Appropriately Terrifying

Dear Editor:

This week, Attorney General John Formella announced that New Hampshire would join nine other Republican-controlled states in their lawsuit to overturn the Biden Administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate on all Federal contractors and contracted employees. This is another in a long line of myopic, dangerous and reckless actions taken by Republicans to undermine our efforts to end the worst public health crisis in our history.

Considering the makeup of the current Supreme Court, with five extreme right wing Justices, including three Trump appointees, I would be very surprised if they do not decide in favor of the Plaintiffs. If they do, it would overturn the 1905 Jacobsen vs. Massachusetts decision that held that the Massachusetts smallpox vaccination mandate did not violate the Constitution. This important legal precedent has served the public health well for over 116 years, but is now in serious jeopardy. If the Court does rule in favor of the Plaintiffs it will have serious and even catastrophic short and long term consequences.

In the short term it will result in fewer people getting vaccinated, thus prolonging the pandemic, resulting in more preventable Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Ruling that vaccine mandates by the government at every level aree “unconstitutional,” would prolong the disruption of our children’s education, as well as hurting business and our economy. The fact that the Biden mandate is working, with more people getting vaccinated and Covid vaccinations increasing across the nation (by 20 percent, according to Reuters) will, I suspect, have little bearing on the five right-wing Justices.

However, even more concerning are the long-term consequences of a decision in favor of the Plaintiffs. If the Court decides that the Biden vaccine mandate is “unconstitutional,” that decision will not only hamper the public health response to the current pandemic, but would apply to any local, state, or national epidemic or pandemic in the future. As horrible as the Covid-19 pandemic has been—46 million cases and 745,000 deaths, with a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of about one percent—the next pandemic could be far worse.

Imagine a pandemic where the agent is much more lethal, less discriminating in who it kills, and even more transmissible, with a CFR of 5, 10 or even 20 percent.

Imagine that agent killing children and young adults at the same rate as the elderly, unlike the current pandemic where children and young adults have been spared the brunt of the mortality.

And imagine that a safe and effective vaccine is developed, but no government could mandate vaccination because of a misguided decision the Supreme Court sometime in the past. How many deaths would result before a new Court is able to reverse that decision?

Another possible consequence of a decision in favor of the Plaintiffs could be the end to all public school-based vaccination requirements. If the decision states that the government cannot impose vaccine mandates on contractors and contract employees, why would they be allowed to have school vaccination mandates?

After all, the rationale for school vaccination mandates is the same as the Biden mandate on contractors. The anti-vaccine movement would quickly use this decision to end all public school vaccine mandates. Some will say that I am being much too dramatic and pessimistic, I hope so. But how many of them had ever considered being in the situation we are in today?

The advancement of political ideology and political self-interest can result in catastrophic consequences when they are placed over the interests of and conflict with that of public health. No society can successfully combat an enemy, either human or biological, when the “rights” of the individual are placed above the rights of the greater community.

Rich DiPentima,

Portsmouth, N.H.


You write, “Some will say that I am being much too dramatic and pessimistic…how many of them had ever considered being in the situation we are in today?”


The Editor


Leave a Comment