Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich Wednesday said a universal COVID-19 vaccine mandate imposed by the federal government would be a very useful tool in the fight against the pandemic.
“I would do for everyone else what they have done for federal employees,” Elrich said in response to a question from MarylandReporter.com at a virtual news conference. “I would not make a distinction.”
Elrich said a universal vaccine mandate would help ensure that jurisdictions that are in short supply of essential workers, such as doctors, firefighters and nurses-would likely be able to retain those essential workers because moving to another location to avoid vaccination would no longer be an option.
“You can threaten people with firing them. But it does not mean they are going to say: “Oh my god that is the end of the world!” The moment it becomes mandatory people will realize what they are going to have to do if they want to continue to work. And I am sure that most people will choose to work. And that should get us to the point where we are no longer dealing with this.”
Elrich said the nation should approach COVID vaccination the same way it approached polio vaccination in the 1950s.
“There was no national crisis of getting people vaccinated against polio. Everybody acted like adults. Everybody said: “Let’s keep our children and our families safe…’ We ought to have the same kind of collective courage to face this together and deal with this together.”
Elrich said those who oppose being vaccinated often use convoluted logic to justify their refusal.
“I hear all the time: “This is my choice. This is my decision.’ But it is your decision until you start to walk around in the outside world…That is the misuse of the concept as a right. We have a collective responsibility to each other to do the right thing.”
But not everyone said they agree with Elrich’s premise.
“I don’t think we should be mandating anything and I think that is a dangerous place to be in,” Del. Brian Chisholm, R-Anne Arundel, told MarylandReporter.com.
Chisholm, who sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee, added: “This vaccine is not going to solve COVID like we solved polio. When this vaccine is 7-10 years out and we know whether it is truly effective or not, then you can suggest that people should be taking it. And I think they would be more apt do it.”
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, R-Baltimore County, like Chisholm, said that he too opposes vaccine mandates.
“Nope. I don’t agree with that whatsoever.”
Salling said the decision of whether or not to get vaccinated should remain voluntary.
“I don’t believe in vaccination passports. I don’t believe mandatory things like that need to be. I think people have been responsible. We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, with over 83% of the population [having gotten at least one shot].”
At Wednesday’s news conference, Elrich clarified that he supports the county council’s position to impose a vaccine mandate for county employees but nevertheless wants to wait for more information on how the policy might affect essential workers before moving forward with a vote.