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The Biden administration says new COVID-19 vaccine mandates have cut the ranks of unvaccinated Americans by one third — from 97 million who were eligible but unvaccinated when the requirements were announced to 67 million today.
The administration is touting the success of the new mandates ahead of the president’s planned trip to Chicago on Thursday, where he is expected to defend his tough stance on vaccines.
The new mandates ― which target a large swath of workers at various types of workplaces ― were first announced on September 9.
In a detailed report, the administration says 3500 organizations — 25% of all businesses ― have already instituted mandates ahead of new rules being drafted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will compel companies with over 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly testing for their workers.
“Mandates Are Working”
The new report is a rebuttal to Republican governors and others who have blasted the mandates as unprecedented and unconstitutional government overreach.
It also comes days after several large health systems announced that they were planning to fire or suspend hundreds of workers for failing to get their shots. Kaiser Permanente, for example, announced they were placing 2200 workers — roughly 1% of their estimated 216,000 employees ― on unpaid administrative leave nationwide for refusing vaccination.
These workers represent a small percentage of the 17 million healthcare workers who will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under the president’s new mandates, but even small losses are painful in an industry that’s already under pressure from staffing shortages.
“We can’t afford to lose anybody at this point,” John Brownstein, PhD, told ABC News. Brownstein is an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“By and large, vaccine mandates are working. Those in healthcare are taking these vaccines incredibly seriously to protect themselves and their patients,” he said.
The new White House report says 40% of hospitals have already put vaccination requirements in place. Colleges and universities serving about 37% of all students have also required vaccines for their employees.
The report touts a range of economic benefits. It says the vaccine requirements could encourage 5 million workers who have left the labor force to return and that they could cut absenteeism because of COVID-19.
The report shows that the number of workers who reported that they had missed work because they had had COVID-19 or were caring for someone who had had it doubled from 2.8 million in late June to 5 million in September.
The report also rejects the idea that these mandates are without historical precedent. The authors point out that George Washington required smallpox inoculations for soldiers under his command in 1777. Smallpox largely disappeared after the requirement went into effect.
In addition, the report highlights case studies in which vaccine mandates slashed the rates of disease in schools and nursing homes.
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