My Turn: A conscientious objection to employment-related COVID-19 vaccine mandates

For the Monitor
Published: 9/18/2021 7:00:19 AM

No matter how much you appreciate the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, it’s worth thinking seriously about joining the growing ranks of those who question the wisdom of employment-related vaccine mandates. Such mandates do not meet their stated goal of protecting public health by preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

However, they do force workers to accept novel and unknown physical risks as a condition of continued employment. In so doing, they undermine the fundamental human right of personal bodily sovereignty, a violation that should alarm us all. Thus, the time has come to join in conscientious objection to employment-related vaccine mandates, regardless of their legality, and whether they come from the government or from private employers.

By requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, COVID-19 vaccine mandates eliminate workers’ ability to choose whether to take a vaccine. This forced choice purportedly protects the public health by preventing vaccinated workers from transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to their colleagues and to members of the public with whom they interact.

However, as is evident in many documents that are readily available on the FDA’s website, the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the United States are not designed to prevent vaccinated people from catching and transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Rather, the vaccines were developed and authorized to prevent vaccinated people from developing symptomatic COVID-19 disease.

Not surprisingly, then, the vaccines do not reliably prevent vaccinated people from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and do not reliably prevent vaccinated people from transmitting the virus to other people. Indeed, even with respect to the Comirnaty vaccine that was fully approved in August, the FDA acknowledges that “the scientific community does not yet know if Comirnaty will reduce such transmission.” With mounting evidence that the vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over the course of months and with exposure to variants, the problem of transmission by vaccinated individuals only gets worse.

While employment-related vaccine mandates will not protect public health by preventing workers from spreading SARS-CoV-2, they do force workers to accept novel and unknown physical risks on pain of being fired. As we all know, the long-term risks from COVID-19 vaccines are unknown. However, some of the more immediate risks are abundantly clear; these include anaphylaxis, clotting disorders and heart inflammation, to name just a few.

The extent of these risks is uncertain, because, among other reasons, the vaccine clinical trials are still ongoing and the public database of adverse events captures only a portion of such events. Additionally, the risks vary depending on the individual. For example, people who have recovered from the virus may have a heightened risk of adverse events. But whatever the precise degree of the risks, and even if the degree is low, it is one thing to take on such risks by choice; it is quite another to do so under duress.

This raises another deeply troubling aspect of COVID-19 vaccine mandates: their disregard of informed consent, and the consequent undermining of personal bodily sovereignty. COVID-19 vaccine mandates require workers to be injected with an experimental substance in order to keep their jobs. Such coerced medical treatments violate bedrock principles of human dignity and liberty, principles that are enshrined in state, federal and international laws and in norms such as the Nuremberg Code. Over time, this violation will come to haunt all of us, not just unwilling vaccine recipients.

It is true that the FDA recently granted full approval to Pfizer/BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine, which is the formulation of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that is currently available in Europe. However, acknowledging “known serious risks of myocarditis and pericarditis,” the FDA approval letter for Comirnaty requires Pfizer to actively monitor and investigate the occurrence of heart inflammation in Comirnaty recipients until 2025.

Meanwhile, all three of the COVID-19 vaccines that are widely available in the U.S. under emergency use authorizations are still experimental—and not in name only; the clinical trials for the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still being conducted and do not conclude for over a year, so there is abundant follow-up safety data yet to be collected from trial participants.

With so many unknowns about the vaccine and the virus and a medical landscape that changes by the day, the reality is that regardless of the vaccines’ official approval status, every person who takes a COVID-19 vaccine is part of a huge and ongoing medical experiment, unparalleled in human history. While many of us have freely opted into this experiment, none of us should be forced to participate as a condition of employment.

(Risa Evans, Esq. lives in Contoocook.)

My Turns are opinion-based essays submitted by Monitor readers and members of the community. The views expressed in My Turns are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Concord Monitor and its staff.

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