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‘Overreach is an understatement’: Readers are not in favor of new federal vaccine mandates

"To try and implement this country-wide and into the private sector seems extreme."

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Boston Medical Center on June 17, 2021. Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg

Last week, President Joe Biden took a stricter tone with unvaccinated Americans while announcing new vaccination mandates that will impact 100 million Americans, a move that has many divided. 

The new mandate requires all employers with more than 100 employees require them to either be vaccinated or agree to weekly testing for the virus. It also requires that the 17 million workers at health facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds also be fully vaccinated. The new requirements were praised by the American Medical Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable.

We asked Boston.com readers if they thought Biden’s mandate was a fair step to take in the fight against the pandemic or if his administration was overstepping, and most said the mandate was an example of government overreach. 

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Of the 425 readers who responded to the survey, 72% said the mandate was going too far. While 8.7% of respondents said that the mandate was a reasonable move, another 19.3% said that it didn’t go nearly far enough. 

A common criticism from readers who were unhappy about the mandate was that it took away personal choices.

“Need to have some type of personal freedom,” said a reader. “Although the choice to vaccinate affects many, it should not be mandated for employees.”

Along with the new vaccine mandate, Biden said his administration will roll out other measures to combat the spread of the virus including doubling federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights, increasing the supply of at-home virus tests at national retailers, and sending additional federal support to schools to assist in safety measures, and more. 

“[The] President’s…reduction and increasing the supply of at-home virus tests at national retailers does not fix the core fundamentals to reduce contagious screening,” said one reader. “You could have 100% vaccination across the board but if we cannot quickly screen for COVID in a snapshot, [we] will continue to see breakthrough cases.”

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Other readers suggested more vaccine education and accessibility to get vaccination rates up. During his speech announcing the mandate, Biden laid blame on unvaccinated Americans.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

Readers who support Biden’s mandate were similarly critical of the unvaccinated, saying that their continued reluctance was causing the pandemic to drag on. More than 100 readers shared their concern over, and support for, the new vaccination mandates. Ahead, you’ll find some of the reasons behind their stances on this issue. 

How far should federal vaccine mandates go?

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

This is an overreach.

“Government should not be involved. People should be advised by their physicians. Also, this approach has not been vetted. The time and money to implement and enforce this will be extreme. What about the burden on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration? What about people who can’t get the vaccine? How will employers confirm?” — Maura Keezer, Roslindale

“Overreach is an understatement. Government has become way too comfortable dictating over people’s lives. We are headed further down a bad path with the economy that we may never pull out of.” — Anonymous

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“Overreach! This is the hammer approach because maybe, just maybe behind this agenda there is a realization that most of those that remain are rightly skeptical. No, not because of some weird internet theory or lack of access. Because of the credibility gap at the Center for Disease Control, the rush to market, and the rising breakthrough cases.” — John, Framingham

“I think this is a definite overreach. It’s one thing to mandate this for military or certain federal employees, but to try and implement this country-wide and into the private sector seems extreme. It also fails to consider that some percentage of those ‘unvaccinated’ may have natural immunity from previous exposure to the virus.”  — Joe B., Medford

“If we cede the principle of body autonomy and medical privacy to the federal government, then we no longer belong to ourselves. Self-ownership is a basic human right.” — Chris, Worcester

We need even stricter federal requirements.

“We require people to drive on the righthand side of the road for the good of society, we can require people to get vaccinated for the good of society. Require it for anyone who leaves their house.”  — Jim, Marlborough

“Everyone who does not qualify for a medical exemption should be vaccinated. People’s individual rights don’t give them the right to deny other people those same rights. Check out: 1905 Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Vaccine mandates are legal when they are for the ‘common good.’ In times of crisis, the patriotic, brave Americans step up to the plate and do what is best for the ‘common good’ and the country. The cowards try to hide behind the Constitution.” — Anonymous

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“The only way out of the pandemic is high vaccination rates, which need to be even higher than they already are due to new variants like delta to keep things under control. No one wants to go back to lockdowns, so the way to stay open safely is to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, the anti-science minority is holding everyone else hostage and endangering the community by both refusing vaccination and also refusing to follow other public health measures like masking and distancing themselves from others. Since the carrot hasn’t worked, we need to move to mandates.” — Anonymous

“I’m very vaccine-hesitant in general and have had bad reactions to some vaccines in the past. However, I got my COVID shots as soon as I was age-eligible. It’s just plain selfish not to get the vaccine as it affects so many others besides just yourself.” — Bonita, Quincy

Biden’s new vaccine mandate seems good enough.

“There have been vaccine requirements to enter children into daycares, schools, sports, and for adults for certain employment since pre-pandemic times. It’s easy to get caught up in the COVID-19 mandates as this topic has been polarizing and the trauma of the pandemic is still fresh. The reality is, millions of Americans needed vaccines to go to high school or college or work prior to COVID-19. This is no different.” — Kyle, Townsend

“I don’t really think people should be forced to get the shot. I think the protection provided is strong enough that anyone who is vaccinated shouldn’t worry about anyone else’s status. But I also want to stop being forced to wear a mask. If forcing anti-vaxxers to get the shot accomplishes that, then I’m begrudgingly in favor.” — Anonymous

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“We need people to take responsibility for keeping themselves and other people safer from the effects of COVID. The healthcare system is stretched too thin and kids also need to have less virus floating around them.” — Anonymous

“Perfectly sound to require vaccination to work, or do anything publicly quite frankly. This will result in more shots in arms than a lottery for cash, free tuition, or hunting licenses and should have been enacted as soon as the vaccines were available (or at least upon FDA approval). People will remain free to choose to opt-out, but that will come with very reasonable consequences.” — Anonymous

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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