Biden pushes US federal officials to get vaccinated – .

Biden pushes US federal officials to get vaccinated – .

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced new pandemic requirements to increase vaccination rates for millions of federal workers and contractors as he lamented the ‘American tragedy’ of rising deaths again preventable among the unvaccinated.

Federal workers will need to sign forms certifying they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more. The tough new guidelines aim to increase slow vaccination rates among the large number of Americans who draw federal paychecks – and set an example for private employers across the country.

“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and saying, ‘If I had just received the vaccine,’ Biden said in a grim speech from the East Room of the White House. “It’s an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die. “

However, hindsight is certain from Biden’s action. This puts him squarely at the center of a fierce political debate surrounding the government’s ability to force Americans to follow public health guidelines.

The federal government directly employs around 4 million people, but Biden’s action could affect a lot more when federal contractors are factored in. New York University public service professor Paul Light estimates that there are nearly 7 million additional employees who could potentially be included, combining those who work for companies that contract with the government and those working under federal grants.

Biden, apparently tired of the persistent vaccine resistance among many Americans, strongly berated those who had not yet received vaccines, saying “they are getting sick and filling our hospitals,” taking beds away from those who have them. need.

“If in fact you are not vaccinated, you present a problem to yourself, your family and those you work with,” he said bluntly.

At the same time, he expressed his sympathy for the people who have received their vaccines and are “frustrated by the consequences of the minority who do not get vaccinated”. And he again stressed that the fight against the virus is far from over, allowing Americans to remain strong in the face of the pandemic’s setbacks.

“I know it’s hard to hear. I know it is frustrating. I know it’s exhausting to think we’re still in this fight. I know we were hoping it would be a simple and straightforward line with no issues or new challenges. But this is not the case. t real life, ”he said.

His comments came after 60% of American adults have been fully immunized. He had set a target for July 4 to get at least one shot in 70% of adults, and is still not there. The latest figure is 69.3%. And there remains significant resistance from many Republicans and some unions to vaccine mandates for employers.

Reflecting an awareness of the political landmines surrounding the mandates, administration officials stress that their plan does not require workers to receive the vaccine but aims to make life more difficult for those who are not vaccinated for them. encourage compliance. Biden has asked his team to take action to apply similar requirements to all federal contractors.

He also asked the Defense Ministry to consider adding the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of mandatory vaccinations for members of the military. The military must already receive up to 17 vaccines, depending on where they are based in the world.

Time and time again, the President has reiterated that the vast majority of people falling ill and dying in the new wave of the delta virus are not vaccinated, putting others at risk and endangering the country’s fragile economic recovery and return to health. normal.

“It’s an American blessing that we have vaccines for every American. It’s such a shame to waste this blessing, ”Biden said.

He praised the recent increase in the number of Republican lawmakers urging those who are not vaccinated – many of whom, according to polls, identify as conservatives – to get vaccinated. And seeking to push back the skepticism of some Republicans about the safety of the vaccine, he praised his predecessor Donald Trump, noting that it had been “developed and licensed under a Republican administration.”

“These are not red states and blue states,” he said. “It is literally life and death, life and death. “

Biden renewed his calls for schools to fully open this fall, although children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. And he said public health officials do not yet believe Americans need a booster vaccine despite the highly contagious delta variant fueling the outbreak.

The new pressure on workers to get vaccinated could work as evidence shows people would rather get vaccinated than face loads they consider expensive at work, said Lawrence Gostin, professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law School.

“People much prefer to roll up their sleeves and receive a jab, rather than undergo weekly testing and universal masking,” he said. “In many ways it’s really not a mandate, it gives workers a choice. “

Thursday’s decision isn’t just about federal workers.

The administration hopes it will push private companies to push their workers harder to obtain vaccines that, while widely recognized as safe and effective, have yet to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“I think we’ve reached that tipping point, and Biden’s announcement will provide a lot of airline coverage for companies and boards of directors that have to make tough decisions,” said Jeff Hyman, an author and recruiter for Chicago based business. companies.

Some of the biggest companies in the country have decided to require vaccinations for their workers. Tech giants Facebook and Google announced this week that their employees would have to prove they were fully immunized before returning to work.

Delta and United Airlines require new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are demanding that workers disclose their vaccination status, but do not require them to be vaccinated.

But less than 10% of employers said they intended to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys conducted by research firm Gartner.

Yet there is opposition.

U.S. state lawmakers have introduced more than 100 bills to ban employers from requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. At least six states have approved such bills.

The Justice Department and the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have both said that there is no federal law preventing companies from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment and that federal policy would precedence. But the “medical freedom” bills underscore the resistance that such guidance may encounter at the state level.

Government actions in New York and California have met with resistance from local unions. And before Biden’s announcement, some national unions opposed it.

Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents 30,000 federal officers and agents, said in a statement as the organization supports the vaccine it opposes.

“Forcing people to undergo a medical procedure is not the American method and is a flagrant violation of civil rights no matter how supporters may seek to justify it,” he said.


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