Tennessee has become ground zero for COVID-19 cases. Vaccine mandates will prevent further devastation | Opinion – Commercial appeal

If we do not act now, the worst may be yet to come in the pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is the right step for Tennessee and the nation.

It’s 9/11 and I am standing on ground zero. No, not ground zero of 9/11/2001 but 9/11/2021.

No, not in New York City, but in the heart of the country in my state of Tennessee which is now the ground zero of the Coronavirus pandemic.

My hospital’s respiratory intensive care units are all overwhelmed with Covid patients. A teenage son stands outside the ICU room glass door of his 40ish year old mother and watches as his mother, unvaccinated, take her last breaths through a ventilator pumping 100% oxygen.

A man in his 50s, unvaccinated, lies prone in bed because the ventilator cannot push any more pressured oxygen into his lungs. They are stiff and infiltrated with COVID-19 infection. A week before his father, unvaccinated, died in the ICU bed next to him and his mother, unvaccinated, died a few days before his father.

And across the hall, an ICU bed opens up, I am temporarily relieved. But I learn it is only because a 76-year-old man, unvaccinated, has died. Now a weary Covid patient desperately waiting for days in the emergency room or on the floor will have a needed ICU bed.

These are the stories from today’s ground zero, that infectious disease doctors, pulmonary doctors, hospitalists, and ICU nurses, had never fathomed but are witnessing, often oblivious to the general public.

As of Sept 11, an astounding 1 in every 1000 people in Tennessee are turning positive every day, the highest number in the nation, and only 43% of the population in Tennessee is fully vaccinated, among the lowest in the nation. While on 9/11 two decades ago nearly 3,000 people died, in Tennessee, 13,000 have died so far from Covid.

Yet, through this, many of Tennessee’s political leaders are resisting mandatory vaccinations.

Vaccinations saves lives. Pure and simple.
A fully vaccinated person has an 11 fold or 1100% lower risk of dying from Covid compared to an unvaccinated person. But, a majority of people in our state still refuse to be vaccinated. The incentive strategy, “the carrot” approach has been exhausted. The only option that we have left was unveiled by the White House: vaccine mandate.

Behaviors medicine research shows vaccine mandates are effective. A 2019 National Bureau of Economic Research found that stricter immunization laws such as mandates lead to a universal statistically significant increase in vaccination rates in eight infectious diseases such as measles and polio.

More on vaccine mandates:We asked the 50 biggest Memphis-area employers about vaccine mandates. Here’s what they said:

The 901: What local businesses are saying about vaccine mandate

For decades influenza vaccine coverage was at 60% for healthcare workers, yet now with healthcare employer mandates for influenza vaccination, in 2017-2018 influenza vaccination rates have reached 95%.

If COVID-19 vaccination rates were to achieve a number close to this, herd immunity would easily be reached even with the more transmissible delta variant. The ICUs would be free of COVID-19 cases. Our economy would not sputter. Life would be close to “normal.”

When Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas required vaccination as a reason for employment, the vaccination rates rose to nearly 100% for staff.

I wonder, would we put our parents or loved ones in a hospital or nursing home that had 27% of its workers unvaccinated.

Or would we mandate vaccination of all health workers?

Would we place our child in a school where half the teachers were unvaccinated or mandate all teachers to be vaccinated?

We mandate vaccinations for chickenpox, hepatitis, meningitis and measles, mumps rubella for our schools and universities. Why were the Republican governors not demanding “freedom” when these routine vaccinations were mandated.

A majority of Americans want mandatory vaccination. According to a survey conducted by The COVID States Project, 64% of Americans supported mandatory vaccinations, and 45% of Republicans also supported mandatory vaccination.

If we do not act now, the worst may be yet to come in the pandemic.

With the variant mu and lambda looming on the horizon, a more transmissible, more virulent, and vaccine-evading virus is only a few mutations away. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is the right step for Tennessee and the nation.

Source: Commercial appeal