Notice: For the common good

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In 1777, George Washington made smallpox vaccinations mandatory for all soldiers in the Continental Army, unless they had a history of smallpox infection (historyofvaccinations.org). Smallpox ravaged the mainland. However, the British Army was more immune to previous infections in Europe and smallpox than the Americans. Some historians believe that this act of Washington changed the course of the American Revolution.

Tensions have always existed between the sometimes divergent objectives of maintaining individual freedoms and the government’s obligation to protect the health and safety of the community, i.e. public health (Malone and Hinman, Vaccine Mandates, cdc.gov/coronavirus/vaccines). When conflicts arise, preserving the health and safety of the community transcends individual rights. The constitutional basis for state power to enforce mandatory vaccination laws was established by the United States Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 US 11 (1905). The Tragedy of the Commons, an analogy of Garrett Hardin (1968), describes how an individual’s self-interest (eg, decline in vaccination) can harm the community (increased spread of infection) and, subsequently, perhaps then to the individual himself.

Regarding COVID vaccines, here are the facts about Pfizer and Moderna vaccines:

-Vaccines do not contain COVID virus particles; therefore they cannot give the disease to the beneficiaries (cdc.gov/vaccines).

-Fetal cell cultures or tissues have not been used in the manufacture and production of these vaccines (health.nd.gov).

With regard to “breakthrough” infections, “unvaccinated people now put vaccines at risk” (Wen, MD, George Washington University). Dr Fauci had previously alerted the public to the imminent danger of the delta variant and the importance of high vaccination rates to suppress its spread. When the Delta variant exploded in the Deep South in July 2021, vaccination rates in Mississippi were just over 30%. Many academic infectious disease specialists and public health physicians have now reported that people infected with the delta variant produce a viral load 1,000 times that of the original COVID-19 strain (Huffman, U. Of Denver) . Even people who are fully vaccinated can be colonized (“carriers of the virus) although they are asymptomatic. Low vaccination rates in Mississippi and the South and resistance to masking prompted the virus to evolve further. “The big concern is that the next variant that might emerge could potentially escape our vaccines” (Walensky, cdc.gov/vaccines).

Religious leaders and pro-life organizations support vaccination. Christianity Today, January 13, 2021. (Christianity-today.com) tells how Christians have historically advocated for vaccination as an expression of charity and love of neighbor. The Christian Medical and Dental Association, the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and several pro-life organizations support vaccination and declare it “morally admissible.” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary suggested that vaccination is not just a personal choice. “Individuals should think more broadly of their sensitive neighbors” (Christianitytoday.com)

Therefore, vaccines provide both individual and community protection. Whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, of another religion or not; to get vaccinated. It is for the Common Good.

Glen Graves is a Northsider and a physician.


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