Why mandates are needed in the COVID-19 ‘playbook’

As the Delta variant propels COVID-19 infections across the U.S., it’s important to make it easier for people to get vaccines and to answer questions from those who are hesitant about getting inoculated, according to Rebecca Weintraub. But, at this point, she thinks it’s also important to have vaccine mandates.

Weintraub is director of the Better Evidence program at Ariadne Labs, as well as a practicing internist. During the pandemic, she has been advising health officials in the U.S. and globally on vaccination efforts and has been administering shots and answering people’s questions about vaccines at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at mobile vaccination sites in Massachusetts.

“We have six hundred thousand Americans dead, and we need to convey that the Delta variant is worrisome,” said Weintraub in an August 3, 2021, Q&A in the New Yorker. She noted that Delta’s incubation period is just four days—compared to six with the original coronavirus—and those who are infected can go on to infect between five and nine people, compared with two to three with the original virus. “At this stage in the pandemic, we need to change our playbook,” she said. “And that’s going to include vaccine mandates.”

Given the dangers of Delta, she said, “I think the first thing public-health agencies need to do is make vaccination highly convenient. Then we need to make it highly inconvenient to be unvaccinated.” Citing the Biden administration’s decision to have federal workers choose between getting vaccinated and regularly going through a rigorous testing regimen, she said, “I think this is a tipping point. I think there are many who will follow this example from the federal government. It allows the states to then also counsel employers and institutions and schools to think about mandates ahead.”

Read the New Yorker Q&A: How the Delta variant is changing the public-health playbook