Vaccine Mandates Move Ahead After F.D.A. Approval of Pfizer Shot
Escrito por Pedro Mejia el agosto 23, 2021
Full federal approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for those 16 and older is opening the way for institutions like the military, corporate employers, hospitals and school districts to announce vaccine mandates for their employees.
National medical groups hailed the step. A joint statement by the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association called it “a major step forward in the worldwide effort to end this pandemic.”
“Today’s news marks a critical moment for people who were concerned about getting vaccinated due to the vaccines being authorized for emergency use,” the statement said. “With millions of data points on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy over nearly nine months of vaccinations, every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed.”
The groups added, “With the Delta variant surging, there has never been a better time to get vaccinated.”
One of the first and largest to move ahead was the Pentagon, which announced on Monday that it was moving ahead with plans to require all active-duty troops to be vaccinated. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will soon send specific vaccination guidelines to the country’s 1.4 million active-duty service members, the Pentagon said.
Mr. Austin had already received authorization from President Biden to mandate vaccines for troops once the vaccine was fully approved, and he is moving swiftly to put the plans into action, said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
“These efforts ensure the safety of our service members,” Mr. Kirby said during a news briefing on Monday. He said the deadline date for getting vaccinated was still being determined.
The move is intended to harden the country’s defenses against the highly contagious Delta variant, which has driven new cases and hospitalizations up across the country, especially in areas with low rates of vaccination, where many military bases are situated.
Mr. Biden announced last month that all federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or else submit to regular testing and other measures. The requirement applied to the 766,372 civilians working for the Defense Department, but not active-duty service members.
Mr. Austin has previously said that he would not be comfortable imposing a mandate before vaccines were fully approved by the F.D.A. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that there was an undercurrent of resistance to the vaccine in the armed forces.
The Defense Department’s website said that as of Aug. 18, more than one million service members have been vaccinated, along with more than 300,000 civilian employees.
Vaccine mandates for college students may also gather pace.
The F.D.A.’s approval brought into force a requirement in New York, announced in May, that all in-person students at State University of New York and City University of New York schools be vaccinated. CUNY’s website said that after federal approval students “have 45 days to get fully vaccinated or will be subject to potential academic withdrawal.”
The University of Minnesota System, with five campuses and 60,000 students, announced on Monday that the coronavirus vaccine would be added to the university’s list of mandatory immunizations. And the president of Louisiana State University told reporters that his school would also require vaccination. Each institution had previously said it would do so once the F.D.A. gave a coronavirus vaccine final approval.
The drugstore chain CVS said on Monday that its pharmacists would have to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30 and that all corporate employees and other workers who interact with patients had until Oct. 31 to comply. The requirement affects about 100,000 employees, the company said. Workers may request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, a union that represents around 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking and other fields, praised the approval as a way to convince hesitant people to get vaccinated but warned against mandates that did not take employees’ concerns into consideration.
New York City announced on Monday that every employee of the city’s Department of Education, from principals to janitors, would have to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. Hours later, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced that all state employees and employees of public, private and parochial schools in his state must be fully inoculated by Oct. 18 or be tested once or twice a week for the virus. And Chevron became the first major American oil producer to require its field workers to get vaccinated.
Before the F.D.A.’s announcement, the three coronavirus vaccines available in the United States, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, were all being administered in the United States under an emergency use authorization. (The Pfizer vaccine remains available on that basis for youths 12 to 15 and for extra doses for some immunocompromised people.)
The F.D.A.’s approval action on Monday could reinforce the legal standing of some mandates and pave the way for some organizations to impose stricter requirements and no longer allow employees the option of frequent testing as an alternative to getting vaccinated.
Officials also hope that full federal approval will quiet some of the vaccine misinformation online and induce more hesitant people to get vaccinated. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three out of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get a shot once it was fully approved.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, wrote on Twitter on Monday that he thought full approval of the vaccine would make a difference, “mostly by providing confidence to businesses, schools, and yes, our military to mandate vaccines. And it is already starting to happen.”
Stephanie Saul, Eliza Shapiro, Tracey Tully and Coral del Mar Murphy-Marcos contributed reporting.