Policy Topics

Idaho Governor Brad Little is wrong: Evidence shows vaccine mandates work, and work well

A cou­ple of weeks ago, Ida­ho Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle’s press office sent our team at NPI (and oth­er media out­lets) in the Pacif­ic North­west a guest essay sub­mis­sion titled “Biden’s vac­cine man­date is not the solu­tion.” The six hun­dred word piece awk­ward­ly attempt­ed to take a pro-vac­cine, anti-man­date stance, with Lit­tle both attack­ing Biden for try­ing to end the pan­dem­ic while defend­ing his own inaction.

“I have resist­ed putting in place statewide mask man­dates and vac­cine man­dates all along because COVID-19 man­dates from high lev­els of gov­ern­ment do not work to change behav­ior in places where peo­ple hold fierce­ly inde­pen­dent val­ues,” Lit­tle wrote about mid­way through his guest essay submission.

In addi­tion to bash­ing Biden, Lit­tle also crit­i­cized Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

“Con­sid­er the State of Wash­ing­ton,” Lit­tle wrote.

“Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is quick to blame Ida­ho for stress­es in Washington’s health sys­tem yet Spokane Coun­ty and the sur­round­ing area on his side of the bor­der con­tin­ue to be hot spots for virus activ­i­ty with rel­a­tive­ly low vac­ci­na­tion rates, despite Gov­er­nor Inslee issu­ing vac­cine man­dates and mask mandates.”

While it is cer­tain­ly true that Spokane Coun­ty has low­er rates of vac­ci­na­tion than King Coun­ty and oth­er coun­ties west of the Cas­cades, Spokane Coun­ty has a much high­er vac­ci­na­tion rate than north­ern Idaho.

A quick check of the data shows that 57.3% of those ages twelve and up have been ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed in Spokane Coun­ty as of press time.

Mean­while, in neigh­bor­ing Koote­nai Coun­ty, home to Coer d’A­lene, the per­cent­age of peo­ple who are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed is just 39.92%.

Statewide, 70.7% of peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton ages twelve and up are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed, as of Octo­ber 4th. In Ida­ho, the fig­ure is much low­er… 52.6%.

Both data and anec­do­tal evi­dence sug­gests that not only are Inslee and Biden’s vac­cine man­dates work­ing, they’re work­ing well, and prod­ding peo­ple who clear­ly were nev­er going to act of their own accord to get vaccinated.

Con­sid­er the fire chief on Vashon Island:

Despite his objec­tions to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s vac­cine man­date, Vashon Island Fire Chief Charles Krim­mert announced last week he received a John­son & John­son coro­n­avirus vaccine.

Krim­mert, sub­ject to Washington’s vac­cine require­ment for health care work­ers — includ­ing fire­fight­ers — request­ed Vashon Island Fire & Res­cue com­mis­sion­ers to change his job descrip­tion last month to stay on as chief with­out being vaccinated.


Ulti­mate­ly, he said, he got vac­ci­nat­ed due to mul­ti­ple rea­sons includ­ing not want­i­ng to leave the job and lose his salary and pen­sion. “I did not want to leave the Dis­trict in the lurch after putting five years of blood, sweat and tears into the job. … I love doing this job and I want to keep doing it,” he wrote.

And he will get to keep doing it now that he’s been vaccinated.

Mean­while, the data shows that a lot of state employ­ees have recent­ly got­ten a COVID-19 vac­cine. Only 49% were vac­ci­nat­ed as of ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, but the num­ber had risen to 68% as of last week, and it’s undoubt­ed­ly even high­er now.

As Seat­tle Times colum­nist Dan­ny West­neat observed:

The same trend is hap­pen­ing with most every work­place vax man­date. There’s loud resis­tance, some­times chant­i­ng in the streets. Fol­lowed by a very qui­et get­ting with the program.

Exam­ple: Peace­Health hos­pi­tals were among the first to require the shots for their employ­ees, in ear­ly August.

This touched off protests in Belling­ham, with claims that resis­tance inside the hos­pi­tals was fierce and spreading.

What end­ed up happening?

Eigh­teen employ­ees quit rather than get the shots — out of more than 3,200 in PeaceHealth’s What­com Coun­ty sys­tem, accord­ing to a fol­low-up sto­ry in the excel­lent The North­ern Light week­ly newspaper.

The head­line could have been: “99.5% of local health work­ers don’t quit over vac­cine mandate.”

Today comes news that Kaiser Per­ma­nente has sus­pend­ed 2,200 employ­ees nation­wide who would­n’t get vac­ci­nat­ed. Sounds like a lot, right?

Actu­al­ly, no, because Kaiser employed about 216,700 peo­ple as of last year, includ­ing 8,100 in Wash­ing­ton State. 2,200 is just 1% of Kaiser’s workforce.

Over 92% of Kaiser’s employ­ees are now vac­ci­nat­ed, up from 78% in the sum­mer, and the com­pa­ny expects increased com­pli­ance with its man­date as Decem­ber 1st draws near. What’s so spe­cial about Decem­ber 1st? Well, that’s the date that Kaiser will be part­ing ways with sus­pend­ed employ­ees who still refuse to get vac­ci­nat­ed or get approval for a reli­gious or med­ical exemption.

“This num­ber is declin­ing dai­ly, and as employ­ees respond, they may return to work,” Kaiser lead­er­ship point­ed out in a pub­lic statement.

The man­dates are work­ing. For all of the whin­ing and groan­ing and gnash­ing of teeth, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple who weren’t vac­ci­nat­ed before are get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed now. That’s going to be huge­ly ben­e­fi­cial when the hol­i­day sea­son comes and peo­ple gath­er togeth­er indoors to a greater degree.

Gov­er­nor Lit­tle’s offi­cial posi­tion is that peo­ple should “con­sid­er their risk in not receiv­ing the vac­cine.” He is speak­ing, and writ­ing, and act­ing as though most peo­ple are going to think ratio­nal­ly about this pan­dem­ic and make a deci­sion in accor­dance with their self-inter­est. But that is not the case.

We humans are emo­tion­al — not ratio­nal — beings. We use the ratio­nal part of our minds to jus­ti­fy how we feel as opposed to behav­ing ratio­nal­ly by default. Social sci­en­tists have repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed this to be true, and yet there con­tin­ues to be a wide­spread belief that peo­ple will act based on their self-interest.

Clear­ly, they aren’t, or oth­er­wise Ida­ho would have high­er vac­ci­na­tion rates.

“Please con­sid­er your risk” is sim­ply not a mes­sage that is going to prompt Ida­hoans to make a good deci­sion about their per­son­al health and well-being. It obvi­ous­ly isn’t work­ing for the Gem State, or else Ida­ho would­n’t have autho­rized hos­pi­tals to begin rationing care on the basis of cri­sis stan­dards.

A lot of peo­ple have already con­clud­ed — based on mis­in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing online — that they should not get vac­ci­nat­ed. Too many remain hold­outs despite sto­ries of death and suf­fer­ing in hor­rif­i­cal­ly over­loaded hospitals.

This is why man­dates are need­ed. They force the mat­ter of get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed to come to a head, sep­a­rat­ing those who are total­ly dug in from those who are sim­ply resis­tant. Man­dates are putting an end to dither­ing and pro­cras­ti­na­tion because peo­ple real­ize there will be con­se­quences for their con­tin­ued inaction.

Gov­er­nor Inslee’s pub­lic health ori­ent­ed poli­cies are tak­ing Wash­ing­ton State down one road while Ida­ho (and Alas­ka) go down anoth­er. Because Ida­ho is not doing the work nec­es­sary to sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase inoc­u­la­tions, the stage is being set now for what could be a very bad, mis­er­able win­ter in the Gem State.

Ida­ho Repub­li­cans cer­tain­ly love to talk about indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty. And they love to talk about how “pro-life” they are. But they seem not to appre­ci­ate that those who are suf­fer­ing are not free to enjoy their lib­er­ties. And of course, if you’re dead, you have no life in addi­tion to hav­ing no lib­er­ties. The vac­cines pro­vide, by far, the best pro­tec­tion that is avail­able against COVID-19. Requir­ing vac­ci­na­tions saves lives and keeps fam­i­lies from being fur­ther torn apart.

Gov­er­nor Lit­tle can save many Ida­hoans from a trag­ic fate by join­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee and Pres­i­dent Biden in issu­ing COVID-19 vac­cine mandates.

Andrew Villeneuve

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