For months, I have been criticizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being too cautious with its guidance for what fully vaccinated people can do. I saw little incentive for people to be vaccinated against covid-19 if they had to keep wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and refraining from nonessential travel. On Thursday, the CDC abruptly reversed course, announcing that fully vaccinated people can essentially resume all aspects of pre-pandemic life.
This announcement would be very welcome if not for one big problem: There is no concurrent requirement for proof of vaccination. Without it, the CDC announcement could end up increasing confusion, removing incentives for those yet to be inoculated and delaying the eventual goal of herd immunity that would get society truly back to normal.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that there is extensive and growing evidence that those who are vaccinated are very well protected from becoming ill and spreading the coronavirus to others. In fact, the most recent data from the CDC reports only 9,245 infections in 95 million fully vaccinated people, an infection rate of less than 0.01 percent. As I’ve written before, if you’ve reached the two-week threshold after inoculation, you should feel free to be rid of restrictions for yourself.
The problem is this: You know what you’re doing, but you have no way to be confident of trusting everyone else. Let’s say you go the grocery store. It’s crowded and few people there are masked. Perhaps everyone is vaccinated, but perhaps not. What if you’re vaccinated but not fully protected because you’re immunocompromised? You can no longer count on CDC rules to help you keep safe. What if you don’t have child care, so you had to bring your kids along? They didn’t choose to remain unvaccinated — the shots aren’t available for them. Surely, it’s not fair to put them at risk.…
And what about the broad danger of enabling and encouraging people who never wanted to wear masks and refuse to be vaccinated? They could spread the virus among themselves, freed from inhibition.
By resorting to the honor code, the CDC is removing a critical incentive to vaccination. Many who were on the fence might have been motivated to get the shot because they could go back to activities they were missing, without a mask. Now, if no one is checking, and they can do everything anyway, why bother?
Read the entire piece here.
Wen is right. Do we really expect that Americans will act virtuously and continue to wear a mask if they have not been vaccinated? If we learned one lesson from this pandemic it is that Americans are an interested people who too often choose individual rights over civic humanism.