Michael Hiltzik: Should you believe the vaccine mandates will cause mass resignations? Probably not

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

I haven't been able to confirm that Lt. Col. Hague exists or if the resignation letter is genuine, but it is the sort of missive that makes you go "Hmmm..."

According to the letter, Hague will be resigning at least several months short of his eligibility for a military pension, which comes with 20 years of service. For a lieutenant colonel, for which rank the base pay is $114,670, a 20-year pension would be worth about $57,335, or $4,778 a month. That makes his stand an expensive one to take, especially given its basic illogic.

It fails to mention, for example, that even before the COVID pandemic active-duty members of the military were required to be vaccinated for up to 17 diseases. Of these, the most common are measles, mumps, rubella, polio, flu, smallpox and tetanus.

Why a military officer would decide to cop an attitude over the COVID vaccine just now isn't clear, unless he's been infected by the absurd, partisan campaign that has made refusing the shot a litmus test for right-wing cred.

Nevertheless, you can expect to see this missive and perhaps a few others like it shot around social media in coming weeks to promote disobedience to vaccination mandates.

One other category of news report may be the treatment of a small number of refusniks as the vanguard of some sort of mass movement.

After Baltimore told all city employees to either get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, an order that covered almost 14,000 individuals, local news crews beat the bushes to find objectors. The CBS station found ... one, a healthcare worker who said she was quitting but who refused even to be quoted by name.

More responsible and credible reports indicate that vaccination mandates are doing their job, which is to force holdouts to reconsider.


Delta Air Lines says that its threat to start charging holdouts more for their health coverage spurred 20% of their unvaccinated workers to get the shot. At United Airlines, which mandates vaccinations for all employees and gave its workers five weeks to comply, half of the unvaccinated employees had gotten their shots within three weeks.

Anti-vaccine activists may have more bark than bite. The San Diego Police Officers Assn. said last week that 65% of its members responding to a recent survey said they would consider quitting if the city enforced a vaccination mandate scheduled to take effect Nov. 2.

But only 38% of the union's more than 1,900 members responded at all, leaving it unclear whether the responses overrepresented vaccine holdouts or whether those who claimed they might quit would actually follow through. Jobs with public law enforcement agencies unwilling to enforce vaccinations may become harder and harder to find.

Human resources professionals say that objections to vaccination are steadily disappearing.

At a recent briefing, the Society for Human Resource Management said its surveys showed that although 28% of workers said in December that they would rather leave their job than take a vaccine, now "what we're seeing is that number is roughly less than two percent," Alexander Alonso, the society's chief knowledge officer, said at the briefing. "So while there is this 'great resignation movement' … what we're seeing [is] typically not related to the vaccine."

Vaccine mandates are broadly popular in the U.S. and have been spreading fast since the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine. The betting here is that they will continue to spread and become routine as public employers, colleges and universities, big employers and retailers and entertainment venues put them in place.

There will be occasional inconveniences caused by resignations, as at Lewis County General Hospital. But they're likely to ebb as vaccine refusal becomes recognized as a fringe sentiment, which is what it is. The lesson in this case, as it has been with wild claims about COVID remedies, is to listen not to lunacy, but to reason.

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