As an emergency physician, I am face to face with COVID-19 every day. We are thankful we are at the likely downswing of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are hearing more stern messaging and demands for individuals to be vaccinated. There has still been widespread transmission despite large-scale vaccination and masking efforts.
It thankfully does seem that with the current variants, the vaccines likely offer some protection against hospitalization and death in at-risk populations. Thankfully, also in the general population, risk of serious illness from COVID-19 remains extremely low. This is especially true among young adults, adolescents and children.
The current trend of using extortion, fear and politics to push vaccine mandates does little to help the pandemic and is bound to backfire in the future if we have more useful vaccines or less variable viruses.
It has never been the job of a physician to mandate medical treatment in individuals with capacity to make their own decisions. As physicians, we are supposed to present the risks and benefits and work with our patients to guide them to a decision.
I am concerned with the heavy-handed approach many of my physician and public health colleagues have taken. I have even overheard some state they do not want to take care of unvaccinated individuals or that such patients do not deserve care. This is unethical and frankly evil.
County health officers have used polio and measles as examples of reasons to mandate this vaccine, but this is clearly not those illnesses. The current vaccines also do not prevent illness or transmission the way those vaccines do. We need only ask why public health officials are concerned about the coming flu season to illustrate caution about vaccine effectiveness in viruses with high variability.
The argument that we will overwhelm the hospitals is not completely valid. Hospitals operated at capacity before the pandemic and will continue to do so afterward.
There is a big crisis right now seeing the delayed effects of putting off care and fear driving people to hospitals. This follows bad messaging and public policy over the past year.
The biggest actual crisis right now in health care is the staffing shortages caused by firing thousands of nurses and staff who have worked almost a year without the vaccine and do not want it now for whatever reason they have decided. We should allow people to judge their own risk tolerance and choose for themselves, especially those who are the most educated about health such as nurses and physicians.
There is a group of concerned medical professionals willing to speak out against such mandates. This is not an anti-vaccination stance and it is not an anti-science stance. It is about common sense and personal autonomy.
It is clear that in low-risk populations, vaccination offers little protection and it is unclear how much it reduces transmission to those who are at risk. It is unethical to mandate any medical treatment and especially in the manipulative, unnecessary manner with which the COVID-19 mandates have been rolled out.
I recently saw Sen. Dennis Kruse is planning to reintroduce legislation similar to the previous Senate Bill 74 to limit vaccine mandates. As a physician planning to win Kruse's District 14 Senate seat, I would definitely welcome and support this protection for Hoosiers.
Dr. Tyler Johnson, an emergency medicine physician, is a Leo-Cedarville resident and a candidate for the Republican nomination for Indiana Senate District 14.