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.
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