Judging by the reaction of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and other Republican officials in our state and as many as two dozen others, one might get the idea that President Joe Biden’s sweeping new federal vaccine requirements represent a never-heard-before affront to the very core of our nation’s founding.
In reality, such action is represented at the root of our nation, as George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, faced a scourge of smallpox that threatened to decimate American troops in the Revolutionary War. Gen. Washington mandated a smallpox vaccine for every soldier; the action saved the Continental Army, which went on to prevail on the battlefield.
Over time, the U.S. armed forces added several additional mandated vaccines, such as influenza, tetanus, cholera, diphtheria, plague, and yellow fever.
A broader mandate in Massachusetts was eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1902, the board of health in Cambridge mandated a smallpox vaccine for all residents. A Massachusetts minister who had experienced a bad reaction to a primitive smallpox vaccine in Europe in his childhood refused the Cambridge order. His case wound up in the high court, which ruled in favor of the Cambridge health order.
Lost in contemporary arguments is the reality that children registering in public schools across America are required to show evidence of having received a battery of vaccinations against an array of diseases that one rarely hears of otherwise – suggesting that a tradition of vaccination has been tremendously effective.
Imagine the state of health in America if our elected officials put their faith in the scientists and health officials who’ve spent their professional careers studying infectious disease, and then set aside their personal or partisan leanings and presented a united front and unified message to the people of the United States.
Instead, we have elected officials who take a passive position, such as Gov. Ivey, or take wrong-headed action, such as the governors of Florida or Texas, who rail against any mandate meant to mitigate transmission of a potentially deadly virus.
It makes one wonder if COVID-19 itself is a tragic metaphor of the viral partisan acrimony destroying our nation from within.