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COVID Vaccination, Running Red Lights, and Drunk Driving

What do these three things have in common? There are a lot of parallels. Even though the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the risks of COVID infection are far greater than the potential and unlikely side-effects of COVID vaccination, one can avoid or delay vaccination. One can choose not to get vaccinated and view this as a personal choice. This is clearly a personal choice, but it is also far more than that. This is where the analogy with running red lights comes into play.

If I am concerned with being late for work or some important personal event, I can make the personal choice of running a red light on what is typically not a busy street. I may be willing to accept the risk to meet my needs and not be late. However, if there is a child, an elderly person, or another driver with the right of way in the intersection, there is also the risk of harming or killing that individual or even several others.

My acceptance of risk can place others at risk and may even cause their death. I might even cause this harm and avoid serious harm to myself. Of course, no caring person would want this to happen, but disregarding what reason and regulation tell me is the best guidance can have life-threatening effects for others.

To state what we all should know, COVID, especially the delta variant, is highly transmissible and can cause death and long-term illness. Even if I am willing to accept the risk of death or illness or if for some reason, I believe it won’t hurt me, am I willing to accept that risk for everyone I encounter? If I feel well and am a non-vaccinated carrier of the disease, is it ok to infect and harm others?

Continuing this thought experiment in a similar vein, one can see parallels with choosing to drink and drive. I can make the free choice to drink too much and drive because I feel ok with it. We know that this is not prudent or wise behavior. We would not recommend this as a responsible exercise of our freedom to choose.

If we see a friend, co-worker, or client about to drive a car after drinking too much, we may try to discourage them from driving. What if discouragement is not enough? What if we think that they could seriously injure themselves or even kill another driver or pedestrian? Should we take their car keys? Will they become angry with us? Will we lose their friendship or business for doing what we are convinced is the right action?

Employers across this country face similar questions. Should employers mandate vaccinations for all employees except for medical reasons? We value individual freedoms and personal choice, but are there times when the common good outweighs personal choice? Few would argue that obeying traffic regulations should be a personal choice because others could be harmed. Should the same logic between applied to vaccinations that are effective against a deadly disease?

While absolute certainty is not obtainable, the preponderance of evidence clearly shows that: vaccines save lives, non-vaccinated individuals are at much higher risk, non-vaccinated individuals are a direct threat to others, and the virus can continue to grow and mutate to variants that could harm even the vaccinated. According to the CDC, even individuals who have had COVID are twice as likely to become re-infected, and presumably infectious, as vaccinated individuals. These are not suppositions. These are facts. Waiting to get vaccinated prolongs or worsens a bad situation.

Every employer, including ABS, must make not only a business choice, but also an ethical choice, about whether to mandate vaccinations. ABS’ Mission Statement speaks about creating value for society, the research community, and ourselves. Now is a time for us to make a decision that advances that goal. At ABS, we will discuss these issues as a group and then try to make an informed and caring decision. As with most issues, there are many sides. I welcome your comments as we all try to move forward in the best way for all of us.

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