Vax to the Max
To: Mr. Scott Kirby
CEO United Airlines
The Willis Tower
233 S. Wacker Drive
Dear Mr. Kirby:
Thank you for doing the right thing. On Aug. 6, you announced that all 67,000 U.S.-based United Airlines employees would have to be vaccinated no later than Oct. 25 or risk termination. You made it clear that “everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.” The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United’s more than 12,000 aviators, signaled support. The Association of Flight Attendants also urged cabin crew members to get vaccinated, saying that vaccination is “necessary” to end the pandemic. Because of the leadership of United Airlines, many other employers have followed suit.
Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, employs more than 139,000 team members—all of whom were required to be vaccinated no later than Nov. 1 (subject to locations represented by unions). These policies have been highly effective; the number of United Airlines employees who remained unvaccinated one month prior to the deadline declined to 593 and further declined to 232 after the airline said that they would be fired. Other companies have reported similar employee reactions. When employees discover that their employers are not playing games with vaccination, compliance is the usual result.
Some games are played for profit, and none more so than professional sports. The National Hockey League was the first major sports league to announce a strict vaccination protocol, and it’s not hard to see why. Hockey is played indoors, in venues that are typically smaller than those for baseball, football, or soccer. Players spend many sweaty minutes in small locker rooms next to heavily breathing teammates. If arenas are empty, so are coffers. Hockey players have a 50 percent profit-sharing agreement with owners so empty coffers lead to players’ empty pockets. Compliance with the NHL Covid protocol has been almost 100 percent.
Except for the Sharks star left winger, Evander Kane. Kane submitted a fake vaccination card to the NHL. As a result, the NHL immediately suspended him until Nov. 30 and forfeited his salary for that period—$1.7 million—to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
From hockey on the ice, chickens on the ground, and employees flying high above the earth, the overwhelming number of employees have complied with vaccine mandates. A few, however, have claimed a higher exemption: religion.
No generally accepted religious text mentions opposition to vaccination. Leaders of the major religious traditions, including Catholics, Muslims and Jews, have encouraged their members to be vaccinated. Pope Francis called getting a vaccine a “… profound way of promoting the common good.”
Some objectors have sought religious exemption on the ground that vaccines were developed from fetal cell lines originated from aborted fetuses. There are many drugs and over-the-counter medicines that were also developed indirectly from fetal cells: Ex-Lax, Tums, Benadryl, and Tylenol, for example. Do objectors use these products? One would have to practice this view consistently to begin qualification under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It is time to relegate Covid to the same ash heap as the smallpox virus.
Meet Pastor Henning Jacobson, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, pastor who had suffered medical complications from an earlier vaccination in Sweden. Massachusetts passed a mandatory vaccination law that allowed townships to require mandatory vaccination or be prosecuted and fined. The year was 1905, and the disease was smallpox. Smallpox vaccination was more fraught than vaccinations are today, but the good minister faced criminal prosecution for refusing a mandatory smallpox vaccination. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, and in a 7–2 majority opinion written by Justice John Marshall Harlan (“The Great Dissenter”), the court held that a well-ordered society will sometimes require that the safety of the general public is more important than the rights of each individual person. Clearly, the court was correct.
Mandatory vaccination policies that were adopted worldwide eradicated smallpox. Readers of this column over the age of 50 carry a vaccination scar; readers under the age of 50 do not. Smallpox was one of mankind’s most deadly scourges. It killed between 300 million and 500 million humans in the 20th century. Mandatory vaccination has eliminated that threat. In part, you can thank the Jacobson case. And, not surprisingly, the Jacobson case remains good law today.
Mandatory Covid vaccination remains good policy today. People who refuse to be vaccinated because they’ve already been infected, according to research, are twice as likely as vaccinated people to infect others. The majority of fully vaccinated individuals will not get Covid, and those who suffer a “breakthrough” infection, as has been widely reported, do not generally require hospitalization. The overcrowding of our hospitals by those people who foolishly object to vaccination has denied needed medical treatment to others. Covid virus mutation is facilitated by the unvaccinated. We all want to get back to work and normal unmasked behavior. We are tired of a false political narrative masquerading as a defense of freedom. It is time for the common good to be prioritized. It is time to relegate Covid to the same ash heap as the smallpox virus.
We should all follow United Airlines and mandate vaccination.
Vance K. Opperman
Happy to fly the safe skies