Given the fact that just about anyone with a government title is trying to mandate mask-wearing, I predict the next big fight will be about mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations. If that seems far-fetched, especially in our state, remember this: Not so long ago, it also seemed far-fetched that Idaho officials would order people to stay home and close businesses indefinitely, fine people for hosting yard sales, or arrest them for being at a playground.
Long before Covid-19 was a blip on the radar, special interest groups and state agencies were methodically working to expand protocols for vaccinations and recordkeeping in the Gem State.
Idaho’s childhood immunization registry started more than 20 years ago. In the intervening years, there have been multiple attempts to expand the registry to include adults and mandate participation. Although parents don’t have to enroll children into the registry, the state Department of Health and Welfare keeps a record of parents who opt out.
The state’s most powerful healthcare special interest group, the Idaho Medical Association, has long supported the use of government force to compel vaccinations of children and adults. The IMA has as many as 20 policies on vaccinations, according to the lobby group’s website. But the IMA has been unable to grab, and often opts not to pursue, the brass ring of more stringent public health vaccine mandates. IMA delegates vote to support the mandates; however, they are pushed back largely because of the ferocity of objections of the increasingly-conservative Idaho House of Representatives.
But the state could pursue a somewhat easier path toward forcing a Covid-19 vaccine on the public. Students attending public schools are required to have a number of immunizations to attend school, unless parents elect not to vaccinate their children for philosophical or religious reasons. A couple of years ago, the state Board of Health voted to require high school seniors to receive a second meningococcal vaccine dose, effectively extending a vaccination requirement to young adults.
Because adding a vaccination requirement only needs to be added to the state’s administrative rules and approved by one of two legislative healthcare committees, the recent meningococcal vaccine mandate was a train that was nearly impossible to stop. I suspect a similar requirement could be presented, in the same fashion, regarding a Covid-19 vaccination.
And medical special interests would almost certainly line up to support it, even insist on it. It doesn’t matter that youngsters are the least at risk of getting sick or dying from the coronavirus. I predict a Covid-19 mandate will be sold — is probably already being sold behind closed doors — as a means of preventing children from becoming unsuspected carriers of the virus. That a vaccine doesn’t yet exist won’t stop people from theorizing how it might be deployed upon its arrival.
Inside Idaho’s government, the bureaucracy has long been decidedly pro-vaccination. According to the state government’s transparency website, this year the state has paid almost $70,000 to the Idaho Immunization Coalition, and has supplied the organization with money for at least the last five years. The Idaho Immunization Coalition is a non-profit group that promotes vaccinations and encourages its supporters to contact legislators in defense of vaccination policies. The group is small, it appears that it receives the bulk of its funding from state and federal taxpayers. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and its immunization program are listed as the organization’s only “partners” on its website.
A spokesman for the state Department of Health and Welfare assured me on Friday that the state is not working on a Covid-19 vaccination requirement. That being said, I speculate that people in the halls of power and in the basement of the bureaucracy have thought about how such a mandate could be implemented. We who do not wish for a mandated Covid-19 vaccination would be wise to go on the offensive against this possible action.