HUDSON | Infecting others is not a civil proper | Opinion

Miller Hudson

Miller Hudson

Colorado lawmakers last week killed a bill on committee that would have prevented a private company, public facility, sports venue, or pretty much any place where two or more could congregate from requiring proof of COVID vaccination . At least 47 states have or are considering similar bans. In almost all cases, the sponsors are Republicans while the opponents are Democrats. Passionate pleas for constitutional rights, data protection rights and personal freedoms emerged on both sides of this debate. But the stupidity of rank did not get the attention it deserves. Americans focus on minority rights and ignore the fact that democracy is based on the majority’s right to make and enforce laws.

If business owners feel that insisting on a vaccination certificate for their bottom line is healthier by giving assurance to a majority of their most loyal customers as well as employees, then it is indisputably their right. “No shirt, no shoes, no shot, no service!” Yes, the law contains civil rights guarantees that prohibit discrimination based on immutable characteristics – race, gender, and sexual preference are high on the list. However, choosing not to protect yourself from contagion and then claiming the right to expose others is a violation of our common rights. Typhus Mary, an asymptomatic carrier of typhus, has been forcibly quarantined for the last twenty years of her life.

She could have avoided almost three decades in prison if she had agreed to stop working as a cook. Mary Mallon has been identified as a public health risk, as have thousands of Americans who lived in leper colonies in Hawaii and throughout the American South until the mid-century. The plight of these victims was tragic, but the quarantine was the only medically proven protection for the rest of the population. Freedoms are never unlimited. Like the first amendment shouting “fire!” Not sanctioned. In a crowded place where there is no fire or when it is not, the Constitution gives no right to put your family, co-workers or neighbors at risk.

Schools, hospitals and the military can and must have vaccinations to protect children, patients and soldiers from disease. It’s just common sense. In 1968 the Navy gave me 30 shots over 16 weeks, most of them from diseases I had never heard of. I was grateful to the adage that your freedoms only extend to the tip of my nose can be extended to spitting, coughing, or refusing to wear a mask or seek vaccination. I don’t want you to dine next to me at the restaurants I patronize or at ball games I attend or break into pretty much every room I might have to share with you. Mask enforcement was sloppy during the first COVID outbreak last year. That only encouraged the scoffers. I would prefer to see laws that mandate a mandatory 60 or 90 day prison term for those who fail to comply.

The fact that vaccinated comedian Bill Maher just tested positive, and nearly a quarter of the New York Yankees’ players and traveling staff, did, too, shows that even if we want to deal with COVID, we’re not over. There is little reason to deal with anti-Vaxxers and their ailments. So far this year in the US, 250 million shots have been administered without a single death and with very few side effects. Even among the half dozen people who had a clotting reaction to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, only two were found to be serious enough to require hospitalization. Fearing long-term consequences that could occur in years, I remember John Maynard Keynes observation: “… in the long run we will all be dead.” Up to 20% of COVID victims today suffer from symptoms of a “long-term COVID” – not in the distant future.

If the January 6th Washington Capitol uprising deserves a Congressional investigation, Congress should conduct the review of our national response to COVID. We weren’t prepared, we botched our initial response and then poorly managed communications with the public. Our success with COVID vaccines is a direct result of decades of research by the Department of Defense to reduce the vaccine development interval to 60 days instead of a year. In 2019, DARPA performed an exercise using a live virus and the researchers produced an effective shot within 72 days. We live in a time of technological wizardry. Our cell phones connect us to one another and to the Internet, and put more computing power in our pockets than the original lunar lander and its command capsule.

Why do so many Americans say they distrust science and scientists? They have done a great job developing tools and technology that make our lives safer and more comfortable. Visiting the Colorado border again without antibiotics is a dubious and dangerous means.

Miller Hudson is a public affairs advisor and former Colorado lawmaker.

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