Anti-Vaccine Laws Are Anti-Business Laws

The above is a clip from the website of a restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine. I’ll be in Bar Harbor next month and will only order food at restaurants that I feel are safe. I’ll be taking my business to this restaurant because they advertise that their staff are all vaccinated against COVID-19.

Presently, there is proposed legislation in the Ohio Statehouse (House Bill 248) that would prevent Ohio businesses from requiring their employees get COVID-19 vaccines. As a strong proponent of free markets, I think this is an incredibly bad idea.

Businesses differentiate themselves in order to gain a competitive advantage. Businesses win by advertising that they provide something that their competitors do not have and thus attracting customers who want that something. The more the government regulates what a business can or cannot do, the less freedom that business has to differentiate itself from its competitors.

A business that can attract more customers by advertising that all of its employees are vaccinated should not be restricted by excessive governmental regulations prohibiting it from requiring employee vaccination. 

As of today, 60% of all Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 70% of Americans over age 12 have received a vaccine dose. 91% of Americans over age 65 have received a vaccine dose. Of importance to businesses, most of the remaining unvaccinated are low income Americans whereas high income Americans are largely vaccinated. A pulse survey of the U.S. Census of 3,777,136 Americans in June 2021 found that the largest percentage of Americans who either have received or plan to receive a COVID-19 vaccine were those reporting a household income > $200,000/year. The next highest percentage of vaccinated persons were those with a household income $150,000 – $200,000. The lowest percentage of vaccinated persons were those reporting an annual household income < $25,000. The majority of Americans are getting vaccinated, particularly middle income and high income American adults who are the most likely to go to a business and spend money. Many, if not most, of these American adults are going to prefer to support businesses that have taken the same steps that they have taken with vaccination in order to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.

Data from the recent full U.S. census shows that two-thirds of Ohio counties lost population in the past decade. Because the population of many other states is growing faster than Ohio, we will be losing one U.S. congressional seat this year. One of the most effective ways to stop this loss of population and the loss of Ohioans’ voice in the U.S. House of Representatives is to attract businesses to Ohio, particularly businesses that pay good employee salaries. Companies that already require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will find other, more business-friendly states more attractive for their new offices, new factories, and new jobs if the proposed legislation is passed. In essence, House Bill 248 says: “If you are a business that wants to require your employees to be vaccinated, do not come to Ohio.

I have a lot of reasons to promote COVID-19 vaccines. I’ve had to find ICU beds in our hospital where ICU beds did not exist in order to care for COVID patients on ventilators. I’ve had to manage physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists who were over-worked and burned out from caring for the surge of hospitalized patients. I had 5% of my (largely elderly and immunocompromised) outpatient pulmonary practice die of COVID prior to availability of vaccines. But I also do not want to see excessive government regulations on businesses that stifles a free market economy.

If a business wants to mandate employee vaccinations because the owner believes it will give that business a competitive advantage in attracting customers or attracting more qualified employees, then let that business have the freedom to do so… whether that business be a restaurant, a grocery store, an auto dealership, a school, or a hospital.

August 16, 2021

By James Allen, MD

I am a Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine at the Ohio State University and former Medical Director of Ohio State University East Hospital