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Opinion | Business leaders must do what government can’t or won’t

“If vaccinated individuals do not feel safe to return to work or shop, dine and carry on a regular routine, businesses will suffer.”


There are a growing number of Alabamians seeking a coronavirus vaccine due to the raging emergence of the coronavirus delta variant. Still, it’s not enough for the state to experience a lasting recovery from the effects of COVID-19.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration has begged, cajoled and even shamed the unvaccinated, and yet, the state’s vaccination rate is dead last among the 50 states.

So what then shall we do?

Once again, it falls to Alabama’s businesses to lead. If the state’s businesses band together and require employees to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, then the tide will turn.

It is a burdensome and perhaps an unpopular suggestion that businesses do what the government can’t or won’t, but when a mule doesn’t follow the carrot, a stick is necessary.

The business community came together to keep Alabama open after last year’s lockdown. The Ivey administration will not impose another shutdown, but the delta variant may have the same effect.

If vaccinated individuals do not feel safe to return to work or shop, dine and carry on a regular routine, businesses will suffer. Intelligent people will enact their own lockdown, and the only way to persuade them to act differently is by companies ensuring that their employees are inoculated.

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Alabama’s ill-conceived vaccine passport ban, which was passed along partisan lines, dictates that businesses can’t refuse to serve unvaccinated customers, but it doesn’t prohibit employers from ensuring that their own employees are fully vaccinated.

Many companies are already requiring certain workers to be vaccinated to retain employment. Tyson, Walmart, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Netflix, Uber, Walt Disney Co., Facebook and others now insist that some, if not all, employees are vaccinated.

Courts have historically sided with businesses on workplace vaccine mandates as long as they are crafted with proper religious and medical exemptions.

The business community must carry this heavy load because the government will not.

Let’s be honest, it is not Alabama’s business leaders spreading lies and conspiracies about COVID-19, masks and vaccinations; it is opportunistic Republican politicians who need to appeal to the base party voters.

Good, honest and caring conservatives have received the vaccine and encouraged others to do likewise. There are also vaccinated Republicans who fear speaking out because of the rabid base.

Resistance to the coronavirus vaccine for some in the Republican Party has become an article of faith, and rather than hesitancy, there is virulent vaccine hostility.

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Recently, U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Mo Brooks made news by taking aim at Fort Rucker’s leadership, who ordered that all individuals entering the military base wear masks unless they have proof of a coronavirus vaccination. But Brooks didn’t stop with attacking masks. He went further, claiming the COVID-19 vaccine was deadly.

“Our soldiers should not be intimidated or coerced by the government into taking an experimental shot that has death and other ill-effect risk associated with it,” Brooks wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden.

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was cheered at a Republican event when she mentioned Alabama’s low COVID-19 vaccination rate.

Despite growing numbers of Alabamians seeking vaccines, Alabama is still the least fully vaccinated state in the nation, according to a report by APR‘s Eddie Burkhalter.

Last week, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris confirmed that a combined total of 65,511 vaccines were discarded because they expired.

Also, last week the state’s seven-day average of daily cases rose above 2,900 for the first time since Jan. 17, at 2,914.

The state’s hospitals are on the verge of another crisis, the school system is in chaos, and the situation looks like it will worsen before it gets better.

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So, once again, the business community is called upon to lead. Let’s hope they have the wisdom and courage to act quickly.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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