Increasingly, vaccination is no longer a matter of choice. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workplaces and schools are instituting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with more expected following formal FDA licensure of the vaccines. But mandating people and their children who have consciously chosen not to get vaccinated — a group that tends to be younger, less educated, Republican, non-white and uninsured — is a recipe for creating new and deeper fractures within our society, the kind of fractures we may profoundly regret in hindsight.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: This is a new form of institutionalized segregation. Yes, some unvaccinated adults may swallow this bitter pill and comply as a way of doing their part in making America safer. But many will see it — along with requirements that the unvaccinated wear masks or undergo regular COVID testing — as a thinly veiled attempt at public shaming. After all, if the goal is to maximize the interruption of spread, then surely all people should be masked irrespective of vaccination status.
Forced compliance will come with future consequences. The ensuing anger, resentment and loss of trust forms a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Are we ready to add this mandate to the list of issues helping erode the fabric of our society?