Vaccine mandates are no longer exclusively occurring in the private sector in the US.
While huge corporations like Uber, Google, Walmart, Disney, the Washington Post, have stated they will require proof of vaccination status for employees to return to the office, US federal, state and city governments are now following suit.
Today, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced all school staff and Department of Education employees must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 27 September to halt the Delta variant.
In doing this, New York City is following in the footsteps of Washington State, and the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago.
According to New York City government’s Health department data, there were 1,704 cases on 22 August, and this is higher than seven days prior, with the Delta variant accounting for 94% of tested cases.
This mandate means school staff in New York City will no longer have the option to submit to weekly testing instead of being vaccinated, according to the New York Times. The vaccine mandate is expected to affect 148,000 employees across the city; it is estimated that only around 75% of them are currently vaccinated.
This decision comes on the same day that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine – previously the vaccine had only been granted emergency approval by the FDA.
This means that employees can no longer reject mandates based arguments that all COVID-19 vaccines are experimental as hospital employees at Houston Methodist tried (unsuccessfully) to do earlier in the summer.
The New York Times reported that the United Federation of Teachers union is backing the move by de Blasio, but they are still negotiating what refusal to comply with the mandate will mean for staff and their jobs, or if there will be exemptions.
This move by New York City comes within a week of US President Joe Biden announcing that all nursing home staff across the US will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or they could lose their jobs and their employer could lose state funding.
The question is will these moves push governments to introduce mandates for other frontline industries, as well as buoy more big corporations to also copy in an attempt to open their offices safely?
Only time will tell. However, the continuing surge of COVID-19 cases in the US, and a strong reluctance to return to lockdowns, suggests that we are unlikely to see the end or slowdown of vaccine mandates in the US any time soon.
This especially likely since US employees have indicated their support for these policies, even if they are not currently subject to them, in order to protect themselves and their colleagues from contracting COVID-19.
However, labor laws in the rest of the world could create difficulties for employers based there wanting to mandate vaccines at work.