not changed significantly since June.

Amelia Burke-Garcia, director of digital strategy and outreach at NORC at the University of Chicago, who was involved in the survey, told Medical News Today:

“Our study found that, in the context of the Delta variant surge, most Americans support vaccine mandates for some activities, such as crowded events and air travel and for certain types of workers, such as healthcare professionals and those who interact with the public.”

“Since these events and job types, by their nature, tend to include, engage, [or both] with large numbers of people, which may allow the virus to spread more easily and quickly, mandates could offer additional protection while still allowing people to engage in activities that they enjoy,” she explained.

Vaccine hesitancy remains a serious public health issue. As Burke-Garcia told MNT:

“Vaccine hesitancy persists, and that presents a threat to people’s health and our ability to return to normal day-to-day activities. In short, when someone decides not to get vaccinated, that action weakens the protection for the entire community.”

In much of the Western world, where vaccines are available, governments and the private sector are pressing people to get vaccinated, sometimes by using mandates, but mostly by civic-minded prompts.

Despite an abundant supply of free vaccines in the U.S., only a little over 50% of the population have received full vaccinations against COVID-19. Worryingly, a survey conducted in July 2021 found that 14% of unvaccinated people in the U.S. would “definitely not” get vaccinated.

One approach to this issue is to apply vaccine mandates to protect communities.

The majority of the people surveyed supported vaccine mandates in certain circumstances. For instance, 57% supported it for airplane travel, 56% for crowded public events, and 51% for visiting a bar or restaurant.

Similarly, 62% believed vaccines should be mandatory for healthcare workers, 58% for those who work with the public, 56% for military personnel, and 55% for government employees.

One of the main arguments vaccine-hesitant people raise is that vaccine and mask mandates violate human rights and civil liberties.

However, these arguments do not hold water because refusing a vaccine can significantly impact others.

Nonvaccinated people put vulnerable individuals — such as children who cannot get vaccinated or people who are immunocompromised — at risk.

Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, told MNT:

“The question is, when is it legitimate to make a rule that infringes on someone’s liberty, and the general answer is that personal liberties can be limited when they put other people at risk. And since being unvaccinated isn’t just risky for the individual, but also it’s risky for everyone around that person, vaccination mandates have been legally and ethically allowed, even in countries like the U.S. that place an extremely high value on personal independence.”

Vaccines have proved to be an effective way to eradicate various diseases throughout history, and they have saved millions of lives.

Vaccine mandates are not a new concept. For instance, health officials mandate certain vaccines before travelers visit certain countries, and most schools require children to be vaccinated.

“Historically, mandatory vaccination has been required to eliminate viral infectious disease, such as polio, smallpox, and others,” Dr. Wynia told MNT.

He explained this is due partly to the fact that a group of people will only agree to vaccination if it is mandated. “Also,” he explained, “because vaccination works and as the disease gets less common, more people tend to let their guard down and choose not to get vaccinated unless they have to.”

For these reasons, Dr. Wynia believes that “it would be very surprising if we could achieve sufficient levels of community immunity to COVID-19 without mandates of some kind, especially since immunity to COVID-19 seems to wane over time, which means people can [contract the infection] more than once unless they maintain immunity via vaccination.”

A recent study revealed that efforts to enhance COVID-19 vaccination coverage are critical in preventing COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths.

According to Dr. Wynia, this survey shows that “most Americans are realizing that mandatory vaccination will be required to emerge from this pandemic and keep COVID-19 at bay.”