Biden, a convert to vaccine mandates, champions compliance

President Biden gets a COVID-19 booster shot. Photo Date: 9/27/2021. Credit: The White House.

He had ruled out such mandates before taking office in January, but they're now a tactic he feels forced into using.

Posted: Oct 7, 2021 5:09 PM

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Il. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday championed COVID-19 vaccination requirements, determined that the roughly 67 million unvaccinated American adults must get the shot even as he acknowledged that mandates weren't his “first instinct.”

Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office in January, but they now are a tactic he feels forced into using by a stubborn slice of the public that has refused to be inoculated and has jeopardized the lives of others and the nation's economic recovery.

“There is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of the American people vaccinated,” Biden said in suburban Chicago at an event promoting the mandates. “While I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements.”

In the coming weeks, more than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by Biden. And his administration is encouraging employers to take additional steps voluntarily that would push vaccines on people or subject them to onerous testing requirements.

Forcing people to do something they do not want to do is rarely a winning political strategy. Yet with the majority of the country already vaccinated and with industry on his side, Biden has emerged as an unlikely advocate of browbeating tactics to drive vaccinations.

“Look, I know that vaccination requirements are a tough medicine — unpopular to some, politics for others — but they’re lifesaving, they’re game-changing for our country," Biden said.

But the requirements have drawn widespread public support. People are hoping to put behind a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 700,000 in the United States, and businesses see vaccinations as a road map toward a revitalized economic.

Biden took that message to a construction site run by Clayco, a large building firm that announced a new vaccinate-or-test requirement for its workforce in conjunction with Biden's visit. The company is taking action weeks before a forthcoming rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will require all employers with more than 100 employees to require that their staffs be vaccinated or face weekly testing for the coronavirus.

“You’re setting an example and a powerful example," Biden told company officials. “I’m calling on more employers to act.”

Biden encouraged other businesses to follow suit by taking action before the OSHA rule and to go even further by requiring shots for their employees without offering a test-out option.

Biden also met with the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, whose company successfully implemented a vaccine mandate, with no option for workers to be tested instead. Less than 1% have failed to comply and risk termination.

Biden's mandates have “worked spectacularly well,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University’s law school. He added that the president's rules have also had a “modeling effect” for cities, states and businesses. That’s what the White House intended.

U.S. officials began anticipating the need for a more forceful vaccination campaign by April, when the nation's supply of shots began to outpace demand. Political conditions meant immediate steps to require shots would have likely proved counterproductive.

The idea of mandatory vaccination faced pushback from critics who argue it smacks of government overreach and takes away people’s rights to make their own medical decisions.

So first, officials engaged in a monthslong and multibillion-dollar education and incentives effort to persuade people to get the vaccines of their own accord.

It wasn't enough.

By midsummer, the more transmissible delta variant of the virus was eroding months of health and economic progress and the rate of new vaccinations had slowed to a trickle. Biden's strategy shifted from inducement to compulsion, with a slow, and deliberate heightening of vaccination restrictions.

“It’s a good political strategy, but it also is a good public health strategy, because once you have a lot of people that have already been vaccinated. then mandates become more acceptable,” Gostin said.

It started with a vaccination requirement for federal frontline health workers serving veterans in VA hospitals. Then the military, followed in steady succession by all healthcare workers reimbursed by the government, all federal workers, and then the more than 80 million Americans who work at mid- and large-size companies.

Nearly 100 million adult Americans were unvaccinated in July. That figure has been cut by one-third since federal, state and private-sector mandates have been imposed.

“Here’s the deal: These requirements are already proving that they work,” Biden said Thursday.

In conjunction with the president's trip to Chicago, the White House was releasing a report that outlines the early successes of vaccine mandates at driving up vaccination rates and tries to make the economic case for businesses and local governments to put mandates in place. It points to everything from reduced employee hours to diminished restaurant reservations in areas with fewer vaccinations, not to mention markedly reduced instances of serious illness and death from the virus in areas with higher vaccination rates.

Millions of workers, the White House notes, say they are still unable to work due to pandemic-related effects, because their workplaces have been shuttered or reduced service, or because they're afraid to work or can't get child care.

“The evidence has been overwhelmingly clear that these vaccine mandates work," said Charlie Anderson, director of economic policy and budget for the White House COVID-19 response team. "And so now, I think it’s a good time to lift up and say, ‘Now’s the time to move, if you haven’t yet.’”

While mandates are the ultimate tool to press Americans to get vaccinated, Biden has resisted, at least thus far, requiring shots or tests for interstate or international air travel, a move that legal experts say is within his powers. Officials said it was under consideration.

“We have a track record, and I think it’s clear, that shows that we’re pulling available levers to require vaccinations,” said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator. “And we’re not taking anything off the table.”

Miller reported from Washington.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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