(TND) — City-level indoor vaccine mandates during the pandemic were ineffective, according to new research.
Nine cities that imposed mandates were examined, and researchers said they found no significant impacts on COVID-19 vaccine uptake, cases or deaths.
“So, the idea behind the mandates was more people are going to get vaccinated because now it's costly for them to not do so. They're not going to be able to eat at a restaurant. They're not going to be able to go to a bar and so on,” said one of the researchers, Vitor Melo. “But really, my research finds that there's no evidence that implementing the mandates affected people's behaviors of getting vaccinated.”
Melo, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said past research showed national- and province-level vaccine mandates made a difference elsewhere, such as in Canada and some European countries.
When embarking on this study, he expected the U.S. city vaccine mandates would show they had less of an impact, but he said he was surprised at just how ineffective they turned out to be.
And he thought the citywide mandates might’ve worked in some places and not others, but that also wasn’t the case. He said the results city-to-city consistently showed they didn’t have the intended results.
There were also negative consequences, Melo said.
In New York, for example, their research noted that over 90% of restaurants reported customer-related problems, like losing customers over objections to the mandate. And they said three-quarters of New York City restaurants reported staffing problems stemming from the mandates.
Some people were heavily affected by this businesses had to fire people, they were losing customers, and some people were heavily impacted by it,” Melo said. “But for others, it was a matter of (driving to the suburbs).”
He said one of the obvious answers for the mandates falling short of their objectives was that people could so easily avoid them by driving to the next town.
“It's very likely that that played a major role,” he said.
American sensibilities also may have played a part, though Melo said it’s difficult to say.
They examined the trends of COVID cases and vaccinations in nine cities that implemented mandates between August 2021 and March 2022: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.
They also compared those places to cities without vaccine mandates.
Every way they looked at it, they couldn’t find any deviation, any benefit resulting from the mandates.
When these city mandates started to be rolled out, just under 60% of the U.S. population had gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
Now, just over 80% of the population has gotten at least one dose, but only 16% have gotten the updated booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Melo said this can inform city leaders of future crises. It also shows that policies that might work on the national level don’t necessarily work on the local level, he said.
“I think this research makes a very convincing case, and it's a lot of very careful work, showing that even though this mainly composed a very heavy cost on businesses and individuals, there's not much to show for it,” Melo said.