Biden's Vaccine Mandates Are Great, But They Aren't Immediately Helpful

by Amy Winter
Originally Published: 

Last week, President Biden announced a sweeping vaccine mandate aimed at American workers. This mandate couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, as the Delta variant is causing major outbreaks, crashing healthcare systems, sending thousands of Americans to the hospital, and causing about 1,500 people to lose their lives each day.

Something needed to be done, and with only 53% of the American population fully vaccinated, President Biden realized that he needed to do something drastic to get this pandemic under control. The mandates are expected to affect about two-thirds of American workers, or about 2.5 million workers.

According to the plan released by The White House, Federal workers, contract workers who work for federal agencies, and folks who work for Medicare and Medicaid will have to be vaccinated. Additionally, businesses that employ more than 100 workers will have to mandate vaccines for their workers (though in this case, workers can test weekly instead of being vaccinated).

The question is, is a vaccine mandate going to do much, in such a polarized moment in politics, and with just so much virus circulating all over the place?

According to The New York Times, the vaccine mandates will help, though it will take time to see much of an impact. First, you have to keep in mind that even if a large percentage of the people now mandated to take the vaccines go ahead and get vaccinated, it will take a couple of weeks for them to reach full immunity.

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“Some experts cautioned that the results from the aggressive plan would take many weeks to unfold. Immunization is not an instant process — at least six weeks for a two-dose vaccine,” Times writer Apoorva Mandavilli explains.

Six weeks from now, we will be well into fall, and bumping into the colder weeks and holiday season, when people start gathering indoors and spreading respiratory viruses like nobody’s business.

And all of this is assuming that people get vaccinated right away. As USA Today explains, it’s going to take a few weeks for the rules for businesses with 100+ employees to even go into effect, since OSHA still needs to make the rule official. Then once that happens, it will still take those pesky six weeks for people to get their full protection from the vaccine.

Additionally, of course, is the question of whether folks are going to even abide by these mandates. We’ve already seen that people are willing to lose their jobs rather than get vaccinated. Obviously, not everyone is going to be willing to do this, but some people are.

A poll put out by the Washington Post and ABC News found only about 18% of people who are unvaccinated would take the vaccine if their workplace mandated it. About 72% of those folks said they’d likely quit if they weren’t able to get out of mandate (for medical or religious reasons). Ummm, that’s a big freaking number!

Of course, as The Washington Post points out, things might be different for people when push comes to shove. If someone didn’t have a job lined up, or job options on the horizon, quitting over a vaccine mandate might not feel as possible.

On the other hand, people are feeling some kind of way about these mandates, and are going to fight them, try to find whatever exemptions they can, and yes—when possible, people are going to lie about their vaccine status, or try to get fake vaccine cards. Sorry, but it’s gonna happen. Sigh.


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Let’s also not forget about the fact that there are going to be tons of lawsuits about these mandates, especially in Republican controlled states. In fact, these law suits are starting up right now. It’s not clear how lawsuits will hinder the vaccinations of these workers, but you know the aim of filing endless law suits is to do just that.

I definitely don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here. Even if just 18% of people got vaccinated because of these mandates, that would be millions of people. Every shot counts, and gets us closer to being done with this damn pandemic. If the FDA would hurry up and approve vaccines for kids, that would help too (pretty please, with a cherry on top?).

Personally, as happy as I am for Biden to be mandating vaccines in whatever way he can, I wish his plan had emphasized the other measures we know can stop the spread of COVID and keep unvaccinated folks (like kids!) and other vulnerable people safe while this surge rages on.

Mandavilli says several experts told her that masks and other measures should be emphasized right now as much as vaccinations. “By insisting that vaccination is the way out of the pandemic, officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations have de-emphasized the importance of masks and testing in controlling the pandemic,” Mandavilli writes in the Times.

I totally agree, and wish that Biden would send every American a good quality mask as part of his push to protect us all and get us the hell out of this pandemic. Still, I totally agree that we’ve got to push as many people to get these vaccines a humanly possible. I’m really glad that Biden is putting his foot down and mandating vaccines for as many Americans as he can.

I’m crossing my fingers and toes that this will help, and that it will make an impact sooner than later.

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