On September 16, 2021, President Biden, in an effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, mandated the COVID vaccine for nearly 100 million Americans, ranging from private-sector employees to health care workers and federal contractors.
In July, many people, including Biden, believed that the nation had achieved “independence” from the virus. However, the US is now seeing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections daily, about 2.5 times more hospitalizations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to September 2020. Right now, 97% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, yet just over 62% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated. Of course, that still means a small percentage of vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized; however, many experts believes that vaccines, along with proper masking and social distancing, are the best way to: stop potential future waves of the virus, reduce deaths and hospitalizations, and alleviate the stress on the healthcare system.
Contrary to his statements against vaccine mandates at the beginning of 2021, Biden most likely resorted to vaccine mandates due to a lack of response to the state and federal monetary incentives to get vaccinated. In order to combat the strong vaccine hesitancy instilled throughout the nation, the administration, using OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) will require vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers, along with several million federal workers and contractors. However, the most significant portion of the mandate, affecting about 80 million Americans, states that all companies with more than 100 employees are required to vaccinate or weekly test their workers for COVID-19. Federal workers who fail to comply may face potential termination, while companies who do not comply may face substantial fines of up to $14,000. At least the rule also requires that large companies provide paid time off to get vaccinated.
Be that as it may, Biden is facing heavy opposition from Republican leaders and the RNC (Republican National Committee), who say Biden is overreaching his federal authority when mandating vaccines for private companies and workers. In fact, they have begun to issue legal challenges, going off the past precedent that OSHA has lost cases on emergency mandates. They also argue that these mandates further divide the country, although proponents of the mandates believe that this misguided opposition is the true cause of the country’s division.
Despite the opposition, an AP-NORC poll in August found that 55% of Americans favor vaccine mandates for federal workers, health care workers, teachers, and public workers. Even if the legal challenges have some merit, Biden hopes the mandates not only motivate hesitant people to get vaccinated but also motivate companies to mandate the vaccine, because companies can now justify doing so.
Overall, the administration believes that a full recovery of the US economy depends on stopping the pandemic, which can only truly be done when a majority of the population is vaccinated. There is still more work to be done with children under 12, who are not even approved to get the vaccine yet. However, if everyone reading this article gets the vaccine, you can do your part in not only saving your life, but also helping our nation as a whole.