Podcast Transcript: "You May Think You Want Vaccine Mandates, but Do You Really?," The Argument (August 25, 2021)

This transcript originally appeared at nytimes.com

You May Think You Want Vaccine Mandates, but Do You Really? [Audio podcast episode] 

Debating the risks and rewards of requiring proof of vaccination, as the coronavirus Delta variant rages on.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Jane Coaston

Today on “The Argument” — do vaccine mandates maybe make things worse? [MUSIC PLAYING]

Archived Recording

You will soon have to show proof of full vaccination if you want to go almost anywhere indoors in the city. 56 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat support vaccination mandates, and the divide is largely political. A lot of restaurant owners say this puts them in an impossible position — — because we know that this will encourage a lot more vaccination. We’ve seen it already.

Jane Coaston

Just over 50 percent of the United States is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at this point. So to many people, vaccine mandates in cities like New York and San Francisco seem like the best move to get people vaccinated and keep the virus at bay. I’m Jane Coaston, and I get why these mandates are coming into play. I’m fully vaccinated. I want more people to get fully vaccinated, so I can understand how making spaces available only to people who are fully vaccinated might make people get, you know, vaccinated. But I also don’t think these mandates are going to solve low vaccination rates. In fact, I think they could actively turn some people off, especially when getting vaccinated has a lot more to do with access and context than it does trying to make you, a vaccinated person, mad. Like, can you take two days off work if you have symptoms post vaccine, or even, do you trust the medical establishment giving you the vaccine if you’ve had a rough time with doctors before?

Today, I’m talking with two guests about the pros and cons of mandates. Angie Rasmussen is a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization — VIDO — at the University of Saskatchewan. And Marcella Tillett is the Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at the Brooklyn Community Foundation, an organization that’s helping locals get vaccinated. [MUSIC PLAYING]

I want to start out by asking — Angie, what is a vaccine mandate?

Angie Rasmussen

A vaccine mandate is just a requirement that you get a vaccine in order to do something. That might be something like travel internationally, and that’s a vaccine mandate for which there’s a lot of precedence. There’s a yellow card that the W.H.O. provides that was originally to prove your yellow fever vaccination status to travel internationally. And now, that yellow card is used to prove vaccination status for any number of different vaccines. And then there’s school vaccine mandates. Those also have quite a lot of precedent. This is basically the requirement that students get a particular type of vaccine before being allowed to enter class in person. You can get a medical exemption for a school vaccine mandate. You can get a religious exemption, or a philosophical exemption. These are really implemented differently in different places. What we’re also seeing now are some really new types of vaccine mandates, where you are going to be required to get vaccines, potentially, to go to restaurants, to go to businesses, to go to movie theaters. And that really isn’t as precedented. We’ve never had to prove that you’ve had your MMR — measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine — to go see a movie.

Jane Coaston

Right. And you think, that — Angie — that this is generally a positive idea. In what ways do you think that is useful?

Angie Rasmussen

You know, I was born in the late ‘70s. I didn’t grow up with all of my classmates dealing with polio outbreaks and things like that. But one of the reasons that I didn’t was because of vaccine mandates and vaccine requirements. Overall, this has had, historically, a really net positive result for public health. The reason for that is that vaccine mandates, especially for things that are essential, like going to school, really do encourage people to get immunized. And there’s been a lot of focus during this pandemic on the individual benefits of vaccination. But really, vaccines are at their most powerful at the population level. One thing people need to understand is that a majority vaccinated population is going to have less disease transmission. That is how you will end the pandemic, sustainably, for good. Now, where I have some buts is people have been focusing a lot on unvaccinated people, and talking about them as though all of them are unvaccinated by choice. And that is just simply not the case. Essential workers — for example — who may not be able to take time off of work, should they have side effects from their vaccine, may not get vaccinated because they can’t afford to. People who can’t get child care, people who don’t have transportation — and also, I should add, too, that it’s not always easy for people to prove that they’ve been vaccinated. We have a paper card, but what happens if you lose that card? A vaccine mandate is no good if the vaccine itself is punitive for the people who you want to get it.

Jane Coaston

Marcella, I saw you nodding to some of the concerns about folks who aren’t getting vaccinated — and I think that too often, we’ve had conversations about people who are unvaccinated that I think are more focused on what I would determine to be vaccine resistance. Like, the people who are, like, no way, no how, never going to do it — that type of resistance, where I would say that a lot of folks might be vaccine hesitant. What are your concerns, Marcella, about mandates — especially because of the work that you do on vaccination?

Marcella Tillett

Yeah, so I was nodding aggressively to Angie’s comments, because I think the equity perspective — when we look at mandates, we have to put a lens of how does this impact different demographic groups — racially, gender, income, type of work, neighborhood — right, we have to have a more nuanced assessment of how we’re rolling out public health interventions. And at Brooklyn Community Foundation, we work with a network of nonprofit organizations throughout the borough of Brooklyn here in New York City, where they’re taking all sorts of different approaches to engaging with community members, to understand what are those barriers, empathize with whatever the source of that hesitation is. I think the introduction of a mandate in New York City, as we’re seeing now, is an interesting additional element to the conversation. Because I think the other issue that we’re not talking about is who enforces these mandates. We saw the situation that emerged when we had essential workers who became enforcers of mask mandates, and had to succumb to all manners of verbal and sometimes physical violence.

Jane Coaston

Right, there have been several people who were killed attempting to enforce mask mandates. I think that’s a really good point.

Angie Rasmussen

The reason that I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days is really hearing about the vaccine mandate in New York City, hearing that it’s going to be on the business owners and the people operating those businesses to enforce those mandates. And if they don’t, they can actually be punished. And I think that just means fines, but that can be a huge hurdle for, especially, a small business owner to try to overcome. I haven’t worked in an essential worker role. I was a cocktail waitress way back when and things like that, but I haven’t done that in a long time. I can’t even imagine, though, how I would enforce that. If somebody came into the bar that I worked in 20 years ago and ordered a drink, and I was required to ask them for proof of vaccination, and then make them leave if they couldn’t show it to me, to my satisfaction? I mean, how are those employee is going to be trained to enforce that. In theory, it’s a good idea. But it really is, I think, a larger issue that everybody has to buy into.

Marcella Tillett

Yes, in theory, it is a good idea to incentivize or have other negative reinforcement for people adopting this new practice of using this biomedical intervention as prevention, in addition to masking and social distancing and those other things. But you’re missing the middle. You’re missing all of the other pieces of the puzzle that you have to take into consideration. When you think about implementation, there’s a whole conversation about the very simple C.D.C. vaccination cards that can honestly be reproduced — it’s cardstock, and can print one out. So what is a business owner supposed to do if they suspect it is counterfeit? Right — this isn’t the same as checking a license for drinking alcohol. It’s a —

Jane Coaston

We still have — people still get fake IDs for that, too.

Marcella Tillett

Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

Jane Coaston

And importantly, bartenders — and servers, again, depending on the state — are actually trained and required to go through, like, a fake ID spotting class. And you’re actually trained, too, on how to refuse service to people, how to abide by the alcohol laws to make sure that you’re not over serving or serving minors. And in this case, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any sort of training, at least in New York City.

Marcella Tillett

It’s customers, but it’s also your staff. There’s also the conversation about how vaccination mandates are being introduced in different workplaces. Right, I think it’s very ironic if a business that does not provide adequate coverage for paid time off, for them to mandate a vaccination for their workers. I think there’s an equity and access — and just, like, a human rights conversation to be had about how people are enabled to take care of themselves and their health and their family. The conversations that we have now are very much ones that are rooted in blame and shame instead of wellness.

Jane Coaston

We have just pointed out a number of really important issues with a hypothetical vaccine mandate. Given all of this, does it seem like a good idea, right now to have vaccine mandates? Or is this an idea that seems good in theory, but might not actually be practical?

Angie Rasmussen

I think it’s a very good idea for some things. For example — again, some schools, they are not requiring people to come back to campus if they don’t want to. So you don’t have to get a vaccine. And you can still take classes. So I think that it is wise to provide options for people. There needs to be provisions for people who can’t get vaccines. There needs to be a system of allowing people to get exemptions fairly. We still don’t really know what are some contraindications for getting mRNA vaccines, or for getting Johnson & Johnson. We know some of them. Vaccine mandates are good if they incentivize people to get vaccinated, but also provide options for people to comply with them.

Jane Coaston

I think that that’s an interesting point here, because if the goal here is to get people vaccinated, states with a hard mandate tend to see a higher number of people vaccinated. So if you have a harder mandate, wouldn’t that increase vaccination rates based on the argument that many people who aren’t vaccinated simply aren’t vaccinated yet? What do you think, Marcella?

Marcella Tillett

I don’t agree with that. I think these hard mandates will get us to a certain point, because there are some people who are hesitant — and it is a yet, right. We’ve heard from folks that they have a belief that the vaccination was created too quickly. Some of those folks, you can talk to them about pre-existing vaccinations, and other scientific knowledge that helped to inform the development. And that could persuade them to make the move sooner rather than later. With others, they are just going to wait. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. They may not even know what they’re waiting for, but there’s something in them that’s telling them — not yet. I think what is difficult for many people is that we are living through something that is in development right — and so information is changing. You have agencies and individual people who might be seen as, or might assert themselves, as authorities in this area. And they have historically — like, if we look at the 18 month period — contradicted themselves in ways. Right, we started in New York City with — you know, you can wrap a t-shirt around your face if you can’t get a mask, because it was difficult to find masks, right. And so to then hear new information, it can feel to an individual — like, OK, these folks who are giving me these mandates, and these folks that are supposed to be the experts, don’t know what they’re doing. So if you were wrong then, you might be wrong about this. And I’m not sure. And I don’t feel comfortable taking your advice if it might change in a few months, right. The nonprofit organizations we work with, they come from that place of empathy and understanding why someone might feel that way. And then they come with accurate information about what we know now, how the vaccinations were developed. And some of those folks will move, right — enough conversations from people they trust, from organizations in their community that didn’t just come to talk to them about a vaccine. But nine months ago, they checked on them and their families, and made sure they had food, and made sure that the children were supported in virtual learning. And that idea of a credible messenger isn’t just about the message, it’s about the relationship. We live in communities. We live relational lives, right? And a lot of good can come from that. We can help each other through these difficult moments. A mandate has a place in that, but the implementation is critical, and the infrastructure is critical. And we just don’t have that at this stage.

Jane Coaston

Angie, what’s your perspective on Covid messaging over the past year — because I tend to be extremely sympathetic to the scientific community on this particular issue, and I’ll tell you why. Science is hard. Science is really hard to explain to other people. It is inherently difficult to basically build the plane you’re flying while explaining how it’s working to other people who might be distrustful of you. And I think we’ve seen that time and time again with public health messaging. There have been examples of scientists attempting to learn about something, then tell people about the thing, and then realizing — oh, no, no — that’s not what it’s from. That’s not how it happens. That’s not who is vulnerable to it — then they have to shift that messaging. So I’m inherently sympathetic to that — but how do you think that that messaging, and that shifting of messaging, of masks aren’t useful, to masks are useful. That is confusing to many people. What do you think about that messaging, Angie?

Angie Rasmussen

You know, I think about this all the time, because back in April 2020, I was tweeting about how I didn’t think masks were necessary. And I completely, obviously changed my mind on that. I think it’s really important for scientists to communicate and to let people see the decision making process as it occurs. I think that it is really helpful for people to understand that science is a process. It is not the instantaneous — you know, the light bulb goes off and you suddenly have realized an unimpeachable truth. Scientists are wrong all the time, and it’s only when you can’t prove yourself wrong that you conclude that you must be on to something, and you’re right. Even for viruses that are well studied, that we’ve known about for a long time — influenza, for example — there are still huge unknowns. You know, that’s why we all still have jobs in the virology community. We’re not going to figure everything out about all the viruses in my lifetime, or my kids’ lifetimes, or their kids’ lifetimes, or really ever. I mean, there’s just too much information out there. Somebody who wants to know the scientific underpinnings of how a vaccine works will probably benefit a lot from talking to me. But I mean, somebody who just doesn’t want to hear about it any more — they just want to get back to their normal life. They’re not probably going to respond as well to a conversation with me. And that’s why the relationship, as Marcella was saying, is so crucial to these conversations that are going to win hearts and minds. One of the biggest mistakes about the messaging and the policy is that it really treats unvaccinated people as sort of one monolithic group that all think the same things. And there’s differences, even with people who are reluctant to get vaccines because they’ve heard misinformation. Some people have heard that the vaccines will ruin your immune system. Actually, one of my mother’s friends texted me the other day to make sure that wasn’t true. She’s very pro vaccine. She still was like — is this — I just wanted to run this by you, because it was pretty scary. So we really need to make sure that our messaging is nuanced. And the challenge here, I think, is that that means a lot of one on one conversations. And that means recruiting a lot of people to have those conversations — so somebody who is distrustful of scientists might trust their church leader, or a leader of a community group that they’re a part of. We need to get those people on board, too. It’s a huge messaging challenge.

Marcella Tillett

Yeah. I mean to that point, Angie, something we’ve seen in Brooklyn is a number of community based organizations and houses of faith having those powerful messengers bring along medical professionals — right, because they can rally people. They can motivate. They have that trust. But when those very specific questions come, you really do need a medical professional or someone who can break down the science and reassure — but having that person side by side with the figure that you know is very effective.

Jane Coaston

Marcella, when you talk to people in Brooklyn — who are parts of different communities — because something that I think is interesting is how I am disposed to trust scientists. When a vaccine was introduced, I was like, I will go get the vaccine. I recognize that that is not a mindset that many people come from. I have had good interactions, personally, with medical establishment. I find, for instance going to the dentist very relaxing. Many people do not have that —

Marcella Tillett

I don’t share that.

Angie Rasmussen

Me neither.

Marcella Tillett

Not at all.

Jane Coaston

But I am curious, Marcella — based on your work, what are the reasons people are saying that they’re not getting vaccinated? I’m very curious as to what you are hearing on the ground.

Marcella Tillett

Yeah. And I’ll be clear, that — I’ll give you some examples from my personal life and some of the other examples I’ll take from some of the organizations we work with, who work directly with people. And I think you touched on a really important point — some of the kind of medical incidents in our history that have pointed to either discrimination of a particular group of people, or medical violence towards a particular group of people based on sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic, status, et cetera. And something that I think it’s still coming up a lot in these conversations is Tuskegee, though there are a lot of people — a lot of Black people — who know about the Tuskegee experiment and may have people in their families that were impacted by that. And so that is the root of some of their issues with the medical field. You don’t have to look back so far to meet people who are Black or brown who are not treated well when they go to the hospital, who are not believed. And we’ve seen many studies about, in particular, Black women and Black people, and reports of their pain and how that’s received by medical professionals.

Jane Coaston

Right.

Marcella Tillett

We see the outcomes of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity for Black women. And so that is happening now. That is an experience that people have right now. And that can —

Jane Coaston

And then they are asked to get a vaccine, and they have been disbelieved about their pain —

Marcella Tillett

Right, you can’t disconnect that from —

Jane Coaston

They may have lost a baby because they weren’t believed when they were dealing with a hemorrhage. And then they’re asked — like, go get a vaccine.

Marcella Tillett

Or they may just be disrespected when they go to the clinic, right? And so anything that has to do with health care — I personally know people who want to try it on their own first. If there are ways that I can prevent getting sick or needing health care, I’m going to do everything I can do on my side, because I don’t want to have to go to the hospital — because I believe if I have to go to the hospital, I will not be treated well. I will not get quality services. I will not be believed. It will be an unpleasant experience all around. I think that’s why it’s really important that we have very accessible vaccination sites, ones that pop up in their communities. Again, ones that are staffed by people that look like them, who as a physician or as a nurse will tell them — yes, I understand that you are not always treated well. Or there is kind of a norm in some Black communities that the last place you want to go is to a hospital, because you’re not coming home. Right — and so we can’t pretend like those things don’t exist. What we can’t do is just say, you know, that’s ridiculous, you’re ill informed, you’re irresponsible, and you’re dangerous. And so we’re just going to discard you, and try to strong arm you into getting a vaccine. Otherwise, you can’t participate in society.

Dawn

Hi, this is Dawn from Fort Worth, Texas. The thing that I find myself arguing about is whether to move to a majority minority neighborhood. As a white woman married to a white man, I have a lot of conflicting thoughts around if I’m contributing to gentrification, or if it’s just a desire to be a part of a more diverse community. OK, bye.

Jane Coaston

Hi, Dawn. Yeah, that’s a complicated question — one that I’ve dealt with myself, living in Washington D.C. — because the answer is both. Yeah, you want to live in a diverse community. So do I. And yeah, you’re contributing to gentrification, and so am I. But fortunately, we’re going to be doing some upcoming episodes on housing, gentrification, YIMBYs, and NIMBYs, including my old friend Matthew Yglesias. So stay tuned, because this is really not a question I can answer. It’s one I’m dealing with myself.

What are you arguing about with your family, your friends, your frenemies? Tell me about the big debate you’re having in a voicemail by calling 347-915-4324, and we might play an excerpt of it on a future episode.

I’m curious — for you, Angie, based on the work that you’ve done, how do you think that Covid differs from other illnesses in terms of how we view it — as either something you should get vaccinated against, or something that you could hypothetically hold off with clean living and a good diet. How do you think Covid differs from that — or does it, in your view?

Angie Rasmussen

Covid differs a lot. I mean, Covid — so this is one of, I think, the hardest things to communicate to people as a scientist. Covid, of course, has some things in common with other viruses. It’s a respiratory virus. Respiratory viruses, like influenza, like common cold viruses, including other coronaviruses, infect the respiratory tract. In many people, they cause mild illness. In a smaller number of people, they cause more severe illness. But Covid is also nothing like those other viruses, because for starters, we haven’t seen the consequences of the entire world basically getting infected with those other viruses in many cases. We know what happens when a lot of people get infected with seasonal influenza. We know roughly, during a flu season, how many people are going to die from that. I think we’re starting to appreciate that death is not the only negative consequence of having a viral infection for many people. But I think it’s really tough to communicate this to people, because first of all, a lot of people think — and often, this is really dependent on the community, and unfortunately, really dependent, sometimes, on people’s political beliefs — but they really think sometimes that they are, for sure, 100 percent in that group of people that is not going to get sick and die from this. And I don’t think that many of those people do understand that maybe they’re not going to die. But you know, you don’t just get off of a ventilator and go back to living your life the way that you were living it before you got sick. Also — because we don’t a lot about some of the long term consequences. Long Covid is definitely a thing. And this, I think, really, really impacts a lot of people, because long Covid patients do tend to be women. They tend to be similar to chronic fatigue syndrome patients in that they’re often difficult to diagnose. They’re often disbelieved by their medical providers. And so there’s a whole community of patients that we don’t really understand who have this huge variety of different long term conditions that can be really, really debilitating. We’ve seen entire groups of people basically saying that they’re right to get Covid is, like, an unimpeachable freedom that they have, and that we should all just deal with that. And what’s different about Covid — it’s not that it’s the most deadly virus. And you know what? Thank God, because if this had the mortality rate of SARS classic, or MERS coronavirus, we’d be seeing a lot more dead people. But SARS Coronavirus 2 is particularly challenging just because of the numbers game. It infects a lot of people. It’s very transmissible. It was very transmissible to begin with, and now the Delta variant is even more transmissible than that. I think that people are all over the map with how they perceive the risk of Covid. This gets even worse when you start talking about schools and vaccinating kids. And essentially, there was a group of scientists — who I don’t have much respect for, who wrote a document called the Great Barrington Declaration — that essentially argued that young people should just let it rip through the population. And we’ll get to herd immunity that way, and we’ll somehow magically shield the vulnerable. Well, the vulnerable is at least probably half of the U.S. population, if you count all the different risk factors. It’s not just age. So how do you decide which life is worth saving? And I think that competent public health people would say that all lives are worth saving. And that’s why you need to have a different approach for each community.

Jane Coaston

Before we end, I’m interested in talking about what happens next. And I am curious — for you, Marcella — because I know Angie brought up the flu. And less than half of the adults in the United States get the flu shot. And I’ll make an admission here, I’ve never gotten the flu shot. What makes the Covid vaccine different from a flu shot?

Marcella Tillett

That is such a good question. Since you were so brave in disclosing that, I will also share that I have never had a flu shot. And my mother was a nurse. I think we have lived with the flu for a very long time. And we’re two examples of how every year, we see every local pharmacy pop up with, it’s time to get your flu shot. And some people say, you know, that message is not for me, because that is not something I do. Personally, with Covid, I wasn’t the first person in line to get vaccinated, but I did. And I think for some people, it is about this becoming part of our everyday life — right, it has landed on us in 2020. And it’s continued to be with us. At some point, hopefully, it’s going to kind of exist as one of these viruses that just exists along with us as we live our lives, like the flu. And I don’t know how we necessarily get there, but I do think that you’re going to have people that fall on either side of the coin of — I’m someone who vaccinated every year. We’re talking about boosters. And the introduction of boosters for people who have been vaccinated, I would not say it’s a foregone conclusion that everybody that’s been vaccinated will line back up to get a booster. Again, if the message was — you know, we’re living with science, science is dynamic. It’s changing, we’re learning, we have to accept that. That is true. And the way people experience — OK, well, you told me to go get vaccinated. I went and got vaccinated. And now you’re telling me I need to get another shot. And you’re telling me that, possibly, I’m going to have to line up and get these shots on somewhat of a regular basis. That’s not what I signed up for. I do think that that’s going to be a hurdle we’re going to have to face.

Angie Rasmussen

Yeah — so, I get my flu shot every year. Part of the reason for that is actually, when I was a kid, I was hospitalized with influenza. And the one time when I was in my 20s I had influenza, I wasn’t hospitalized with it, but I was so sick. And it was so much worse than just having a cold that I said, well, I don’t want to deal with this. It also makes it easier for me, because where I work, there’s flu shots all over the place. And it’s very easy for me to get a flu shot. I don’t even have to go to the pharmacy. It’s true that many people don’t get severe flu. Part of the reason for that — and this is one thing that’s very different from the Covid vaccine — we all have prior immunity to influenza, because we’ve all been exposed to influenza viruses throughout our lives, whether we get flu shots or not. So that pre-existing immunity, that will provide some protection against disease severity, depending on how good — you know, how much cross reactive immunity you have. But I think that part of the problem with the booster thing — and I have to lay out some of this at the feet of these pharmaceutical executives who engage in wishful thinking every time they have an investor call, and say that we’re going to start needing boosters every six months — I think that that’s incredibly unlikely. This is not influenza. The reason why we need an influenza shot every year is because there’s a bunch of different influenza viruses circulating. We do have variants of concern. They are a little bit different, but essentially, all SARS Coronavirus 2 is SARS Coronavirus 2. You might need boosters that at different intervals, but they’re not going to be as close together as every six months. That to me is just ridiculous, and it also is a little bit obscene — just because right now in the U.S., we have doses expiring on shelves, so I don’t have a problem with boosters. But we haven’t done our share in terms of making people around the world get vaccinated. And the definition of a pandemic is an epidemic that’s occurring on multiple continents. So by definition, it does impact the entire world. We can keep vaccinating and boosting the American people, but this isn’t going to be over until we get vaccines out to the entire world. Right now, the data shows — the vaccines are actually holding up very well at protecting against severe disease and hospitalization and death caused by Delta.

Jane Coaston

But that actually gets me to my last question, which — Marcella — given the timeline of the virus, what should we be doing to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated? And I always say this, whenever we talk about this — if you’re listening to this podcast right now and you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. But what should we be doing to get as many shots in the arms as possible?

Marcella Tillett

Yeah, you know, I think the community based approach is most effective at this stage, because if you just needed a bulletin to get vaccinated, you’re already vaccinated. We have community organizations here in Brooklyn that run pantry services, and they’re giving vaccine messages to people who come to collect food every week in the pantry. So we are seeing a slow increase in vaccinations in different demographics. But there has been an increase overall in Brooklyn in vaccinations.

Jane Coaston

We’ve talked about a lot of the problems with mandates, but at a baseline level, do you think mandates could be a part of that effort to get as many people to get vaccinated as possible?

Angie Rasmussen

So I absolutely do, provided — again, that they meet the criteria that we were talking about earlier. But there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to really struggle to both enforce mandates like that and to comply with them. And well, we can say, oh, you don’t have to go to a bar. You don’t have to go to a restaurant. You don’t have to go to a movie theater. You don’t. But I mean, it is not a great thing if we have whole communities that are being excluded from our lives.

Jane Coaston

Right a bifurcated society.

Angie Rasmussen

And, I mean, you can make a conservative argument, too, that that’s a real economic problem as well.

Marcella Tillett

People who do not want to get vaccinated are not going to stop gathering. Right — they won’t gather at that movie theater, they won’t gather at that particular restaurant or bar that’s checking them, but they will continue. There is going to be — and I think we saw this during the pandemic — underground parties, underground gatherings. People did not stop and I think even — there was this underbelly, some of it because small businesses were closed, and some business owners really saw that their incomes and revenue streams were strangled. And I think some people started to have these gatherings and others — they were just collections of people who, for mental health reasons, for other reasons, they needed to be with other people and they needed to share that space. We have to be prepared for that. So thinking through the implications of a mandate like this — what do we do when this public health strategy leads to other social phenomenon that then you have to figure out how to address.

Jane Coaston

This has been such a helpful conversation. And I really appreciate both of your time. Marcella, Angie, thank you so much.

Marcella Tillett

Thank you for having me, it’s been great.

Angie Rasmussen

It’s my pleasure, Jane.

Jane Coaston

Marcella Tillett is the Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Angie Rasmussen is a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization — VIDO — at the University of Saskatchewan.

Vaccine mandates can vary between cities — sometimes you only need one dose, and sometimes you’ll need to be fully vaxxed. So you have to check what your City Health department’s requirements are. Some of the stuff. I read in preparation for this episode included an article from Quartz, titled “Do Mandatory Vaccines Violate Human Rights.” And a piece in The Atlantic entitled, “Everybody I Know Is Pissed Off,” about how Republicans and Democrats feel about vaccine mandates. You can find links to all of these our episode notes.

“The Argument” is a production of New York Times opinion. It’s produced by Alison Bruzek, Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez, and Vishakha Darbha, edited by Sarah Geis, with original music and sound design by Isaac Jones. Fact checking by Kate Sinclair, and audience strategy by Shannon Busta — special thanks this week to Kristin Lin.

 

Coaston, J. (Host). (2021, August 25). You May Think You Want Vaccine Mandates, but Do You Really? (No. 146) [Audio podcast episode]. In The Argument. The New York Times.