By Zachary Stieber
President Joe Biden said on Aug. 23 that U.S. companies should impose vaccination requirements.
“Today I’m calling on more companies in the private sector to step up with vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people. If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that,” Biden said.
“Require it. Do what I did last month. Require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23, making it the first vaccine to receive approval from the drug regulator.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Agency officials said clinical trial data show that the vaccine is effective in preventing infection from the virus, as well as limiting the severity of the disease and the cases of hospitalization, in regard to breakthrough infections.
Some companies, jurisdictions, and groups have been hesitating to mandating vaccines. One motivation, some said, was that no COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the FDA, aside from emergency use authorization.
Shortly after the FDA’s announcement, New York mandated vaccines for teachers and other educators, New Jersey imposed requirements for educators and state workers, and the Pentagon mandated the Pfizer vaccine for service members.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top adviser to Biden, said earlier this month that he expected numerous mandates to be imposed once a vaccine received full FDA approval.
Biden issued new rules last month that require federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.
“Vaccination requirements have been around for decades. Students, health care professionals, our troops are typically required to receive vaccinations to prevent everything from polio to smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella,” Biden said on Aug. 23. “In fact, the reason most people in America don’t worry about polio, smallpox, measles, mumps, and rubella today is because of vaccines. It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House that administration officials had already started in recent weeks to push businesses to require vaccination.
“You’ve seen a number of senior officials be more forward-leaning, I should say, about the role that private sector can play in mandating vaccines or taking steps with their own workforces,” she said. “That is always going to be decisions for them to make. But some may assess, and some private sector companies have spoken out about, how final approval of the vaccine may help them take that additional step. So we are here, and we are here to be a resource as they have questions. But certainly, we’re hopeful this will help put in place additional measures around the country.”
While Biden’s order lets federal workers choose not to get a vaccine, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs have mandated vaccines. People can only avoid getting a vaccine if they claim a medical or religious exemption and that claim is approved.
Asked if the president would mandate vaccines across the federal workforce, Psaki said she expected action to be left to individual agencies.
While the White House supports mandates, other officials and groups have questioned them.
The American Postal Workers Union was one of a number of unions to come out against a mandate in a recent statement,
“If effectiveness of the vaccine against spread of Delta is unmeasured, and if natural immunity (from prior infection) works as well or better than the vaccine against Delta, what’s the scientific basis for a COVID vaccine mandate that doesn’t recognize natural immunity?” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) wrote on Twitter last week.
Massie and dozens of other members of the House sponsored a bill in June to bar military members from being punished if they refuse COVID-19 vaccination. However, the bill is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled chamber.