Are Vaccine Mandates The Answer To The Pandemic?

When grocery stores ran out of your favourite cereal, you wonder if this is a temporary issue with delayed shipments or is the flavour discontinued? It may not come as a surprise to many when empty grocery shelves in Canada is the outcome of yet another side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario has been reporting product shortages leading to empty shelves in certain grocery stores for quite some time now. While there were many reasons contributing to supply chain issues in the recent past including floods or supply chain bottlenecks in North America leading to stranded ships, vaccination mandates are to blame for this one. The mandate for truck drivers to be vaccinated in order to enter Canada has led to a shortage of drivers that can help restock the shelves and meet the daily needs of people. This has led to a political standoff between the country’s liberal and conservative parties blaming each other on the issue of vaccine mandates.

It is not just the truck drivers who are facing the brunt of the current vaccination tussle. The contested topic of making vaccines mandatory has brought in question the issues of individualism, democracy, as well as ethics in the forefront. The World Health Organization continues to emphasize on the importance of getting at least 70% of each country’s population to be vaccinated in order to truly combat the pandemic. A year into daily vaccination drives in most countries have shown the polarization regarding vaccines. Toronto continues to witness anti-vaccine rallies every Saturday. Canada has more than enough inventory to vaccinate its entire population more than twice but it struggles to achieve 100% vaccination rate for its population. Countries like Canada, the United States, India among others have moved on to booster shots but the unvaccinated are yet skeptical.

Many countries like Austria, Germany, Indonesia are considering or have already mandated COVID-19 vaccines. The emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant has raised concerns about the effect on the unvaccinated and the impact on the healthcare systems due to increased hospitalization. While some countries went back in total or partial lockdowns, the issue of vaccine mandate is being revisited with vigour. But the question remains- do vaccine mandates really work?

One of the benefits for a country with vaccine mandate is the possibility of increase in uptake and reduction in severe measures like lockdowns that affect the social and economic stability. The World Health Organization does not support mandates for now and is focused on spreading awareness and accessibility of vaccines. On the other hand, such mandates can increase the polarization among the population leading to social unrest. This polarization may also act as fodder for political parties and their agendas.

This is not the first time that a new vaccine has been introduced, or that people have been skeptical or that the government has tried to make it mandatory. The pandemic has brought the COVID-19 jab in focus and that may be contributing to the long debate. Vaccine mandate alone may not be the answer to the pandemic, but it is one of the many ways that the world is trying to find a way back.