February 23, 2024

A Tipping Point for Vaccine Mandates?


Pressure Mounts for Businesses to Require Vaccinations

Today, President Biden is expected to announce that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, masking requirements and restrictions on most travel. Earlier this week, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers issued their opinion that federal law doesn't prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines – even if the vaccines have only emergency use authorization. 

Meanwhile, as the Delta variant continues to drive a rapid surge in new COVID-19 cases, major businesses, trade organizations and local governments have announced new plans to mandate vaccines for workers. Here’s a recap of this week’s developments:

  • In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that roughly 340,000 city workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19  by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing. He’s also urging New York businesses to require employee vaccinations.
  • In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers must be vaccinated or face at least weekly testing.
  • The American Medical Association joined with 56 other public health organizations calling for all healthcare and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Big tech firms Google, Facebook and Lyft announced new vaccine requirements for employees returning to offices. Google also pushed back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September, joining a host of other companies whose plans have been scrambled in recent days.
  • The National Football League is fielding strong reactions from players and coaches over a vaccine policy announced last week that would penalize teams for COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Friday that “virtually” all of the league’s coaches and support staff have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and 80% of the players have received at least one dose.
  • Netflix said yesterday it would require the cast members of all its U.S. productions to be vaccinated, along with anyone else who comes on set. 
  • Twitter was already requiring employees who returned to the office to show proof of vaccination, but the company took the additional step this week of closing its offices in New York and San Francisco completely and pausing further office reopenings.
  • Starting today, Apple will require all workers and customers to wear masks in many of its U.S. retail stores, regardless of vaccination status. And Walt Disney World will require all guests to wear masks indoors, beginning tomorrow.
  • The San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance — a group that represents 300 businesses — announced Monday that its members have decided to limit indoor service to those who have been vaccinated or can prove they are COVID-free.

To help businesses navigate changing public health guidance, surging rates of new COVID-19 infection and partially vaccinated workforces, Health Action Alliance and National Safety Council experts have developed a Decision Tool For Employers. This interactive online resource is designed to help executives, human resource managers and operational leaders navigate the health, legal and other considerations that can inform their vaccination policy and other workplace safety decisions. 


The Decision Tool was developed using public health recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safety guidance offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), legal considerations established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and additional recommendations based upon conversations with employers and employee polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

All employers are encouraged to develop a COVID-19 response plan and continue to evaluate and update that plan as the pandemic and federal, state and local guidance evolves.