Could a vaccine mandate stop the latest COVID surge? LA Supervisor Janice Hahn wants to explore the idea

“At some point, you realize that not enough people have gotten vaccinated for us to achieve this herd immunity, and we might have to try something a little bit stronger,” says LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn about a possible vaccine mandate for indoor businesses. Photo by Shutterstock.

The LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to draft a report exploring how a vaccine mandate for certain indoor businesses — such as gyms, bars and restaurants — would work. LA County staff have two weeks to report back. Also within the next two weeks: All county employees will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

“I just wanted to make sure that the public knows that we're looking at this. We're going to debate it. We're going to ask the tough questions. … I wanted my colleagues and I on the Board of Supervisors to be advised by our experts, if in fact, we choose to do this,” says LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who introduced these proposals.

She says the county is considering the scope of the vaccine mandate, and whether it would only apply to unincorporated communities without their own mayor and city council, or if it would come in the form of a health order that would apply to all businesses.

“Just having it apply to unincorporated county areas would probably not work because [unwilling] businesses would say people would go across the street to a city that didn't have this ordinance,” Hahn says. “I think countywide would probably be the most consistent way to do this. And that's what certain business groups have already voiced their opinion about. They would rather it be countywide because then they said it puts the onus back on the county and not on them for making the rules.”

Hahn notes that a vaccine mandate would be about protecting those who are unvaccinated.

“We’re walking a thin line between protecting people's health and protecting people's businesses and their livelihoods. I don't want to shut down businesses. I don't want to limit capacity. I don't want people to have to worry about ‘can we just pick up our food at the curb,’” she explains. “I'm wondering if a step like this will stop the spread of this virus … and really allow people to resume some sort of normal things.”

She adds, “We've done everything possible to get people vaccinated. They are safe, they are free, they're accessible. We will take this mobile [vaccination] van wherever you want,” she says. “But at some point, you realize that not enough people have gotten vaccinated for us to achieve this herd immunity, and we might have to try something a little bit stronger.”

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