Mr Biden announced last month that all federal employees and contractors on site must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or undergo regular testing and other measures. The requirement applied to the 766,372 civilians who work for the Department of Defense, but not to active-duty military personnel.
Mr. Austin has previously said he would not be comfortable with imposing a mandate until vaccines are fully approved by the FDA. Earlier this year, NewsMadura reported that there was an undercurrent of vaccine resistance in the armed forces.
Understanding Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the US
- Vaccine Rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies increasingly require vaccines for employees. Such mandates are permitted by law and have been confirmed in court proceedings.
- Mask Rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in July that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. Find out where CDC guidelines apply and where states have their own masking policies. The battle over masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are demanding that students be vaccinated against Covid-19. Nearly all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for educators. A survey published in August found that many U.S. parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who have not received their injections.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, citing the increasing caseload fueled by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination coverage in their communities, even within their workforce.
- New York City. Evidence of vaccination is required from employees and customers for indoor meals, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement will not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system must have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital employees should also receive a vaccine or be tested weekly. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced it would aim to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “by mid-September.” President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
The Department of Defense’s website states that as of August 18, more than a million military personnel have been vaccinated, along with more than 300,000 civilian employees.
New York City announced Monday that every employee of the city’s Department of Education, from directors to janitors, should receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. And Chevron became the first major US oil producer to have its field workers vaccinated.
Before the FDA’s announcement, the three coronavirus vaccines available in the United States, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, were all administered in the United States under an emergency use authorization. (The Pfizer vaccine will remain available on that basis for youth ages 12 to 15 and at additional doses for some immunocompromised people.)
The FDA’s approval move on Monday could strengthen the legal status of some mandates and pave the way for some organizations to impose stricter requirements and no longer allow employees to undergo frequent testing as an alternative to getting vaccinated.
Officials also hope full federal approval will clear up some of the misinformation about vaccines online and encourage more hesitant people to get vaccinated. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three in 10 unvaccinated people said they would be more likely to receive an injection once it was fully approved.
dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter on Monday that he thought full vaccine approval would make a difference, “mainly by giving confidence to companies, schools and yes, our military to mandate vaccines. And it’s already starting to happen.”