In its resolution of Aug. 18 on “Vaccine Awareness and Medical Autonomy” the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners has crossed the line from illogical opinion to irresponsibility.
The resolution, clearly aimed at the County Health Department, would require the department not only to not insist on COVID vaccines for its own employees, but would even gag it from “encouraging” other employers to insist on procedures that “hinder medical autonomy”.
Presumably this means masking as well as vaccination.
As a result the Traverse City Area Public Schools board conducted its recent deliberation on a mask mandate in the light of CDC and state-level recommendations, but without any local guidance from its own Health Department, who should have been in the best position to advise.
The School Board made the right decision (high credit for them!) but it was a sad state of affairs that our own Health Department felt unable to offer support.
With regard to “sacred and unalienable rights” when it comes to autonomy, let me say this: There are so many ways that we give up total autonomy to live in society that we just take them for granted. You can’t punch or kick another person just because you don’t like them. You can’t throw your trash out on the public street, drive on the left side of the road, or have noisy parties in the middle of the night.
With regard to the spread of disease, carriers of transmissible diseases are placed into strict and enforced quarantine and isolation (surely a tougher requirement than wearing a mask). Regarding vaccines, several are required to enter medical schools, multiple institutions of higher learning, and many types of employment.
It is an important function of a county’s Health Department to educate and inform its citizens. In these days of COVID, our department will continue the wonderful work its dedicated employees are doing to test and vaccinate thousands of residents.
But we must also be free to give science-based, evidence-based advice to all who can benefit from that.
About the author: Michael P. Collins, MD, MS is medical director for the Grand Traverse County Health Department. Collins has worked in the Traverse City medical community since 1975 and has worked as medical director for the county since 1993. He holds both a medical degree and a degree in epidemiology.