President Joe Biden was unable to overcome the judicial and legislative roadblocks to his full set of COVID-19 vaccine mandates two years ago, but the damage of that policy lingers.

If the Supreme Court and Congress had failed to block the mandates, the costly consequences of our COVID-19 crisis could have been worse.

Now we know why.

Last July, the highly productive House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, chaired by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, conducted a hearing into the science and impact of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.

Biden, his congressional allies, and many medical societies insisted that these unprecedented government mandates were benign and beneficial. As Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., opined during the hearing, “I believe the vaccine is safe and effective. I believe it is the role of public health to vaccinate as many people as possible to prevent the spread of the virus.”   

Well, it turns out that the robotic repetition of the “safe and effective” mantra deserves some sober qualifications. Over the past two years, there has been mounting evidence of adverse health consequences from the COVID-19 vaccines.

The simple fact is this: the COVID-19 vaccines, aiming to prevent grave illness and death, nonetheless can carry serious risks. As The New York Times recently reported, even among the elderly population, the prime candidates for vaccination, there are risks.

Based on preliminary research from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there’s a heightened risk of stroke when older patients received the vaccine at “the same time” as the flu vaccine.

According to the New York Times account: “Those who received both COVID and flu vaccines saw a 20 percent increase in the risk of ischemic stroke with the Pfizer BioNTech bivalent shot, and an increase of 35 percent in the risk of transient ischemic stroke after the Moderna bivalent shot. (The bivalent shots were replaced in September with new formulations.)”

Since the Select Subcommittee hearing in July, new scientific reports reinforce the case for caution.

For example, researchers writing in the journal Biomedicines in August conducted a comprehensive literature review and confirmed that the spike protein found in both SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 vaccines is clearly pathogenic with a wide range of adverse effects, including cardiovascular and neurological consequences.

Likewise, researchers writing in the British Journal of Pharmacology in October found that the leading COVID-19 vaccines can increase cardiovascular risks. Confirming previous findings,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still reporting a risk (although small) of myocarditis/heart inflammation among young adult males.

That finding is directly relevant to any vaccine-mandate policy, whether publicly or privately enforced, and that’s why many states have banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates for schoolchildren who are largely invulnerable to serious illness and death from the novel coronavirus.

House investigators also noted the deleterious effect of vaccine mandates on the doctor-patient relationship. Wenstrup observed that the determination about whether to undergo a medical treatment or procedures is usually made between a doctor and a patient, but instead, he noted, “the Biden administration inserted itself and defiled this sacred relationship that we as Americans have always treasured.”

It’s standard ethical practice for a doctor to provide a patient undergoing a medical intervention with information on the risks and benefits of a given procedure, and the patient responds by signing and dating a form certifying his or her informed consent.

Whenever a patient is confronted with a personal risk, his or her personal consent (not public coercion) is the only ethical imperative.

The problem of vaccine coercion, however, has not been confined to the public sector. Allison Williams, a reporter with ESPN, was a Select Subcommittee witness. On the advice of her personal physician, because she was taking fertility treatments, she refused the COVID-19 vaccine. That refusal, she testified, cost Williams her job.

Physicians, too, have been subject to coercion. While questioning Williams, Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, a doctor, related his conversations with fellow physicians who were likewise threatened with dismissal: “Hospital CEOs, mostly non-physicians, came after doctors and nurses that didn’t parrot the government’s vaccine talking points, and state medical boards threatened to take licenses away.”

Today, only 3.6% of Americans thus far have gotten the new COVID-19 shot. There has also been a decline in other vaccinations.

While Biden’s congressional allies, among others, attribute this decline to “misinformation,” Dr. Kevin Bardosh of the University of Washington in his subcommittee testimony blamed coercive COVID-19 vaccine policies:

Our analysis strongly suggests that mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policies have had damaging effects on public trust, vaccine confidence, political polarization, human rights, inequities and social well-being.

We question the effectiveness and consequences of coercive vaccination policy in pandemic response and urge the public health community and policymakers to return to nondiscriminatory, trust-based public health approaches.


Mandates are blunt instruments. Because they inflict a lot of collateral damage, blunt instruments make bad policy.

Biden’s attempted imposition of these mandates two years ago largely failed, but the damage they inflicted survived their demise. They compromised the doctor-patient relationship, further undermined public trust, and based on emerging scientific evidence, overrode legitimate safety concerns. That’s a hard lesson.

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