Coronavirus: Americans protesting against vaccines ‘makes no sense to me,' doctor says

Dr. Shikha Jain, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

- Well, there is a growing push to implement vaccine mandates across the country, with an NYC deadline coming in just a few hours. But while many applaud the move, it doesn't come without some backlash. Here to discuss, Dr. Shikha Jain, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois. Thank you so much for being here today.

I wanted to ask you that, you know, at 5:00 PM today here in New York City, public worker mandate goes into effect. Rates at the FDNY and the NYPD hover right now somewhere between 50% and 65%. The firefighters union is furious. They say lives are at stake here. So why force a mandate? What is the risk and reward?

SHIKHA JAIN: Well, I would say that not only are lives at stake if people decide not to work, lives are also at stake if those firefighters don't get vaccinated, if these front line workers don't get vaccinated. The thing that I think is so important to remember is this vaccine isn't just there to protect you. It is very important to protect you, but it is also there to protect all of those people you come into contact with.

Firefighters are directly in the front lines interacting with people on a daily basis. So the fact that you're a firefighter who may not be vaccinated and then might come into contact with needing to save somebody who is immunocompromised or someone who is a child who hasn't been able to get the vaccine yet, in my mind, it's a responsibility to your job and to what you're meant to be doing, which is protecting others. It makes no sense to me why people would be against getting this vaccine when it's really just something to protect yourself and protect anyone that you come into contact with.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, and it's proving very controversial here. I want to draw everybody's attention to a Kaiser Family Foundation, that's a think tank, and they just did a study finding that 37% of unvaccinated workers say they will quit their jobs if they're forced to get either vaccinated or take a test. And if their employer mandates a vaccine and doesn't offer the testing options, 72% of the unvaccinated workers say they will quit.

Those are pretty high numbers. Whether or not they actually would in that situation is another matter. But I think it highlights the controversy here and the strong feelings that people have for it. What do you say to convince those, in addition to the response to your previous question here?

SHIKHA JAIN: Well, I will say there's a lot of people who said they wouldn't get vaccinated until there was an absolute need, like their job required it or it was a travel requirement. So I am confident that a lot of those people will still get vaccinated. I also want to emphasize the fact, if all of these people are leaving their jobs, you're not only hurting yourself. You're also hurting your coworkers and your colleagues who are going to have to pick up the slack when you're not working.

It's so fascinating to me that we've required vaccines throughout all of our lives. To go to school, you need to get the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine. There's a lot of employers that require the flu shot. To me, this isn't a personal choice. This is a health choice. It's about your health.

And the thing that is crazy, in my mind, is we are physicians. We aren't politicians. This should not be a politicized topic, but so many people have made this so polarizing and politicized. A year and a half ago when the pandemic started, we were all praying for a miracle

We were saying, what can we do to save lives and get out of this pandemic? A year later, we found exactly what we needed to save lives and to prevent people from dying and getting sick. And now because it's become so politicized, people aren't wanting to get something that they were praying for a year ago.

Another example I use all the time is, if you think about it, we're required to wear things like seat belts in the car, even though we may never get into a car accident. But that's something that we're required to do, not only because it protects us, but it also protects other people. I think that there's a lot of discussion about this, and it doesn't make sense to me how or why this has become so politicized when it's coming from the mouths of people who are just trying to help people and save lives, like your doctors and your nurses.

- So in that case, do you think vaccine mandates should be compulsory across the board? And you know, for example, do you think children should be forced to take a vaccine or not be able to go to school? And then do you think people who do not choose to get the vaccine, for whatever reason it is, should they lose their jobs?

SHIKHA JAIN: Well, I would say for kids, we already require vaccines for kids. I mean, I have three young children, and we have to submit our immunization forms at the beginning of the school year or else they're not allowed to go to school. So we already have those in place. This is not something new or novel. So for our kids, absolutely it makes sense that we continue doing what we've been doing for years for public health and to save other people's lives and to protect our children.

Now when it comes to losing someone's job, I mean, obviously the economy is a huge, huge problem right now. We've had a lot of challenges over the last year and a half. And I would never want people to lose their jobs. But in the same token, you can't be making decisions that you think are your personal decisions when, in fact, they're actually impacting others.

If you're on a boat, you're not allowed to make a hole in the bottom of the boat to feel the water across your feet if there's other people on the boat because you making that hole in the bottom of the boat is now impacting everybody else on that boat with you. It's a very similar concept here. You think that getting that vaccine or not getting it is only impacting you when, in effect, it's actually impacting a lot of other people, some that you may never even know you've impacted.