Biden doubles down on vaccine mandates, pointing to increased uptake and limited resignations

President Joe Biden is hammering home his administration’s stance that COVID-19 vaccination requirements are not only effective in improving vaccination rates but are a boon to the U.S. workforce and economy.

Last month, the Biden administration announced that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and other federal agencies will soon require employers to vaccinate their workforces.

The president said these mandates weren’t his “first instinct,” but that the decision was necessary after voluntary vaccination petered out during the summer and the delta variant fueled a new wave of cases.

“We know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated, it’s as simple as that,” the president said Thursday during a speech held outside of Chicago. “While I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements that everyone get vaccinated where I had the authority to do that.”

Biden said requirements from early movers have already led to a substantial increase in vaccination rates.

According to a report released concurrently by the White House, the number of unvaccinated Americans has dropped by nearly a third from late July when the first federal government vaccination requirement was announced.

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The administration said that, to date, vaccination requirements are in place at 25% of all private businesses. Further, individual organizations across healthcare, education, the public sector and other private businesses that have set mandates “have seen their vaccination rates increase by more than 20 percentage points and have routinely seen their share of fully vaccinated workers rise above 90%,” according to the White House’s analysis.

Within the healthcare sector alone, the White House said that nearly 2,500 hospitals—about 40% of all U.S. hospitals—have now announced vaccinated requirements for their workforces. Eight states and the District of Columbia are requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated, with another four requiring either vaccination or regular testing.

“If you seek care at a healthcare facility, you should have a certainty that the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you,” Biden said.

The administration’s report name-dropped a handful of large systems such as Trinity Health, Henry Ford Health System, UNC Health and Novant Health that have boosted their vaccination rates to 96% or greater since announcing a workforce mandate. It also spoke to the threat of “widespread resignations,” citing early reports that workforce losses tied to the requirements are minimal.

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“Healthcare worker vaccination requirements have been shown to work time and time again,” the administration wrote in the report. “They boost vaccination rates and result in limited resignations and dismissals. They are an essential tool to help protect U.S. patients and healthcare personnel.”

On the subject of labor, the White House’s report also cited a Goldman Sachs analysis suggesting that “almost full vaccination at workplaces should encourage many of the 5 million workers that have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic to return.”

Additionally, higher vaccination rates would limit employee hospitalizations and COVID-related shutdowns, thereby boosting the broader U.S. economy, the president said.

These benefits—along with polls from Axios, Gallup and Fox News indicating majority public support for employee vaccination requirements—make a case for more organizations across the U.S. to adopt a vaccinate mandate, the president said.

“Today I’m calling on more employers to act,” he said. "My message is: Require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we're going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools."