The Corner

Health Care

The Counterproductive Authoritarian Fantasy of Just Forcing Americans to Get Boosters

CNBC analyst Jim Cramer talks with a reporter at the NASDAQ Marketsite shortly after the opening bell in New York City in 2008. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The hyperactive CNBC host and financial analyst Jim Cramer offered an eye-opening and rather unconstitutional proposal on his program, urging the federal government to require all citizens to get vaccinated or demonstrate their proof of exemption in court, and to have the vaccination program run by the U.S. military.

JIM CRAMER, CNBC: With the new Omicron Variant sweeping the globe, how do we finally put an end to this pandemic? How do we save lives and get business back to normal so everybody can put dinner on the table?

Simple, the federal government needs to require vaccines, including booster shots, for everyone in America by, say, January 1st.

There are still some things that need to be done at a national level and this is one of them. But as we brace for another wave of new deaths, it’s time to admit that our government has lost the ability, or the will, to make our people do the right thing. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, so we’ve allowed a pastiche of uncoordinated health organizations to dictate an on-again, off-again series of measures that mostly just leave us baffled and confused.

We haven’t centralized the issue to the point the White House seems to take responsibility.

…It’s time to admit we have to go to war against Covid. Require vaccinations universally. And have the military run it. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, you better be ready to prove your conscientious objector status in court, and even then you need to help in the war effort by staying home until we finally beat this thing.

SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is going to be around in one form or another for a long while. Roughly 44 percent of the earth’s population is still waiting for their first shot of any vaccine.

Vaccination protects you from hospitalization and death, but the vaccines’ effectiveness will wane after a while. We don’t know exactly when; besides factors such as age and comorbidities, the immune system’s ability to fight off versions of the virus varies significantly from one individual to the next.

There’s a chance that at some point, a variant of the virus may emerge that our vaccines aren’t as effective in fighting. It’s theoretically possible, but not likely, that some variant may emerge that the current vaccines aren’t effective against at all.

At this point, it’s far too early to tell if the Omicron variant is significantly different enough from other versions of the virus to require new, different versions of the existing COVID-19 vaccines.

Drugmakers such as Moderna are already working on new vaccines specifically designed to work against the Omicron variant. Pfizer and BioNTech said they could develop an Omicron-specific vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days if needed.

When a booster or a new version of the vaccine becomes available, some Americans will eagerly be first in line. Some Americans will procrastinate a bit but eventually get around to it. Some Americans will want to see how others react to it before getting it themselves. And some Americans will refuse to get it entirely.

Public-health officials and elected officials should read those four sentences again and commit them to memory. There is no scenario in which every American quietly and obediently lines up and gets their newest round of shots just because the government tells them they must do it. You have to encourage and persuade everyone who is persuadable, and hope the rest encounter some experience or trusted figure who changes their mind. We cannot punish our way to greater vaccination rates, and declaring that “the military is taking over this whole thing” is a counterproductive authoritarian fantasy.

If COVID-19 is going to be around in one form or another for the next few years, and we require regular boosters to ensure that our bodies can effectively fight off the virus, then we will be running vaccination programs continuously, indefinitely. This will require us to be understanding of people’s vaccination fatigue and to patiently explain why another booster is needed. After all, the official guidance and assessments of the experts can change pretty quickly:

Those two former FDA officials are still not convinced, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, “the data does not show that every healthy adult should get a booster. Indeed, the push for boosters for all could actually prolong the pandemic. First, such a campaign diverts focus away from the goal of persuading the unvaccinated to get their shots (and persuading parents to get their eligible children shots). Second, and relatedly, exaggerated descriptions of the waning efficacy of the vaccines undermine public confidence in them, and some people may be less likely to accept vaccines that they regard as less effective than originally advertised.”

This doesn’t mean that Krause and Gruber are right, or that boosters are not a good idea. It does mean that the bumper-sticker slogan “follow the science!” is meaningless because bright, well-informed scientists disagree on the best course of action.

Finally, if the definition of “fully vaccinated” is changing before our eyes — as Ron DeSantis accurately predicted — this illustrates the absurdity of a government mandate attempting to get the unvaccinated or insufficiently vaccinated fired from their jobs for not meeting a particular deadline. And it appears even the Biden administration can see that now, declaring that despite the previously stated deadline of November 22, unvaccinated federal workers will not face unpaid suspensions or firing, until at least early next year.


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