Friday, December 03, 2021

Agudah's Anti Mandate Policy

An antivax protest in 2020 (Washington Post)
The harder I try to get out of the quicksand, the deeper I sink. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately about what seems to be becoming an endless pandemic. Back in early 2020, I thought for sure that by the end of 2021 we would be out of this mess. And I surely believed that when safe and effective vaccines were developed and distributed. 

That being said the COVID situation is not as bad as my feelings would indicate. But it seems like just when we think that the corner has been turned, something happens to turn us backward. 

That is how I felt when the COVID mutated into the Delta virus. That variant was more contagious than the original virus and spread very quickly. Fortunately, however, the vaccines proved to be effective against Delta. So my angst there was short-lived.   

Not so the Omricon mutation. No one has any hard data that tells us how contagious it is, how dangerous it is, or how effective the vaccine against it is. One thing that is certain is  that it will spread in this country and could very easily become the dominant virus. (It has already been detected here in several states.)

Health experts are saying that vaccinations will likely still help somewhat in preventing serious illness and death. They base this on their experiences with vaccines in general. They just don’t know to what degree it will help in this case.

So, after nearly 2 years of trying to survive a deadly virus and taking extraordinary precautions, we are far from being ‘out of the woods’. True, there will be no mass lockdowns. But masks are now once again being urged in all indoor venues. And more than ever vaccinations are being urged by health officials as the best defense at preventing serious illness and death.  Even now with Omricon.

How did we get here? Why haven’t we defeated this virus? There are probably many reasons for that. Some of which are beyond human control. But the one thing stands out that may have had a  powerful impact against COVID - did not happen. Had more of the world population been vaccinated, the chances for mutations would have been less. And COVID may have never mutated into Omricon. We may have even achieved herd immunity. 

Which brings me back to the anti vaxxers and reluctant vaxxers. They are in part the reason we are where we are. Resistance to vaccines has become political. The political right considers refusal to get vaccinated a right protected by the constitution.   

As someone that leans politcally conservative,  I would have ordinarily agreed with that. But when not being vaccinated affects the health of others, that right should disappear. Because as I often say, your rights stop at my door. Once you cross that line, you no longer have that right. 

But many (if not most) conservative Republicans seem to disregard this.  They are fighting any and every mandate ordered by the government. Whether federal, state, or local.

I’m sorry, this is just plain stupid. By absolving people of their responsibility to get vaccinated they are granting them the ‘right’ to infect others.  And increase the probability that COIVD will mutate into variants like the Omricon. Or worse - mutations that will be deadlier and impervious to vaccinations.

Being politically conservative should not mean abandoning common sense. The right of society to be safer from infections that might kill them overrides the individual right to refuse being vaccinated. This is why I support all the vaccine mandates issued by governments at any level. These mandates will surely save lives. I don’t think this is arguable.

Which brings me to Agudah. They are taking a position that I believe is counter to the welfare of the very people they trying to protect. From the Jewish Press: 

The City of New York has issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all non-public school employees, WABC reported late Thursday.

All those employed in non-public schools in New York City are required to get at least their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 20, according to the report.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel of Agudath Israel responded to the new mandate as Chairman of the Committee of New York City Religious and Independent School Officials, representing private schools all across New York City.

Zwiebel sent a sharply worded letter to NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi over the just-announced mandate, writing that “government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce… (read there for more).   

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. In the vast majority of Agudah’s public policy decisions, I respect their right to espouse them even when I disagree. But not this time.

The unvaccinated are at heightened risk for serious illness and death. They are also far more likely to contract the virus than those who are vaccinated - and spread it to vulnerable people. Vulnerable people are not as well protected even when fully vaccinated.  They may still get sick and die as a friend of mine did. He was fully vaccinated and had even gotten the booster. But he had diabetes and was immune compromised. The vaccine was not as effective on him. He got very sick and died. Is Agudah willing to sacrifice people like this? They shouldn’t be fighting mandates. They should be doubling down on them. 

I get that good teachers are hard to find these days. Fewer people than ever are choosing to go into that profession for lack of sufficient pay to support their families. This is one of the most discussed topics among Jewish educators these days as they scratch their heads trying to figure out how to effectively deal with this problem. I get that requiring vaccine refusers to stay home will hurt. 

But to challenge a potentially life saving mandate for that reason is like saving the bathwater instead of the baby. Sure - the welfare of their children’s education will suffer. But is it worth the price of an immune comprised death caused by an unvaccinated but asymptomatic carrier? Agudah should be doing everything they can to help protect the vulnerable in their community. Haven’t enough people died?!  They need a few more? 

They may argue that most of their teachers are vaccinated and unlikely to get infected and infect others. But that argument falls flat. That community does not fully live in some sort of protected bubble - much as they would like to. People still shop in stores and use public transportation with people they don’t know, from all walks of life and states of health. If they are unvaccinated, the chances of infection increase significantly over those that are vaccinated Delta is now the dominant variant because of how contagious it is. 

Now it’s true that some people have serious allergies to vaccines. But I am equally sure that they will be exempt. Or at least should be. At the same time they need to be extra cautious about social distancing and masking. But the rest?! In no way should they be let off the hook. They need to comply with the mandate or stay quarantined in their homes indefinitely. Especially with the new Omricon variant. That Agudah is defending them is in my view bad policy.