The United States Congress should pass an immunity mandate and, to help it go over better, the mandate should come with a lifting of the last of the COVID restrictions across the country. I understand that the sentence above makes pretty much everyone unhappy with me. There is a sizable population of people who would like mask-wearing to continue forever. Some of my public health friends are going to hate the idea of an immunity mandate over a traditional vaccine mandate. My libertarian friends are closing this email or browser tab because I am talking about a mandate. All of you should stick with me here.
I say immunity mandate and not vaccine mandate because I think we need to take a holistic approach to reach a safe level of immunity. As Charlotte Thålin argues in the NYT today, immunity from recovering from COVID-19, sometimes called “natural immunity,” can be better than or equal to the immunity gained from the vaccine.1 It is a risky route to immunity and not one that I would choose, but there are enough people who recovered from COVID in the US that it should be recognized as a form of immunity just like the vaccine.2
A vaccine mandate is not going to happen in our current reality. Like it or not, the vaccine has become a politicized culture war issue. This means that nothing of the sort is going to pass through congress. I am not sure that it could command 50 votes in the Senate. An immunity mandate is different enough that it just might have a fighting chance. The bargain helps grease the wheels. It allows Republicans to go back to their states and districts and say that they “abolished mask mandates” and “didn’t roll out a vaccine mandate.” It also allows Democrats to go back to their states and districts and talk about how they enacted a “de facto vaccine mandate.” A win-win for everyone.
I would propose that the mandate would look something like this.
To enter the United States, work for the United States, enter property owned by the United States, engage in interstate commerce, cross state lines, receive federal funds, or work for any group that receives federal funds you must either:
Have had 2 shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer Vaccine
Have had 1 shot of the Jansen Vaccine
Have had another COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved by the FDA-equivalent of the EU, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, or Japan
Have recovered from COVID-19 and can show proof of it via an antibody test
Show a pressing medical reason that you can not take the vaccine
Show a long-term religious conviction that prohibits you from taking any vaccines
Private companies who impose the same mandate on staff or visitors should be protected from federal lawsuits. States who attempt to block this mandate from coming into effect within their state forfeit all federal funds. States should be encouraged to enact their own versions of the immunity mandate, but I do not think that it is worth the federalism fight to try to get states to do it.
Lifting of restrictions
As a bargain for the vaccine mandate, the federal government should bar federal funds from going to states, municipalities, or organizations that impose mask mandates or capacity restrictions for the next two years. People deserve to get their lives back. We are close to two years deep into these restrictions, and they were meant to be temporary until the vaccine was rolled out.
Mask mandates are turning into a form of virtue signaling to show that an area is liberal. The list of places with a mask mandate are some of the bluest in the country and they are not the places with the worst COVID problem. Some of these places, such as Washington, DC, mandate masks outdoors when the data shows that they are not needed. Additionally, the people who impose these rules seem to flaunt them regularly. DC’s mandate has been ignored by Mayor Muriel Bowser, President Joe Biden, and others. If these rules were about public health and not politics, the Mayor and President would be following them when out and about.
Reasonable mandate or nothing
With close to all adults either vaccinated to immune from COVID-19 due to recovery, life can get back to normal, and that is what the majority of Americans want. People are tired of restrictions and the government acting like the fun police. We can either try to craft a reasonable mandate that will be accepted by most people or have no mandate. No mandate is winning over a vaccine mandate. This immunity mandate is a middle path.
I was going to argue this point at length, but her letter is better than anything I could write. You should read it
11% of the population if my math is right