OPINION | Vaccine mandates are still important to ensure normalcy

Taylor Spill, Contributing Columnist

(Matthew Tate)

On March 21, Mayor LaToya Cantrell got rid of  the vaccine and testing mandate for most public spaces. This decision came because COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the time remained low despite Mardi Gras celebrations occurring. 

This can be seen as progress and a stride in the return to normalcy, as vaccine mandates played a huge role in enabling businesses to fully re-open. 

However, the lifting of the vaccine-or-test requirement could result in people believing it is okay to refrain from vaccinations, testing or future rounds of booster shots. 

Vaccines are proven to be the most effective way to protect individuals and communities from COVID-19, and some people may get the message that vaccination still does not play a crucial role in returning to pre-pandemic activities. 

On March 21, Tulane University Campus Health sent out an update regarding a second round of booster shots. Currently, immunocompromised individuals 12 and over are encouraged to get their second boosters. 

This plays a huge role in protecting their health, as well as an additional measure to protect the community around them. Vaccine mandates played a huge role in increasing vaccination rates around the time that the first round of booster shots rolled out. Why stop something that worked so well in encouraging people to get vaccinated?

When discussing COVID-19 in New Orleans, it is important to note that New Orleans is a predominantly Black city. The horrendous medical racism Black Americans have faced throughout history has had effects such as generational trauma, undiagnosed conditions and a distrust for medical industries.

Consequently, Black communities are at heightened risk of devastation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black individuals are more likely to die of COVID-19 and less likely to be vaccinated than white individuals, again, tied to racism in medicine. 

With the mandates being dropped, vaccinations are still important, even if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are decreasing in New Orleans. Acknowledging discrepancies in healthcare and healthcare access in New Orleans is very important in building trust and protecting vital connections within our community.

Only 78.1% of New Orleans are fully vaccinated; 48.7% are boosted. Although these rates are relatively consistent with the amount of Americans that are vaccinated, this is not enough. 

Vaccination is the most important part in mitigating COVID-19 and the threat of any new strains. Vaccine mandates worked and will continue to work. By getting rid of them, it can be conveyed that we do not need to take concrete actions to continue to protect ourselves and our community COVID-19.

Vaccine mandates should be required, as they are an effective strategy to encourage vaccination. Mandates, along with other vaccination programs and incentives, may help mitigate current inequities in healthcare, as we learn from the historical discrepancies in American healthcare. Consistently encouraging vaccination against COVID-19 is the best way to ensure the normalcy we have achieved.

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