“The thing that is crazy, in my mind, is we are physicians,” Dr. Shikha Jain, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “We aren’t politicians. This should not be a politicized topic, but so many people have made this so polarizing and politicized.”
While 58% of the country are fully vaccinated and 66.7% have received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC data, there is still a significant number of people who are unvaccinated. And a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that three in 10 individuals would leave their jobs if vaccines became mandatory.
“A year and a half ago when the pandemic started, we were all praying for a miracle,” Jain said. “We were saying, 'What can we do to save lives and get out of this pandemic?' A year later, we found exactly what we needed to save lives and to prevent people from dying and getting sick. And now because it’s become so politicized, people aren’t wanting to get something that they were praying for a year ago.”
Vaccine refusal is 'not only hurting yourself'
But many workers have opposed these mandates — including frontline workers like firefighters, police officers, and even some health care professionals — and have taken to the streets to protest these rules.
“I would say that not only are lives at stake if people decide not to work, lives are also at stake if those firefighters don’t get vaccinated, if these front line workers don’t get vaccinated,” Jain said. “The thing I think is so important to remember is this vaccine isn’t just there to protect you. It’s very important to protect you, but it’s also there to protect all of those people you come into contact with.”
These frontline workers interact with people on a daily basis, Jain explained, meaning that it’s even more crucial for them to be vaccinated than for people in other lines of work.
“The fact that you’re a firefighter who may not be vaccinated and then might come into contact with needing to save somebody who is immunocompromised or someone who is a child who hasn’t been able to get the vaccine yet, in my mind, it’s a responsibility to your job and to what you’re meant to be doing, which is protecting others,” she said.
Many frontline workers have walked off the job, garnering support from Republican politicians. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has offered $5,000 to police officers who move to Florida, and while he later claimed that his offer was unrelated to vaccine mandates, he said he does not "think police officers should be fired for shots."
“I also want to emphasize the fact that if all of these people are leaving their jobs, you’re not only hurting yourself,” Jain said. “You’re also hurting your coworkers and your colleagues who are going to have to pick up the slack when you’re not working.”
'This is not something new or novel'
Despite anti-vaccination sentiment like never before, vaccination mandates have been in effect for decades.
For example, children need the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine to attend school, and health care workers are required to be vaccinated against diseases like hepatitis.
“I have three young children, and we have to submit our immunization forms at the beginning of the school year or else they’re not allowed to go to school,” Jain said. “So we already have those in place. This is not something new or novel. For our kids, it absolutely makes sense that we continue doing what we’ve been doing for years for public health and to save other people’s lives and to protect our children.”
She compared vaccine mandates to laws requiring you to wear a seatbelt while in a vehicle: Even though you may never get into a car accident, it’s still prudent to buckle up because it protects you and those around you.
While many who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates risk losing their own jobs, their decisions are not merely “personal,” Jain stressed, because they affect others.
“If you’re on a boat, you’re not allowed to make a hole in the bottom of the boat to feel the water across your feet if there are other people on the boat because you making that hole in the bottom of the boat is now impacting everybody else on that boat with you,” she said. “It’s a very similar concept here. You think that getting that vaccine or not getting it is only impacting you when, in effect, it’s actually impacting a lot of other people, some that you may never even know you’ve impacted.”
Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.