Vaccines Mandates Work, But They’re Messy

“the country has long waxed and waned on whether to require kids to get vaccinated. School vaccine requirements have been with us a long time — nearly as long as public schooling itself. Smallpox vaccination — the only vaccine that existed early in the history of public education — was required for entry into Boston public schools in 1827. But for much of American history, mandates were inconsistently applied across geography and tended to come and go over time. For example, Washington and Wisconsin ended school vaccination requirements in 1919 and 1920, respectively, and during the 1920s, the Utah and North Dakota legislatures passed laws forbidding compulsory vaccination.

But mandates became more of a mainstay in the late 20th century, when a series of school-based measles outbreaks swept the nation in the 1970s — and it quickly became clear that vaccines could help. In Texarkana, a city split by the Texas-Arkansas border, the Arkansas side had a vaccine mandate and fared far better than the Texas side, which had no mandate. By 1980, every state had some kind of compulsory vaccination for school-age children. Annual cases of measles dropped from tens of thousands in the 1970s to fewer than 2,000 by 1983. During the 20th century, measles infected an average of more than 500,000 Americans each year. In 2005, after decades of school vaccine mandates and vaccination rates higher than 90 percent, it infected 66 people. Vaccines reduced the spread of disease, and making the vaccines mandatory all but eliminated it.”

In Portugal, There Is Virtually No One Left to Vaccinate

“Portugal’s health care system was on the verge of collapse. Hospitals in the capital, Lisbon, were overflowing and authorities were asking people to treat themselves at home. In the last week of January, nearly 2,000 people died as the virus spread.

The country’s vaccine program was in a shambles, so the government turned to Vice Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a former submarine squadron commander, to right the ship.

Eight months later, Portugal is among the world’s leaders in vaccinations, with roughly 86% of its population of 10.3 million fully vaccinated. About 98% of all of those eligible for vaccines — meaning anyone over 12 — have been fully vaccinated, Gouveia e Melo said.”

If Texas Businesses Are Free To Require Face Masks, Why Can’t They Require Proof of Vaccination?

“there is ample evidence that vaccines sharply reduce the risk of infection and are even more effective at preventing life-threatening symptoms. Furthermore, schools have a long history of requiring that students be vaccinated against other diseases. Abbott’s order nevertheless says “state agencies and political subdivisions shall not adopt or enforce any order, ordinance, policy, regulation. rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the individual’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.” That prohibition also applies to “any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money.””

“a state law that Abbott signed on June 16 goes further, saying “a business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer’s COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business.” It says any business that violates this provision is ineligible for state contracts, and it allows state agencies to “require compliance with that subsection as a condition for a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state.””

“”Texas is open 100 percent, and we want to make sure that you have the freedom to go where you want without limits,” Abbott declared after signing the law banning proof-of-vaccination requirements. That position sacrifices private property rights and freedom of association in the name of an unlimited “freedom” that has never been legally recognized: the freedom of any given customer to dictate the terms on which businesses offer products or services.”

“assuming that school vaccine mandates are justified with respect to other communicable diseases, it is hard to see why COVID-19 should be treated differently—leaving aside the lack of full FDA approval, which is expected to be remedied soon. One counterargument is that COVID-19, which rarely causes life-threatening symptoms in children and teenagers, poses a less serious danger to them than other diseases for which vaccination is required.* Still, requiring teachers and students to be vaccinated certainly seems like a more cost-effective policy than requiring them to wear masks all day.”

“it hardly makes sense to say that private businesses should be free to require face masks, on the theory that customers who don’t like that rule can go elsewhere, while prohibiting them from requiring proof of vaccination, which likewise is not tantamount to a legal requirement.”

Why Is There Such A Gender Gap In COVID-19 Vaccination Rates?

“the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 9.5 million more women than men have been vaccinated in the U.S.,1 and in the 42 states2 that collect gender data, a greater share of women are getting the vaccine as well. The magnitude of the gender gap varies from state to state but has hovered just below 10 percentage points on average over the past month.”

“The simplest explanation for the vaccine gender gap is that women got a head start. Among older Americans, who had early access to the vaccine, women outnumber men”

“those early restrictions on who could get the vaccine are gone now. The numbers remain imbalanced, however, so other factors must be contributing to the disparity as well.”

“COVID-19 isn’t the only health matter that men are less likely to be proactive about. Compared with women, they tend to see a doctor less often and use harmful substances like alcohol and illicit drugs more often; men also tend to eat less fiber and fruit, and they are even less likely to use sunscreen when compared to women. According to Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, men’s shorter lifespans are the result of the cumulative effects of poor health decisions, not physiology. “There’s no real biological reason that men die earlier,” said Metzl. “The things that make you a successful, cool, tough man in America are also inversely related to health and longevity.”
Researchers are nearly unanimous in their assertion that traditional masculinity — the idea that men should be self-reliant, physically tough and emotionally stoic — is a risk factor for men’s health. James Mahalik, an expert on masculinity and health outcomes at Boston College, studies how traditional masculinity gets in the way of health-promoting behaviors. His lab’s research on mask-wearing indicates that men who conform to traditional masculine norms have lower levels of empathy toward people who are vulnerable to COVID-19, and they are less likely to trust the scientific community. Mahalik suspects the same is true for their views about the vaccine.”

“women are typically held responsible for the health of others in ways that men are not: “Women know that if members of their family become sick, they’re the ones who will be responsible for caregiving.” Although vaccine distributors don’t track the gender of people who schedule vaccine appointments for family members, sociologists are concerned that women are taking on the brunt of this work — an extension of what has been called women’s “second shift.” Women’s greater responsibility for maintaining not just their own health but the health of others makes Reich suspect that women are more likely to be in contact with health services and seek out health-related information. Social expectations that women care for others and vigilantly monitor their reproductive health demand it of them.”

“gender differences in susceptibility to COVID-19 misinformation: Early in the pandemic, men — particularly those who identified as conservatives — were more likely than women to subscribe to COVID-19 conspiracy theories.”

How to supercharge vaccine production for the next pandemic

“But it’s one thing to come up with a vaccine, and entirely something else to manufacture it on a mass scale. That’s where the world has stumbled and where concerted planning now can make sure we’re prepared for the future. If we’re to have a better chance to fight the next pandemic — and there will be a next one — the US needs to build on these vaccine tech innovations and make investments to establish permanent facilities producing mRNA and adenovirus vaccines.”

“that slack won’t arrive naturally.

Weber, the former assistant secretary of defense for biodefense, has pushed for what he dubs a “10 + 10 Over 10” plan to prevent biological threats in the future. It is essentially a big government investment that could enable the kind of infrastructure necessary to have gotten to full vaccine availability in the US in, say, one or two months, not five.

The plan calls for $10 billion in additional annual funding for the Department of Defense, and another $10 billion per year for the Department of Health and Human Services, devoted to anticipating pandemic and other biological risks, for at least 10 years.

With that funding, government could finance the infrastructure for year-round vaccine manufacture.”

“The key is that these facilities need to be active during non-pandemic times, otherwise their expertise and readiness could deteriorate.”

“Pharmaceutical companies are not going to go this big on their own, and there’s no guarantee that the government will fund them sufficiently without pressure. In 2020 — during the pandemic — the Trump administration cut the DOD’s chemical and biodefense programs by 10 percent, with much of the cuts going to the vaccine component of the budget. To set this vision in motion, the US needs to not just reverse cuts like that but spend much more, in line with Weber’s $20 billion per year proposal.”

In a Rush To Ban Vaccine Passports, Texas Is Violating Private Property Rights

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has positioned himself as more than a Republican, but as a true conservative. It was with that framing that the leader of the Lone Star State signed a law to ban private businesses from setting their own terms of service when it comes to helping customers.

“Texas is open 100 percent,” Abbott said in a clip posted to Twitter. “And we want to make sure that you have the freedom to go where you want without limits.”

He will not extend that same freedom of association to individual actors who have their own enterprises. “The Texas legislature passed a law that I am about to sign that prohibits vaccine passports in Texas,” he added. “No business or government entity can require a person to provide a vaccine passport, or any other vaccine information, as a condition of receiving any service, or entering any place.””

“The Texas bill “violates private property rights,” says Timothy Sandefur, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “The longstanding legal tradition has always been that businesses owe an obligation to protect their customers’ safety, at least to some basic extent, and this law comes along and says, not only are they not free to make that choice, but they’re prohibited from doing so.”

The legislation uses several different state levers to strong-arm businesses into compliance. It weaponizes governmental occupational licensing requirements—something Abbott has rightly railed against in other contexts—and threatens to withhold “a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state” should a company run afoul of the law.

Perhaps more notably, it also precludes any entity that disobeys from “receiv[ing] a grant or enter[ing] into a contract payable with state funds.”

Yet it was Abbott who applied the exact opposite justification when he (again, rightly) signed a law that allowed taxpayer-funded faith-based adoption agencies to operate within their belief systems when pairing children with prospective parents. The difference here: One comports with his personal values, and the other—vaccine verification—does not.”

“”It cannot be rationally justified,” adds Sandefur. “It’s simply a matter of people saying that the government shouldn’t force people to do things they don’t like and should force people to do things they do like. It’s totally inconsistent, and a violation of basic property rights and constitutional law.””

Industrial Policy Failed With Vaccines Too

“The vaccines that millions of Americans receive every day are the result of a global system of research, development, manufacturing, and trade. Forcing those networks to be concentrated within the United States wouldn’t make those supply chains more robust, but would leave Americans vulnerable to the accountability problems that seem endemic to federal government contracting.”

” It’s true, of course, that the federal government paid billions of dollars to Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers in the form of advance-purchase agreements last year. But that’s a different situation—one that effectively promised prize money but still put the onus on private companies to deliver vaccines that worked. While certainly not an ideal arrangement from a libertarian point of view, it’s far better than an industrial policy that directs public funds to companies that hire the best lobbyists.”

Why Johnson & Johnson shots were paused — and why that’s so confusing

“Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause in distributing the vaccine after six reported cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). These clots block blood flowing out of the brain and can quickly turn deadly.

The complications were found in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and they arose between six and 13 days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “Of the clots seen in the United States, one case was fatal, and one patient is in critical condition,” said Peter Marks, the head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, during a Tuesday press conference.”

“For regulators, the episode highlights the tricky challenge of balancing caution against an urgent need for a vaccine in a still-raging pandemic. And as they investigate the problem, they also have to try to maintain public confidence in the vaccination program. The pause helps show that regulators are taking potential problems seriously, but if they botch the messaging, that could make people less likely to get vaccinated.”

“there are several factors that made regulators pay close attention to the recent cases following vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson shot. Marks explained that patients with these clots also had thrombocytopenia, a condition where platelets in the blood drop to very low levels, leading to bleeding and bruising. The combination of blood clots and low platelets means that patients cannot receive conventional blood clot therapies like heparin, a blood thinner. That’s why health officials want to wait to resume vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until they can investigate the concern and come up with new guidelines if necessary.

Another factor is that these cases occurred in younger women, who normally don’t face a high risk of these types of clots.”

“when vaccines make the jump from thousands of carefully screened trial participants to millions of people in the general population, rare problems — the one-in-a-million complications — start to emerge.”

“Regulators could, then, take a similar approach with the Johnson & Johnson shot to the one they used for allergies and the mRNA vaccines, adding a screening criterion for people at highest risk of these blood clots before they receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”