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Does the Risk of Hospital Overcrowding Justify Government-mandated Vaccination?

Here’s a letter to a sympathetic correspondent:

Mr. W__:

Thanks for your e-mail in response to this post. You’re correct that the best argument available to those who advocate government-mandated vaccination is the one based on the threat of hospital overcrowding. Jones’s failure to vaccinate, it is argued, makes him more likely to be hospitalized with Covid and, thus, makes care less available for people suffering from non-Covid illnesses and injuries.

One long-term measure to address this problem is to eliminate Certificate of Need restrictions which artificially reduce hospital capacity. Also appropriate would be an easing of occupational-licensing restrictions on health-care providers.

But I concede that in the short-run existing hospital capacity must be taken as given. Yet surely to justify such an unprecedented policy of mandated vaccination of the general population more is needed than just vocalizing the possibility of hospital overcrowding, or even identifying some actual instances of such overcrowding. What are the facts? How frequent, long-lasting, and widespread are instances of overcrowding?

I regularly explore the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s page featuring data on “Hospital Utilization.” There, data on hospital utilization can be gotten for each state and territory, and even for individual hospitals. My honest interpretation of these data tells me that hospital overcrowding during Covid is neither so frequent nor long-lasting – or geographically widespread – as to justify a policy as draconian as mandatory vaccination of the general public.

For example, the most recent data are from yesterday (November 15th). The state with the highest inpatient-bed-utilization rate is Rhode Island, with a rate of 88.7 percent. The state with the highest ICU-bed-utilization rate is New Mexico, with a rate of 93.6 percent.

As of yesterday, only 10 states had inpatient-bed-utilization rates of 80 percent or higher. Only 11 had ICU-bed-utilization rates of 80 percent or higher.

These data, of course, are silent on staffing. It’s possible that hospitals with lots of available beds nevertheless confront staffing shortages – shortages which, it’s relevant to note, are certainly worsened, and perhaps in many cases even caused, by government policies themselves, as well as by requirements that hospital staff be vaccinated.

Compelled vaccination of an entire population would be an unprecedented intrusion of government into individuals’ private affairs and a serious assault on their bodily integrity. Such a move would put government in America where it has never been, and thus would create a precedent for until-now unheard-of micromanagement of human affairs. Giving government officials the power to mandate general vaccination of the population is to invite tyranny. And to invite tyranny in order to temporarily reduce the risk of occasional and isolated hospital overcrowding would be, to put it mildly, frighteningly imprudent.