ANEAR MONTHS of begging Americans to get vaccinated, President Joe Biden stopped asking nicely. On September 9, the Biden administration announced a requirement to get vaccinated or tested regularly that will affect everyone who works for a private company with more than 100 employees as well as the federal workforce, at large. That’s about 100 million Americans in total, of which 25 million are unvaccinated. Will it work?
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There are clear reasons for taking this unusual step. Only 54% of Americans are fully immunized, meaning the country lags behind its peers. In Canada and Britain, 69% and 65% of people are fully vaccinated respectively, according to the University of Oxford. Japan initially experienced a disastrous deployment. A month before the start of the Olympics in July, only 18% of the Japanese population received the jab. But Japan has now overtaken America in the first doses administered (65% against 63%). With 663,325 deaths from covid-19, America will soon exceed the death toll from the 1918 influenza pandemic (675,000).
According to Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, the new federal requirements could result in the vaccination of an additional 12 million Americans by mid-2022, increasing the proportion of adults who have received at least one dose to 90%. Critics of the requirements warn of a potential backlash, however. Up to 7 million workers say they will not be vaccinated. More than 150 hospital workers have been fired or resigned due to a covid-19 vaccination warrant at a hospital in Houston, Texas. A hospital in Lowville, a city of about 3,000 residents in upstate New York, is suspending maternity services because several workers have quit due to covid-19 vaccination warrants.
However, other covid-19 vaccine requirements have had some success. The mandate for New York health care workers to be vaccinated appears to have lowered the vaccination rate for this group from 75 to 80 percent. The Department of Veterans Affairs, where a mandate for healthcare workers took effect in July, has seen vaccination rates rise five percentage points, to 82%. The test requirements were also successful. New York City’s vaccination rate has improved since the mayor announced a vaccination or testing requirement for diners’ access to the restaurant. And despite all the emphasis on disgruntled workers forced to get vaccinated, there is also a group that does not return to work because they are afraid. Goldman Sachs believes the requirements could prompt 3m to return to work.
The mandate will only work if it remains in effect, however. The armed forces have required vaccinations for over 200 years. Children in public schools need to be vaccinated against childhood illnesses and about 95% have the required vaccines. Many hospitals require workers to be vaccinated against several diseases. Yet such is the policy of masks and vaccines that he is more vulnerable. Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, wrote that “the federal government tries to dictate … Not under my watch in Texas”. Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina, said he would “fight them to the gates of hell to protect the freedom and livelihoods of every South Carolina.”
The testing and vaccination requirements for companies will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency. It generally covers risks in the workplace, for example requiring protective glasses. Vaccination and testing requirements could matter, as long as they protect employees from “serious danger.”
Corn OSHA has faced legal challenges before, says Walter Olson of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. OSHA used his emergency authority nine times before the pandemic. Six of the cases have gone to court and only one has been fully confirmed. In the longer term, an agency few Americans have heard of risks being caught in a war of Republican messages. Already, some House Republicans have threatened to introduce legislation gutting the LSST in response to the White House decision. It doesn’t matter as long as they’re in the minority. However, this will not always be the case. Courier bills have a habit of eventually becoming law. â
All of our pandemic and vaccine related stories can be found on our coronavirus hub. You can also find trackers showing the global vaccine rollout, excess deaths by country, and the spread of the virus across Europe.
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the title “Biden’s bidding”