The science and data are clear. Regions with higher population rates fully vaccinated against COVID 19 have lower series cases of this deadly virus. The economic data will also be clear that regions with lower COVID 19 vaccination rates will also be the last to enjoy economic recovery and could trigger a substantial slowdown in the American economy. In essence, regions that want to promote corporate site location projects to create jobs and capital investment need to have a higher vaccination rate.
First of all, the COVID 19 vaccines appear to be a modern medical miracle. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis showed sharp geographic divides in vaccination and hospitalization levels, with every state that has an above-average vaccine rate showing below-average hospitalizations, including in well-vaccinated New England. In the South, meanwhile, fewer people are vaccinated on average and hospitalization rates are climbing faster. The COVID 19 vaccines clearly impact not just the number of COVID 19 cases but also the severity of those cases. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, only 51.5% of the U.S. population is currently fully vaccinated against COVID 19. That number jumps to just over 60% when the U.S. population of 12 years or older is counted and over 80% of the most vulnerable senior population of 65 years and older are vaccinated. However, a large urban v. rural, young v. old and racial demographic divide are all lengthening the public health crisis and potentially creating winners and losers for economic investment.
Young people remain slow to use the COVID 19 vaccine. As example, in Ohio, with an overall 47.5 % fully vaccinated rate, has only 39% of the 20-29 year-olds fully vaccinated against the COVID 19 vaccine according to the Ohio Department of Health. Rural communities remain slow to embrace the COVID 19 vaccine. The Daily Yonder reports, the current rate of completed vaccinations in rural counties is 37.1% of the total rural population compared with 48.5% fully vaccination rates in the metropolitan regions. Finally, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Black and Hispanic people remain less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk, particularly as the variant spreads. Economist are concerned the slow vaccination rates will impact economic growth. The International Monetary Fund announced a dramatically slow economic growth forecast in particular for developing countries that lack access to the COVID 19 vaccine.
The public health and economic benefits of the COVID 19 vaccines is clear. However, rather than support the adoption of the COVID 19 vaccine, public policy makers are moving in the opposite direction. Take Ohio for an example. Following the Ohio General Assembly taking several steps to reduce the authority of Governor Mike DeWine to administer public health mandates that address COVID 19, they are considering passage of Ohio House Bill 248. Ohio House Bill 248 declares that it is the policy of Ohio that individuals have a right to direct their own health care decisions, free from coercion or penalty, and with informed consent, for themselves, their children, their family, and anyone for whom they stand in loco parentis. The legislation prohibits any of the following from mandating, requiring, or otherwise requesting an individual to receive a vaccine:
- A person (defined to include an individual, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, and association);
- Public official or employee;
- Public agency;
- State agency;
- Political subdivision;
- Child day-care center;
- Nursing home;
- Residential care facility;
- Health care provider;
- Institution (defined to include a nonprofit university, college, academy, or school); and
More troubling, the Ohio House of Representatives returned early from their summer break not to help promote the adoption of the COVID 19 vaccine but instead to consider this legislation that will discourage the vaccine adoption.
The Ohio business community is leading the charge against HB 248. In June 2021, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce first publicly voiced opposition to House Bill 248. Ohio Chamber of Commerce President Steve Stivers stated: “It’s time for lawmakers to stop trying to dictate workplace policies that interfere with the ability of employers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and others who enter places of business. Businesses continue to do the best they can in responding to the many challenges and consequences of the COVID crisis. They don’t need to be micro-managed by the government telling them how to best run their business.” The Ohio Chamber opposes H.B. 248 because the bill conflicts with Ohio’s at-will employment laws, which allow employers to dismiss an employee for any reason, without warning and the Chamber further pointed out the irony of many of the same lawmakers who have been pushing back against what they see as government overreach during the COVID 19 crisis are the ones now calling for more government controls on business. The Ohio Chamber has drawn a line in the sand calling out legislators who claim to be pro-business restricting employer’s rights to operate their business during the pandemic.
Policymakers have a clear choice. Support the adoption of the COVID 19 vaccine and continue public health and economic gains. Or take a major step backwards on vaccine adoption and create an opportunity for supporters of the vaccine to gain political support of the business community desperate to survive this global health crisis.