Virus Outbreak Vaccine

A patient is given the coronavirus vaccine in May, as part of Pfizer’s vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Now that vaccine approval appears imminent, the question becomes: Will people take it voluntarily?

LENOX — This will not be a popular idea, because it involves the dreaded (by some, perhaps many) M-word.

Mandates!

Yes, we all live by them, and the long list of examples includes legally required auto insurance and seat belts for motorists, income tax payments, payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare and, most recently for Massachusetts students, mandated influenza shots by Dec. 31 in order to attend school starting in January.

This applies to all children 6 months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided. (Also exempted are K-12 students who are home-schooled, and higher education students who are completely off campus and engaged in remote learning only.)

But, when it comes to mandates aimed at trying to combat the horrific, recurring COVID-19 virus that has claimed more American lives than World War I and the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, there’s peculiar resistance in too many parts of the nation, especially Republican-led states that are suffering the most from the current surge.

Mask-wearing should be universally required in the U.S., but since federal authority appears to be lacking, except for government facilities and interstate transportation, it has been up to enlightened state and local leaders to issue the mandate. Fortunately, most Massachusetts residents are complying with Gov. Charlie Baker’s edict.

It shouldn’t be necessary for President-elect Joe Biden to ask Americans to comply with 100 days of face coverings in public, as he intends to do at his inauguration Jan. 20. But, it may help, except for die-hard coronavirus deniers, some of whom die hard in ICUs, still proclaiming it’s all a hoax.

Looking ahead to the distribution of vaccines, the most recent survey, by Pew Research, shows 60 percent of Americans say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus, if one were available today, up from 51 percent who said this in September.

About 4 in 10 say they definitely or probably would not get a coronavirus vaccine. But, about half of this group — or 18 percent of U.S. adults — say it’s possible they would decide to get the shots once people gain access to a vaccine and more information becomes available.

Still, 1 out of 5 U.S. adults do not intend to get vaccinated and are “pretty certain” more information will not change their mind.

Whether these hard-liners are keeping an open mind is questionable. But, Pew reports, public confidence has grown that the research and development process will yield a safe and effective vaccine: 75 percent have at least a fair amount of confidence in the development process today, compared with 65 percent who said this in September.

Here’s my personal prescription on how to approach universal vaccinations:

• Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama should get the vaccine live, on all TV networks, along with Biden.

• All Americans who get the two shots should get a card verifying they are protected.

• Public sector and private employers need to require their staff members, including bosses, to prove they have been inoculated, if and when they return to the workplace.

• In order to reopen to the public, sports stadiums, concert halls, theaters, arenas, all entertainment venues and restaurants need to limit their patrons, fans and audiences to those with the card proving they have received the vaccine. Same applies to performers, players, leaders — anyone entering those places.

For sure, it’s the ultimate mandate. But, we’re living and dying through a once-in-a-century pandemic. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. If we want to achieve a new normal, a mandate is, well, mandatory.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.