Leibo At Large: Can we expect a new battle over COVID-19 vaccine?

Close-up Of Male Doctor Filling The Medical Form

By david leibowitz

After a year of fighting over masks, we have something new to look forward to likely beginning: arguing over whether or not refusing to get a vaccine against COVID-19 constitutes a public health menace.

Me, I’ll be getting the vaccine as soon as I can. For a few reasons, including my own peace of mind, medical evidence that it will prevent me from getting others sick, and because I’d like to spend some time with my father—who’s about to turn 75 and is in badly failing health—without fearing that I’ll transmit COVID and kill him.

As for what you do, I suppose that’s not really my business.

However, it may be the government’s business, at least as many legal scholars read the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. That’s the case that gives states the power to protect public health, including mandating vaccines for schoolchildren.

Arizona, as you may know, has carved out vaccine exemptions for medical reasons, religious beliefs and when “immunizations are against the personal beliefs of the parent.”

Given that the state currently has no mask mandate, I can’t imagine Gov. Doug Ducey will require COVID vaccines any time soon.

Towns and cities, however? That might be a different story. And it’s where things could start to get contentious.

In Phoenix, where Mayor Kate Gallego has taken a strong public health stance against COVID-19, a vaccine mandate could spark a huge political firestorm.

In Tempe, where progressive politics hold sway, I could see a vaccine mandate being well received. That wouldn’t be the case in Mesa, Gilbert or Scottsdale, where more conservative politics are the norm.

The West Valley is anybody’s guess. The real question: What would the GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors do, given that their mask mandate has remained in place since June 20?

I don’t foresee mandatory COVID vaccines being passed by any local government here in the Valley.

But your employer? That’s a different story.

Employment in Arizona is “at will,” which gives your boss wide latitude in establishing working conditions. That likely includes the ability to require a vaccine for all employees who want to keep their jobs.

That isn’t to say employers have total authority: Workers would still have the ability to seek a medical exemption or get a waiver based on their religious beliefs.

That’s especially true in businesses with 15 or more employees. If you work for a mom-and-pop operation where those legal protections don’t apply? No vaccine, no job could be the rule, should your employer decide to go that way.

Lots of businesses could refuse service to patrons who don’t get vaccinated. Restaurants could institute a “no shot, no service” rule. Airlines could forbid you from flying. Grocery stores could bar you from entering, while accommodating you with curbside pickup.

Note: I’m not saying local governments or businesses will do this or that they should do it. I’m saying they could do it.

Given the near riots that being forced to wear a mask has caused in Arizona, I’m not sure anyone will be brave enough—or foolhardy enough—to wade into that particular brand of apocalypse.

So once again, we’ll all be on our own.

As a believer in personal responsibility, I’ve never much minded that. I wear a mask to protect myself and others, and I’ll get the vaccine.

If you want to be patriotic—or be Buster Badass—and skip it, go ahead.

Worst-case scenario, your refusal ends up thinning the herd a bit. You’ll be missed. We might even lift a, uh, shot in your memory. After the pandemic dies down, of course.