On Wednesday, Dec. 9, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that he isn’t going to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine in New Hampshire, the “live free or die” state.
On CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Republican Sununu talked about why he thinks Congress should pass COVID-19 aid immediately. He shared that the pandemic is currently driving various costs, like vaccine development and distribution, and that Congress hasn’t done anything to help Americans amid the eight-month-long lockdowns.
Sununu urged Congress to roll out relief efforts as the country continues to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic. He highlighted the importance of “focused relief efforts” that are flexible for states instead of the “megalomaniac attitude that comes from Washington” that tries to control all aspects of pandemic response.
New Hampshire requires pre-school and kindergarten aged children to be vaccinated against various diseases before they can be admitted to school. When asked if he would support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate because of this requirement, Sununu said no. “Anyone that’s going to mandate a first-trial vaccine really could be potentially asking for trouble,” he added.
Sununu thinks at-risk individuals will decide to take the vaccine “at an extremely high rate.” However, citizens who don’t want to be inoculated, won’t be forced to do so.
He added, “The vaccine is about knowing that other folks have that choice to protect themselves and we, as a society, can kind of get back to whatever the ‘new normal’ is going to look like.”
Sununu also said that the question of a vaccine mandate would be up to the New Hampshire legislature.
The governor’s announcements followed the submission of two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And, approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate has just been passed.
However, while these vaccines may be good news for some, some are worried about who will get priority access. Others also want to know if vaccines will be required for some citizens.
Experts have found that numerous Americans have valid safety concerns about a COVID-19 vaccine. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in September, over 50 percent of the 10,000 respondents polled said that they “would definitely or probably not” get inoculated.
Experts have suggested that a federal mandate is highly unlikely. But other states and some employers may require the vaccine.
Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, explained that people may be required to get vaccinated to access certain places like schools, colleges or workplaces. He also reassured people that they don’t have to worry that “the president, governor, or county executive” will tell them what to do.
But some experts say that while private companies have the right under the law to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, most of them can’t do so because of the risks of “legal and cultural backlash.”
Robert Field, a law and public health professor at Drexel University, said that compared to political leaders, employers are on “shakier grounds because of the emergency use authorization.” Field noted that, during this phase, there was no precedent for vaccine mandates.
Ford Motor Co. has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers to distribute vaccines to employees. But the company said that the vaccines are going to be made available on a voluntary basis. (Related: Nebraska police will only enforce city’s mask mandate if complaints are raised.)
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Kellogg Co. reported that the company was working with a medical expert and industry trade associations. In compliance with local and regional regulations, the company also aims to make vaccines available to employees on a voluntary basis.
Peter Meyers, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, shared that while companies could theoretically issue a mandate, it’s unlikely because of the current political climate. He added that this is because “Americans tend to shy away from mandates.”
Some calls for COVID-19 vaccine mandates have gained traction in certain states. For instance, in the summer, Virginia’s health commissioner said that he is in favor of this requirement. Virginia law allows the commissioner to require immediate vaccination during an epidemic.
The New York State Assembly has recently introduced a bill that would, if approved, mandate a vaccine for all New Yorkers. Exceptions include people who are medically exempt if the state’s vaccination efforts don’t grant “sufficient immunity from COVID-19.”
In November, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that the state’s decision to get vaccinated or not will be left to personal choice, echoing Sununu’s sentiments.
Visit Pandemic.news for more articles about how other states are handling the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine mandates.