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It's time for excuses to end and vaccines to start

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Bring on the vaccination mandates! If reason, patriotism and clear self-interest won’t convince reluctant Americans to protect themselves and their communities against Covid-19, maybe the threat of not being able to work, go to school or lead anything like a normal life will do the trick.

Now that the Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for use by those 16 and older, the last remotely plausible rationalization for refusing to get vaccinated is gone. The fact that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs have until now been administered under Emergency Use Authorization was always a fairly flimsy reason to refuse them. Now, at least for the Pfizer vaccine, that fig leaf has been shredded. The people who were hiding behind it need to roll up their sleeves today.

I realize that not everyone will respond to Monday’s FDA decision in a reasonable way, unfortunately.

There are reportedly some adults in Mississippi — where only 37% of the population is fully vaccinated — who reject the vaccines because “they were developed so fast” or because “we don’t know what’s in them.” Neither of these rationalizations are true: The ingredients are clear, and the development processes that contributed to them are long-standing. And even worse, some of these refuseniks are following looney-bin advice and trying to ward off Covid-19 with Ivermectin, a veterinary drug used to rid livestock of worms and other parasites. I don’t know how federal or state officials can reach those who have gone so far down the anti-vaccine rabbit hole.

But their employers might bring them back to reality, or at least grudging compliance, with a simple message: Now that the Pfizer vaccination has full approval, with other options on the way, we have being vaccinated against Covid-19 as a condition of employment. Get vaccinated by a certain date, and be able to prove it, or you can’t work here anymore.

Some companies — including The Post — have already made coronavirus vaccination mandatory as a condition of continued employment, with few case-by-case exemptions for those with legitimate medical or religious objections. It is understandable that some cautious employers might have felt they were on shaky ground requiring vaccines that were less than fully, finally approved for safety and effectiveness. But now, at least for the two-shot Pfizer vaccine, that reason to hesitate is gone.

Government leaders at all levels, from President Joe Biden down to local school boards across the country, should require employees to be vaccinated — not “vaccinated or regularly tested,” as has become a popular way to impose a non-mandatory mandate, but “vaccinated, period.” All universities should join the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and many others in requiring all students coming to campus this term to be vaccinated or face the prospect of being disenrolled.

The Biden administration should use all appropriate power at its disposal to keep ambitious Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas from burnishing their faux-populist credentials by trying to thwart needed mandates. For example, if governors withhold state funding from school districts that impose vaccine or mask mandates, why couldn’t the Education Department use federal funds to make those districts whole?

And all of this needs to happen immediately.

To say we are heading in the wrong direction on the coronavirus is a gross understatement. The delta variant looked like bad news when it arrived weeks ago, but now it looks calamitous. After a glorious early-summer lull when it looked as if the worst of Covid-19 might be behind us, the nation is back to averaging around 140,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths each day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

We now know that vaccinated individuals can be infected and can pass the virus on to others. But that is not a reason to conclude that the vaccines don’t work, because we also know that they give tremendous protection against hospitalization and death. The victims who are filling intensive care units in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and other states with relatively low vaccination rates are largely unvaccinated. Those who are dying are almost all unvaccinated.

With more than 90 million eligible Americans still unvaccinated, there will surely be much more suffering and death — a tragedy that we have more than enough vaccine doses to prevent.

I, for one, am eager to line up for the booster shot that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends. If we end up having to get occasional boosters against Covid-19 the way we do against tetanus, say, I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t see why anyone should.

We already require children to be vaccinated against a host of diseases before they can enroll in public schools. Let’s use that precedent to require coronavirus vaccination. Want to work and earn a paycheck? Get the shot.

Distributed by The Washington Post Writer’s Group.

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