So, I’m going to chime in with my take, both for and against a formal mandate.
For: I don’t hear this a lot, and maybe my limited knowledge of how viruses work is flawed, but from what I understand, every time someone gets the virus it has a chance to mutate. Taking that further, we know, for a fact, that some people with the vaccine can get covid. Our folks call them ‘breakthrough infections’, which sounds really technical and cool when they say it. So, assuming the first part of what I said is correct, then to my mind, it’s possible to get a covid variant due to a mutation from a vaccinated person…which would render the vaccine less effective going forward.
For: Not everyone can get vaccinated. Many have real issues with the vaccine. Also, many have immune deficiency issues that render them more susceptible. Especially if we are talking about first responders then I think a mandate makes sense, as they are going to be the ones directly interfacing with this group, potentially. I think this justifies a mandate.
Against: Really, these will both be pretty weak, but I think it’s important to be able to at least see the other side. The first one is that right now, a lot of agencies are already strapped for personnel. We are feeling the crunch in our own organization, with several agencies reporting deficiencies in personnel levels. The police, especially have been hard hit…from a meeting earlier in the week the force lost 6 additional people this week. This is without a mandate, just losses either through burnout or being poached by other organizations and entities who are in the same boat. The fire department is even worse off (as are things like public works and the detention centers and prisons). By forcing a mandate, you are going to cut even more deeply into this already shrinking pool, and right now some of the agencies are barely functional. That would be a Bad Thing™. There are mask mandates already in effect, at least where I am, and in all of those agencies I mentioned here they do weekly testing already…I believe the detention centers/prisons are doing biweekly at this point.
Against: Even weaker, perhaps, is that there is a non-zero risk of having a bad reaction to the vaccine. I know we have had a few…myself, I just got sick for a few days and that was it, but several have reported more serious issues. If you force someone to get a vaccine they don’t want and are only doing under duress and they have a bad reaction, I think that would open the organization up to potential liability. Also, as I said, we already have safety precautions in places such as requiring masks and the like.
I guess one last point, perhaps on the ‘for’ side, is that this sets a precedent for action. This could be for or against, depending on how you feel about this. My thought, however, is if we ever get a really bad pandemic…which, bad as this has been I don’t think this rises up to that level…we will already have the hooks in place to do this much earlier on. If, say, the infection rate was the same as the current pandemic but the death rate was over 20%, it would allow for this to happen almost automatically. Also, the public would already be adjusted to the idea. This is also why I’m a bit on the fence about doing it now…there could be backlash from the public on this (more than there already is).
Anyway, those are my thoughts on this subject, FWIW.