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By Siddharth Gundapaneni

Most everyone has come to the consensus that this pandemic needs to end. But the fact of the matter is that masks won’t get us out of this pandemic. The only way this pandemic will end is through more people getting vaccinated. Sure, mask mandates won’t stifle progress towards the end of this pandemic, but are they really worth it? Should colleges be mandating masks for vaccinated students?

The short answer is no. A study done by the Mayo Clinic found that both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are “96% effective at preventing severe disease with the COVID-19 virus caused by the delta variant.” To contextualize that, the Pfizer vaccine was 97% effective at preventing severe disease with COVID-19 prior to the delta variant becoming prevalent. Every public policy decision must be made considering cost-benefit analysis. Of course the safest thing would be a permanent mask mandate as that would lower transmission of other viruses like the flu, but that is not ideal in a free society. I do believe that every prior mask mandate was justified, as the public health crisis was great enough to temporarily outweigh civil liberties. But now that the vaccine has been made easily accessible to all and is clearly effective at protecting individuals, we must begin to reconsider civil liberties. The government is even willing to do homebound vaccinations among various other measures to promote inoculation. Those who are unvaccinated right now have willingly made that decision, and are responsible for their own health. The government must stop bailing out poor decision-making skills of its constituents. If unvaccinated people fear the vaccine, so be it, who are we to judge? The vaccinated population should not have to live a compromised life for the sake of those unwilling to protect themselves. 

There is a fundamental flaw with the way in which cable news has been assessing the state of the pandemic. Transmission rates and breakthrough cases are irrelevant as vaccinated people do not have to worry about severe sickness, the delta variant, or other COVID terrors. 

Furthermore, there is too much hysteria about breakthrough cases. If a vaccinated person isn’t going to get sick from a positive COVID-19 test, why should that be taken into account at all? At this point, the only relevant statistics are hospitalizations and deaths, which are insignificant among vaccinated people. One might argue that unvaccinated children are at significant risk, but a recent study done on August 8th has clearly shown that children are not at risk of severe sickness from the delta variant. The study showed that zero 12-29 year olds had a severe case of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.

Finally, the share of breakthrough cases has been heavily overstated. In Connecticut, 99.85% of  positive cases were unvaccinated people. The state with the lowest share of unvaccinated people that tested positive is Arizona, and even then 94.1% of the total cases were unvaccinated people. When we look at deaths, in states like New Jersey, 99.91% of COVID-19 deaths were among the unvaccinated. The American vaccines are effective, and have provided immense protection against the Brazil variant, the early United Kingdom strain, the India Variant, and the Delta Variant. There is no reason to doubt the efficacy of the vaccines, and we should not support policies that baselessly fear-monger. Forcing vaccinated people to wear masks will not end this pandemic any faster, will infringe on the liberties of Americans, and will provide support for the unvaccinated people who wrongfully don’t fear this virus.

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