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Our Lady of the Lake community outreach pharmacist Cynthia Mumphery draws up a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group Injection Clinic Perkins, at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, July 26.

To hear some people talk, the choice of three safe and highly effective vaccines against coronavirus is a pick-your-poison choice.

That is stupid and a threat to public health.

While there is always deference to individuals' liberties in America, today’s fourth surge — fourth! — that is filling our hospitals and killing our friends and neighbors shows that vaccine mandates applied in very narrow fashion in some workplaces are just not enough.

We urge Louisiana’s hospitals and institutions to encourage vaccinations and, wherever practical, require them. Of course, there must always be appropriate safeguards for legitimate religious or health reasons.

Mandates should include students at state universities. At one estimate, only 20% of LSU students are today vaccinated. School starts soon. Do the leaders of LSU want to be recklessly irresponsible hosts of a super-spreader event on the Baton Rouge campus, or in any other of their campuses?

That’s doubly true of LSU’s critical hospitals and medical schools based in New Orleans and Shreveport. The same goes for universities and schools across the state and should include public school teachers as well. Young people are now among the dead from the delta variant, spreading like an open-field fire across our communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for mask mandates in schools. Weakly, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — mostly elected members — and Superintendent Cade Brumley have left that decision to local school boards.

We hope that the local boards will act and soon. But the mask mandate is not the only one that is needed. Many parishes have very low vaccination rates. Public school employees ought to be vaccinated as a requirement to work in the crowded conditions of most public schools. As of yet, there is no vaccine authorization for children under 12, so that makes a mask and vaccine mandate for adults in schools even more urgent.

The highly contagious nature of the delta variant makes this a necessity to save lives. Arguments to the contrary are simply mistaken, if not plainly silly conspiracy junk from the internet.

Mandates are controversial. The tough stands taken by real leaders in Louisiana — among them Gov. John Bel Edwards — over the past 18 months show that no good deed goes unpunished, at least rhetorically.

Even during the latest session of the Legislature, members pushed bills targeted at Edwards’ important and largely successful mandates of last year.

But in real life, not the Legislature, this year is a new ball game. Vaccines are available and judged safe. Even some seventh-inning adopters like U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Jefferson Parish vouch for the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

While some vaccinated people get sick — almost always, much less severely than others — doctors and nurses are practically unanimous about the benefits of vaccination.

Some businesses and others may worry about legal liability, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has as yet only given what is called an emergency use authorization for the vaccines. Worse, employees of private businesses may walk rather than get a shot. Retail customers may not want to carry around vaccination cards. This is a real concern and businesses have to make practical judgments day by day.

But the bottom line is that vaccinations must be encouraged: The largest field trial in medical history has shown how valuable are vaccinations in saving lives. That’s worth making vaccine mandates part of daily life, and soon.

Our Views: A fourth virus surge brings tragedies of 2020 back