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Evidence Shows Philadelphia’s Indoor Vaccine Mandate Didn’t Work

When Saba Tedla, the owner of several popular Philadelphia eateries, let some of her longtime kitchen staff go last year, she didn’t have any choice. Under the city’s vaccine mandate, employees who declined the COVID-19 shot were barred from working indoors at a restaurant. Similar stories can be found across the city. Facing a unique threat to public health,  government officials believed the policy would make the city safer.

With the benefit of hindsight and data, we now know otherwise. A new study conducted by one author of this op-ed found no evidence that Philadelphia’s vaccine mandate led more people to get vaccinated or lessened the pandemic’s impact.

At the time, city officials insisted indoor vaccine mandates would save lives. “This winter looks like it could be very difficult,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole in December 2021, when the mandate was announced. “We have to do something to slow the spread now before it’s too late.” Health experts were right to be worried. The Omicron wave was tearing through the U.S., killing many Philadelphians.

Sadly, good intentions are not enough to produce positive outcomes.

The analysis compared the effects of vaccine mandates in nine major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, with data taken during the pandemic in hundreds of other cities. Whether it was vaccination rates, COVID-19 cases, or COVID-19 deaths, we found no statistically detectable effect of the vaccine mandate.

To be clear, the research doesn’t suggest that COVID-19 vaccination is ineffective or unsafe – merely that vaccination mandates did not meet their goals.

The results surprised us, especially since vaccine mandates in Canadian provinces and some European countries have been linked to increased vaccination rates. Why weren’t similar policies effective here? We can think of a few possibilities.

The first is simply common sense. Unvaccinated individuals could enjoy indoor activities simply by traveling beyond the city limits. That is consistent with findings that in larger geographic jurisdictions, compliance with such mandates tended to be higher.

Second, vaccine mandates, paradoxically, may have exacerbated opposition to getting the shot. As recent research has pointed out, “insights from behavioral psychology suggest that these policies are likely to entrench distrust and provoke reactance – a motivation to counter an unreasonable threat to one’s freedom.”

Whether vaccine mandates were unreasonable threats to freedom is, of course, debatable. But it is an inescapable fact that much of the population regarded the mandates as impinging on their rights. In the end, for every Philadelphian who was coaxed into getting vaccinated by the mandate, we estimate that someone else was deterred from doing so.

Third, vaccination mandates may have triggered the “Peltzman effect,” the tendency to make riskier decisions when safety measures are implemented. In this case, the mandates may have fostered a harmful sense of complacency among vaccinated patrons of indoor venues. Thinking that requiring vaccinations eliminated infection risk, some people may have let their guard down in other ways – by visiting more crowded spaces, perhaps, or taking fewer precautions to mask and socially distance.

Our findings add to a long list of COVID-19 policy blunders and missteps – from depriving nursing home residents of relatively safe contact with loved ones to enforcing lengthy school closures in low-risk areas. Public officials were in a difficult position, but too often, they enacted draconian measures based on weak evidence.

Indoor vaccine mandates were among the most restrictive policies ever adopted in the United States. It was easy–perhaps too easy– to believe that the benefits outweighed the costs. But in this case, they didn’t.

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Biden Vaccine Mandate on Businesses Panned as Harmful to Economy

Pennsylvania private businesses with 100 or more employees could face fines ranging from $13,653 up to $136,532 for violating the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, officials said Thursday.

Nearly two months ago, President Joe Biden announced two mandates on American workers: Federal employees and contractors must get the COVID-19 vaccine or face punishments up to and including being fired; and large private businesses must require employees to either get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

“We’ve been patient,” Biden said on September 9, “but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

In the weeks that followed, American businesses anxiously awaited the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue its emergency temporary standard (ETS) forcing businesses to comply. On Thursday, the regulatory shoe finally dropped.

“The ETS requires covered employers to develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead establish, implement, and enforce a policy allowing employees who are not fully vaccinated to elect to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at the workplace,” the order reads. The implementation has been delayed until January 4, 2022.

OSHA will conduct onsite workplace inspections in an attempt to enforce compliance.

The Biden administration recently released rules surrounding its small business vaccine mandate, which would hit small businesses with fines from $13,653 to $136,532, if found in violation of the vaccine rules. Businesses with 100 or more employees have until Jan. 4 to comply.

Chris Gustason, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association,  said Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration have embraced and praised Biden’s “job-killing mandate,” meaning huge fines are on the horizon for small businesses across Pennsylvania, he said.

Also, Attorney General Josh Shapiro helped Wolf shut down small businesses and stood by the governor’s COVID policies, Gustason said. Shapiro, a Democrat is running for governor.

“After forcing countless Pennsylvania small businesses to shutter, leading to a 6.2 percent unemployment rate, you’d think Tom Wolf would have changed course, but apparently his war on small businesses is just getting started,” said Gustafson. “By adopting Joe Biden’s federal vaccine overreach, Wolf is all but ensuring Pennsylvania’s lackluster economic recovery will only get worse.”

Republican candidate for governor, Lou Barletta, a former congressman and mayor, called the policy unconstitutional.

“Joe Biden doesn’t have the authority to impose this unconstitutional mandate on people requiring them to inject something into their bodies against their will or face unemployment. Biden’s failed policies have already crushed the economic recovery that was underway when he took office, and this mandate will make things even worse. Further, while he claims to ‘follow the science,’ his mandate fails to recognize the natural immunity of people who have already recovered from COVID, which studies show is just as effective as, or stronger than, the vaccine.

“People should get vaccinated if that is their personal choice,” said Barletta. “But the government has no business ordering people to do it. Josh Shapiro no doubt supports this unlawful exertion of federal power, proving that he is even more unqualified to be governor of Pennsylvania than we previously thought.”

And Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis at the free-market Commonwealth Foundation, said, “In a time when workers are choosing to leave their jobs and there are ongoing supply chain shortages, the last thing our economy needs is another mandate that makes it more difficult to hire. The key to jumpstarting Pennsylvania’s economy is changing the way we regulate and tax small businesses.”



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