Editorial: Kelly is wrong about vaccine mandates on multiple counts

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Here’s an experiment for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who recently criticized vaccine mandates as strategies that “tend not to work” in Kansas: Cancel the state-issued mandates for school children to be vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella.

Then, wait a couple of years and see if the percentage of vaccinated children in Kansas public schools has declined. Don’t kid yourself; school populations would be less vaccinated. Those mandates have been in place for decades, and they work.

Kelly knows that. She also knows that when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, mandates work too. New York City firefighters, a group that has vocally opposed that city’s mandate, have seen vaccinations increase by 19 percentage points since the start of the mandate. Thousands last weekend alone got the shot, motivated by the mandate.

And here’s a question for Kelly: Do COVID tests also not work? Remember, President Joe Biden’s mandate for private employers of 100 or more employees doesn’t require vaccination. It gives people who don’t want to get vaccinated the option to get tested every week. Those tests work, don’t they, Governor? There’s value in trying to figure out who has the virus and who doesn’t, isn’t there?

Kelly is just playing politics, which is allowed when you are running for governor. She’s just not playing it very well. It should be well understood that Kelly is going to be an underdog for reelection as long as she is running against someone other than Kris Kobach. But she has a path to victory. It is such: 1. Work like heck to beat the virus and then celebrate the normalcy that has returned to our lives. 2.Tout the impressive gains in new business and major investments from Kansas companies that have happened on her watch. There is a success story there. 3. Propose a big tax cut. Better than expected tax revenues and gobs of federal money make it feasible.

Instead of playing that hand, Kelly now is trying to convince voters that she doesn’t believe in mandates? She’s already tied to mask mandates from earlier in her term. Is she going to do some sort of public contortion about why she would choose a mask mandate over a vaccine mandate? That doesn’t seem sensible.

Thus far, her strategy seems to be that Kansas has this figured out and it is unfair and frustrating for the federal government to now be stepping in. Really? Kansas’ vaccination rate is well below the national average. Don’t tout that system, Governor. It stinks.

Of course, we also are at a moment where we need to think beyond political games. The worst aspect of Kelly’s negative comments about vaccine mandates is that such comments are dangerous for humanity.

COVID-19 is bad. It has created too many needless deaths. But don’t fool yourself into believing that we are competing against biology’s A-team. We aren’t. Biology can throw a much deadlier, more contagious virus at us. (Let’s hope that COVID-19 doesn’t mutate into such a virus as we allow it to stick around.) We can never know when biology will throw that virus at us. But when that day comes, no responsible government should sit by and tell the population that it is their personal choice whether to get a vaccine that can stave off extinction.

Of course, Kelly didn’t exactly put her opposition to this mandate in those terms, but she’s now part of the group of politicians who deserve to be asked the question: Are you really against vaccine mandates, or is there some virus somewhere that could produce enough death that you would support a vaccine mandate? If so, throw us out a number. Maybe we can make a deal.

What a position to put yourself in. But Kelly has been in Kansas a long time, and she just knows these mandates tend not to work here. She’s not the only one who has been in Kansas a long time. Here’s an observation from that group: We’ve got a governor playing politics and running scared.

Talk about things that don’t work in Kansas.


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