(Casey Harper, The Center Square) A slew of city-wide vaccine mandates announced in 2021 across parts of the U.S. made virtually no difference in stopping the spread of COVID-19, newly released research found.
“These mandates imposed severe restrictions on the lives of many citizens and business owners,” the study, conducted through George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says. “Yet, we find no evidence that the mandates were effective in their intended goals of reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths.”
The researchers evaluated Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.
“We find no evidence that the announcement or implementation of indoor vaccine mandates in the cities listed had any significant effect on vaccine uptake, COVID-19 cases, or COVID-19 deaths, and this is largely consistent for all US cities that implemented the mandate,” the report said.
Many local leaders in these cities demanded the vaccine mandates, arguing at the time that the science was irrefutable.
For example, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney plainly said its mask and vaccine mandates would slow the spread of COVID in a news release announcing the policy.
“The updated policies we announced today are critical to slowing the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is more dangerous and transmissible than earlier forms of the virus,” Kenney said. “The science is clear: these measures will protect Philadelphians and save lives.”
But this latest research says there is no evidence the vaccine mandates made a noteworthy difference, meaning the large economic toll on businesses may have been all for naught.
From the report:
Our findings put into question the efficacy of city-level vaccine mandates. Indoor vaccine man-dates caused large disruptions for many individuals and businesses. New York City, for example, fired 1,430 city workers for failing to comply with its vaccine mandate (Fitzsimmons, 2022). A survey found that over 90% of NYC restaurants reported having customer-related challenges, such as losing customers who objected to the mandate, and 75% having staff-related challenges (New York State Restaurant Association, 2021). Those are just a small fraction of the disruptions caused by the mandates.
Most supporters of the mandates claim that the associated increase in vaccination rates, and its implied reduction in the spread of COVID-19, outweigh the cost of the disruptions. However, we find that the effects of the mandates on their intended outcomes are not statistically noticeable in any of the cities they were implemented in all empirical strategies used.
The researchers propose that a key reason for the failure of these mandates is that it was easy for unvaccinated residents to simply cross city lines to visit the bars, restaurants and more that were unavailable to them within city limits. The paper argued nationwide mandates were more effective since crossing national borders is much more difficult.
Vitor Melo, one of the researchers behind the report, said he began the research in part because the success of nationwide vaccine mandates in Europe was being touted as proof of the need for those mandates in U.S. cities.
Melo said he expected to find that the vaccine mandates helped slow the spread of COVID-19, albeit on a smaller scale than what was seen in European countries, but was surprised to find in his research that that was not the case.
“There is definitely reason to be skeptical that if something worked in France, it would work in D.C.,” Melo told The Center Square.
Melo said his paper did not address the efficacy of vaccines, another hot topic, but showed moreso that those Americans who were unwilling to get vaccinated would not buckle, regardless of a municipal mandate.
All the cities reviewed in the study announced their indoor vaccine mandates in 2021 and repealed them in 2022.
“Many firms lost businesses because of this,” Melo said. “They lost customers. They weren’t allowed to let customers in if they were not vaccinated, and also they lost staff. The idea at the time was that the benefits would outweigh the cost…but then what I find in the research is that there is not much of a benefit at all.”
The efficacy of the vaccines also are being questioned after Dr. Anthony Fauci co-authored a paper shortly after he left his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that said he know they would provide only limited protection against infection because “candidate vaccines for most other respiratory viruses have to date been insufficiently protective.”