The conflict over covid vaccines is coming to a climax. The Biden administration released its vaccine mandate. Enterprises with more than one hundred employees will be required to demonstrate that all employees either are fully vaccinated or both wear masks and are tested on a weekly basis. Texas has already challenged the constitutional basis for the mandate and the initial federal court ruling has blocked the mandate. The final court outcome of this case is uncertain.
The scientific basis for the mandate is dubious. We are told that the vaccine is effective and safe. If this assertion were true, there would be no reason for coercion, as everyone would voluntarily take the vaccine. Furthermore, anyone taking the vaccine would have nothing to fear from the unvaccinated. If the vaccine worked, then everyone taking the vaccine would be protected. Of course, the vaccine does not work for everyone. Since the vaccine does not work for everyone, it becomes a judgment call whether the risk of vaccination is worth the benefit. Contrary to what is claimed on a daily basis, the vaccine is not safe. There is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database of adverse effects. As of November 7, 2021, there were 2,725,582 adverse events in 634,609 adverse event reports, including 8,284 deaths, 9,726 life-threatening events, 9,580 permanent disabilities, 363 congenital anomalies or birth defects, 38,818 hospitalizations, 79,615 ER visits, and 121,100 doctor's office visits attributed to the covid vaccines. These are only the risks we know about so far. Nobody knows what the adverse effects will be one, five, or ten years from now.
The risk versus benefit calculation is purely subjective, as the risks are unknown currently. Even if the total risk were limited to what is currently known, the risk versus benefit calculation would remain purely subjective, because death from covid and death from blood clots and other known covid vaccine complications are not directly comparable, as individual fear of one type of death is not equal to the fear of all other types of death. Furthermore, the benefits to society of an individual covid vaccination are not necessarily the same for the person taking the risk of the vaccination due to the very large disparity in risk versus age. While it may be noble to voluntarily accept a risk to benefit someone else, it is immoral to coerce someone to accept a risk to benefit someone else.
How effective are the vaccines? Claims of effectiveness are based on selective use of data that do not represent a true cross section of the population. I have previously shown the benefit of an increasing vaccination rate to be very small in the US.
Source: Data for the fifty US states and the District of Columbia. Each data point represents a state or DC. Vaccination rates are from usafacts.org. Covid deaths are from Worldometer. Data are from August 25, 2021.
Figure 1 analyzes efficacy based on the entire US population. The number to vaccinate in order to prevent a single death can be calculated from the slope of the regression line. As of August 25, 2021, it takes over twenty-five hundred vaccinations to prevent a single death in the US. The data for the developed world are worse. The slope of the regression line for a plot of new cases versus percentage of the population vaccinated is positive for the eighty countries with the highest per capita GDP—increasing vaccination rate increases the number of new covid cases.
The Biden mandate, as structured, does not make any scientific sense. The goal of the mandate is to ensure a safe working environment. However, there is no scientific evidence that covid vaccines prevent the transmission of the virus or decrease the viral load in infected persons. A fully vaccinated worker can transmit covid to coworkers, so any testing requirements for safe work environment reasons should equally apply to all workers irrespective of vaccination status. At this time, the only scientific argument in favor of vaccination is that one may be less likely to be hospitalized or die from covid following vaccination, but that has nothing to do with work environment safety. There is no scientific basis for extending the mandate to enterprises with one hundred or more employees. As stated above, it takes over twenty-five hundred vaccinations to prevent a single death. The mandate cannot be justified for enterprises with fewer than about five thousand workers.
The only way we will be able to make informed decisions about vaccination in the future is by monitoring adverse events. A vaccine mandate, if effective, would eliminate the control population, making it impossible to determine whether adverse events are due to the vaccine. There is no scientific justification for eliminating the control group, but perhaps this is a “feature rather than a bug,” to shield pharmaceutical companies from future liability. Mandating a 100 percent compliance rate for an experimental vaccine with completely unknown long-term consequences is hubris on an unprecedented scale. The Biden mandate could be the CDC’s attempt to win the next Darwin Award and unwittingly solve the Fermi Paradox.
What would the effect of 100 percent vaccination rate be on the virus? Contrary to claims, the virus will not disappear. The next outbreak would occur within a year and would be 100 percent breakthrough cases with a vaccine-resistant strain. Then we would need another vaccine mandate, and another, ad infinitum.
There is a presumption that a vaccine mandate will even increase the number of vaccinations. Just as proponents of lockdowns failed to predict the adverse consequences of lockdowns, the proponents of vaccine mandates have failed to predict what will actually take place. My predictions about lockdowns were pretty spot on. It will take some time to resolve the court challenges against vaccine mandates. The outcomes of these challenges are uncertain. If the courts fail to protect individual autonomy, I predict four possible outcomes for society.
The least harmful outcome would be for black markets to emerge enabling those who decline vaccination to pretend that they have been vaccinated. Possible black markets include fake vaccine certificates. The fakes could include counterfeit documents, healthcare workers selling legitimate certificates, or healthcare workers issuing a legitimate certificate after jabbing someone with saline. There will likely emerge a robust market for medical exemptions. Given that everyone has reason to fear myocarditis or adverse events from blood clots, any person has a legitimate reason to obtain a medical exemption from a licensed practitioner. The only question is whether practitioners will serve the legitimate health concerns of their patients or serve as shills for the Biden administration.
If the black markets are not tolerated, the next least harmful scenario would be for individual states to refuse to enforce the mandates. I am hopeful for this scenario in my home state of Texas. Recent actions by the governor and attorney general of Texas give me reason to be optimistic. People who cannot live with the unvaccinated would migrate to states with enforced mandates, and people who decline vaccinations would migrate to states where there is no enforcement of mandates. This might remain peaceful—or not.
I believe that proponents of mandates underestimate the degree of conviction of those who decline the covid vaccines. Wherever people are not permitted to remain unvaccinated, the next least harmful scenario is that a percentage of people will quit their jobs rather than be vaccinated. I estimate that at least 10 percent of physicians and 20 percent of nurses will quit rather than be vaccinated. This is already having adverse effects in some healthcare markets. The emergency medical services (EMS) system seems particularly vulnerable to this outcome. Southwest Airlines recently had disruption of service due to a “sickout” protest of the vaccine mandate. Similar events in hospitals could precipitate a catastrophic collapse of the US healthcare system. Be careful what you wish for.
The worst-case scenario is outright civil war. This is too horrible to contemplate, but this possibility is real. President Biden said his patience is wearing thin. That works both ways. Things are getting tense in Australia. It could happen here, too.
Gilbert Berdine is an associate professor of medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and an affiliate of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University.