This week, President Joe Biden announced that companies with more than 100 employees will be required to mandate vaccines for COVID-19.
It was a striking step from the federal government to force vaccines to more than 100 million Americans who work at larger companies.
No one likes the government stepping in to tell people what to do. But at the same time, vaccines have been available for more than eight months and still millions choose not to get it.
Gov. Eric Holcomb — who weekly sat before Hoosiers discussing the state's COVID-19 response but hasn't conducted a public presser in nearly a half year since — weighed in after the mandate was announced.
"I believe the vaccine is the number one tool that will protect us and our loved ones against COVID-19. It is the tool that will end the pandemic. However, I strongly believe it’s not the state or federal government’s role to issue a vaccine mandate upon citizens and private businesses," Holcomb said.
"I believe it is fundamentally a citizen’s right to choose whether or not to get the vaccine. While I wish everyone would get the vaccine, we are a country built on this exact type of freedom," he added.
Unfortunately for Holcomb, wishing doesn't produce results, at least in this state.
As of Friday, about 45% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older still haven't become fully vaccinated. Weekly vaccine numbers haven't changed substantially in months.
That's been the case despite the state seeing its second-largest-ever surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The reality is that the vast majority of that new activity has come from the half of the state that's not vaccinated. Breakthrough cases among the state's vaccinated do happen, but more than 90% of the most serious impacts are being suffered by those who choose to — or in many cases adamantly refuse to — get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely than unvaccinated Americans to die of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control reports.
On Friday, Parkview Health's chief quality and safety officer Dr. Jeff Boord noted that the region's facilities are filling and impacting service to everyone.
“As our hospital census has increased, it has put increasing strain on our health care system and we are also seeing unprecedented numbers of patients arriving at our emergency departments and walk-in clinics related to the current COVID-19 surge,” Dr. Boord said.
We know vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. We also know that serious adverse effects from vaccines are extremely rare. And we know that leaving the vaccine decision up to Hoosiers has resulted in about half of them not making it.
What we know, too, is that vaccine mandates are effective at getting people immunized.
As of the end of August, Purdue University reported that 90% of faculty members are vaccinated, along with 87% of students living in university housing. Overall, 80% of people at West Lafayette's campus are vaccinated, putting the campus ZIP Code in the top 3% of the state.
Numerous vaccines are required for children to be able to attend K-12 schools or universities. Some employers, notably in healthcare, require certain vaccines among staff members as a condition of employment. International travelers may be required to get updated vaccinated before heading overseas.
Vaccine mandates do smack of nanny state policy, but it's clear that COVID-19 primarily continues to pick off those who opt not to protect themselves.
That puts ongoing strain on the state's health care system. Illness, hospitalization and death cost the Hoosier economy in terms of lost productively and impacts the education of students. And the state continues losing people to a disease that is now highly preventable.
After eight months of asking nicely and bombarding people with facts up, down and sideways, Hoosiers may not like vaccine mandates, but at this point, what other choice is left to put an end to this pandemic?
Those who oppose mandates haven't exactly stepped up to the plate with better alternatives.