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A Memo to GMU President Gregory Washington

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I send the memo below to GMU’s president not with any hope that it will prompt a change in policy. I know that it hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of doing so. I send this memo to Pres. Washington in order simply to have a clear conscience that I spoke up against the continuing Covid hysteria – hysteria that today is nowhere as rampant as it is on college campuses.

January 3, 2022 

To:      President Gregory Washington, George Mason University  

From:  Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, GMU  

In the spirit of open intellectual inquiry, I write with a few questions about the requirement – announced on New Year’s Eve – that all faculty, staff, and students at GMU not only be fully vaccinated, but also be boosted.  

If you’re correct that “recent scientific data overwhelmingly supports the effectiveness of booster shots in preventing severe disease and hospitalization,” what’s the point of compelling any adult to be boosted? After all, if Jones is boosted and Smith isn’t, Smith’s choice not to be boosted inflicts no significant risk on Jones. Why not treat GMU’s faculty, staff, and students as the adults which we are? Why not allow each of us to choose whether or not to be boosted, given that this choice, no matter how exercised, imposes no significant harm on anyone else? 

The above consideration is a sufficiently strong reason for you to abandon your booster requirement. But three additional realities strengthen the case against requiring boosters.  

First, not only is natural immunity real and highly effective, there also is substantial evidence that those persons who receive the vaccine after having been previously infected are at greatly elevated risks – compared to those persons who have not been previously infected – of adverse events, including ones requiring emergency medical treatment or hospitalization. Because by now many members of the GMU community surely have had Covid and recovered from it, a campus-wide booster mandate – even apart from the considerations mentioned above and below – is far too indiscriminate. 

Second, faculty, staff, and students go about life off campus much more normally than they now do on campus. There is in Virginia neither a mask mandate nor a general vaccination mandate. Even if – contrary to fact (see below) – GMU’s vaccine-and-booster mandate significantly reduces the risk of spreading the virus on campus, it does so only for a portion of each Patriot’s week. GMU faculty, staff, and students shop at supermarkets, go to restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms, visit family, friends, and neighbors, and often take public transportation and use ride-shares such as Uber. Each of us is bound to encounter, every day off campus, many members of the general public who haven’t even gotten a single vaccination, much less being boosted.  

Currently, more than 20 percent of Virginians haven’t even received a single vaccine dose; and fully one-third of them are not fully vaccinatedIn Fairfax County, the percent of people who have received at least one dose is 79, while the percent who are fully vaccinated stands at 70. In Arlington County the numbers are only slightly higher (83.5 and 72.6, respectively).  

The number of Virginians who are boosted is, of course, far lower. Statewide, it’s 24 percent. In Fairfax County it’s 30 percent. In Arlington County it’s 29 percent.  

Again, each and every day, soon after someone leaves GMU’s campus he or she will inevitably come into contact with several persons who are unmasked and wholly unvaccinated. And relatively few even of the non-GMU general public who are masked and fully vaccinated will be boosted. 

Third and most importantly, being vaccinated does very little to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Because Covid vaccines don’t generate mucosal antibodies, the build-up of viral loads in the noses and mouths of the vaccinated occurs just as it does for the unvaccinated. As admitted even by the Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky when the Delta variant emerged, “Our vaccines…continue to work well for Delta, with regard to severe illness and death – they prevent it. But what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.” Because Omicron spreads more readily than Delta, Dr. Walensky’s conclusion would seem now to hold even more firmly.  

And consider your own actions. You continue to insist on universal indoor masking, and have even announced a push for the wearing of stronger masks, such as N95s. If the degree to which virus spread is reduced by vaccinations and boosters is great enough to justify the unprecedented step of requiring all faculty, staff, and students to receive this medical treatment, what’s the point of masking? 

I close by reiterating your own assurance that boosters provide significant protection to those persons who are boosted. Given this fact – and given that you’ve now clearly informed everyone in the GMU community of this fact – there is no reason to require anyone who does not wish to be boosted to undergo that medical procedure.  Because you’re a man of science, and because science stands firm against popular fads and hysterias, I urge you to follow the science and eliminate the booster mandate.

Author

  • Donald Boudreaux

    Donald J. Boudreaux, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, where he is affiliated with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. His research focuses on international trade and antitrust law. He writes at Cafe Hayak.


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