Comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot said state employees should be required to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus just as most federal employees will soon be required to do under new rules recently announced by the Biden administration.
President Joe Biden announced the plan on Thursday amid the rapidly spreading Delta variant. Under the plan, all federal civilian employees and contractors will be required to get vaccinated or face routine testing and mask-wearing mandates.
Biden’s plan does not apply to the military, but the Pentagon has said that it will require all military personnel to get vaccinated. To increase the vaccination rate among the general population, Biden encouraged state and local governments to offer $100 to anyone who gets the shot. An estimated 90 million Americans who are vaccine-eligible have not gotten the shot.
“It should be done immediately. It is common sense,” Franchot told MarylandReporter.com. “This is such a painful subject because the people that are duped into not getting vaccinations are the people that are suffering the most. And I feel sorry for them.”
Franchot added: “Should we mandate our state employees? Frankly, I would hope that every company in the state (does that)…It is just basic science to get vaccinated. It will protect you from something really mysterious and potentially lethal.”
As to whether Gov. Larry Hogan, who has not ruled out running for higher office, might embrace vaccine mandates-remains to be seen, Franchot said.
“Should he take the next step? I guess he is hesitant because of the politics. I would do it in a quick minute. We will see how it all turns out. It is heavily opposed by Fox News.”
So, what if Hogan did decide that all state employees must be vaccinated? How would that play out with Republican voters and the state’s population at-large?
“I think you would have a tremendous amount of pushback,” Del. Brian Chisholm, R-Anne Arundel, said. “I do not think this strictly follows party lines. You can look around at some of the professional sports leagues like the NFL, who now have some very high-profile players pushing back.”
Chisholm, who sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee, said that vaccine mandates are a bad policy choice.
“Any mandate to force somebody to put something into their body that they do not necessarily know the reaction to either immediately or in the near future-I am against…I took the vaccine. I trust it. But everybody has a right to question it. And everybody has the right to refuse it.”
Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said the question of whether or not vaccine mandates are a good policy choice is often more complicated than meets the eye.
“It probably is a positive step toward combating the coronavirus for everyone to take it, as the potential for the Delta variant to spread the virus prolifically and probably increasingly dangerously especially for the unvaccinated seems be beyond reasonable dispute.
“Whether political leaders and employers should mandate the taking of the vaccine is more disputable. Some people who value freedom over taking steps to minimize the Coronavirus consequences reasonably object to this authoritarian overreach, and the law is unclear apparently and varies state to state regarding governors.”
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline for this story regarding whether or not the state is considering vaccine mandates for its employees.