Open forum: Our Political Leaders Must Stand Up to COVID Now

Navy Lt. Thuy Pham prepares a syringe with vaccine in the Community Vaccination Center’s pharmacy at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center. (Photo by the V.I. Health Department)

While COVID cases were on the decline, it was OK [for] public health policy not to restrict the unvaccinated. Now with cases skyrocketing, it is no longer acceptable. We risk new variants defeating our existing vaccines and a return to the worst times of the pandemic (overwhelmed hospitals, large numbers of deaths and economic shutdowns).

We do not allow each other to drive intoxicated because we are a threat not just to ourselves but to other people on the road. This is why the individual rights argument regarding COVID vaccination does not hold water. I am not advocating mandatory vaccination, rather restrictions on activities for those who choose not to be vaccinated. Show your vaccination card to enter restaurants, bars, movie theaters and board commercial airliners. If an individual is unvaccinated, they should only be allowed to go to essential businesses; and, sadly, everyone should wear a mask in these essential businesses until the COVID case numbers start going back down.

Forcing the vaccinated to wear masks everywhere would be akin to deciding we are no longer going to enforce drunk driving laws and therefore no one can drive at night because it is too dangerous. We have tried the honor system which says unvaccinated individuals must wear a mask in public spaces. If it were working, the case counts would not be rising dramatically.

Our political leaders understand all of this, but they fear the loss of the votes of the unvaccinated. In the end, they will gain votes by choosing this policy because it will alter the course of the pandemic. Virtually everyone now being negatively impacted by COVID is expressing remorse for not taking the vaccine (or not advocating for their loved one who has lost their life to take the vaccine).

I recently saw a heartbreaking news story where a COVID patient asked for the vaccine just before being put on the ventilator and the doctor had to say it was too late for the vaccine to help (this person died the next day).

I prefer not to call this a vaccine passport due to all the negative publicity around that label. Why not call it the ” Back to Normal Campaign”? This public health policy will yield dramatic results for two reasons. It keeps those of us who can spread the disease away from indoor public settings and most importantly gives a very large incentive to get vaccinated so we can all get back to normal.

Steve Hardee

Editor’s note: Steve Hardee is a retired emergency room/ family practice physician in Texas and a long-term resident of St. Croix.