Why Fauci predicts a boost in employer vaccine mandates

Momentum is building as Google, Microsoft and others require workers to get inoculated.
By: | August 9, 2021

After months of encouraging employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with education campaigns, reminders, paid time off and more, many employers are taking the next step: requiring all or some of their workers to get inoculated.

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The movement comes as vaccine rates wane and the Delta variant spreads quickly across the nation, posing big problems because the variant is more transmissible and potentially more deadly than the original strand. President Biden, too, recently called on more employers to mandate vaccines.

And on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed hope that the Food and Drug Administration would soon give full approval to COVID vaccines, predicting that would prompt organizations to move toward mandates. Speaking on NBC News’ Meet the Press, Fauci cautioned that as an independent body, the FDA makes its own decisions but that he is optimistic the approval is coming soon. “I don’t predict, but I hope that it’s in the next few weeks. I hope that it’s within the month of August.”

Although some employers already are requiring employees to receive COVID vaccines, Fauci said he expects the full blessing of the FDA will encourage many more mandates.

“You’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises giving mandates,” he said. “That could be colleges, universities, places of businesses, a whole variety, and I strongly support that. The time has come. We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”

Here are some employers that recently have announced vaccination mandates for their employees as “the rise of the Delta variant has really raised the stakes,” says Justin Holland, CEO and founder of HealthJoy, a benefits company that works with some 700 employers.

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Delta Airlines

The airlines announced in May that it would require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, effective May 17. However, the company noted in its statement that it “will not be putting in place a company-wide mandate to require current employees to be vaccinated.”

Equinox

Fitness company Equinox, which owns SoulCycle, announced it will require its employees to show one-time proof of vaccination to enter Equinox clubs, SoulCycle studios, and corporate offices, starting in New York City in early September. It also will require customers to do the same. The company says one-time proof of vaccination can be provided in the form of a paper immunization card, a photo of an immunization card, or a digital vaccine card. “We have a responsibility to take bold action and respond to changing circumstances with urgency,” says Harvey Spevak, Equinox Group executive chairman, managing partner. “We encourage other leading brands to join us in this effort to best protect our communities.”

Related: Want to get workers vaccinated? Try these 6 strategies

Facebook

The social media giant said it will require all employees coming to its offices to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Google

Google became one of the first high-profile companies to announce it will require workers to roll up their sleeves. In a blog post on July 28, the tech giant said anyone coming to work on its campuses will need to be vaccinated. “We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months. The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said in the post. “You’ll get guidance from your local leads about how this will affect you, and we’ll also share more details on an exceptions process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other protected reasons.”

Microsoft

The tech giant says it will now require employees to be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other worksites, starting in September, according to The Seattle Times.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley recently told employees they have to be vaccinated before returning to New York offices. Employees, contingent workers, clients and visitors are required to confirm they have been vaccinated before entering Morgan Stanley buildings in New York City and Westchester County. That policy went into effect on July 12.

Saks

Retailer Saks is requiring that its workers be fully vaccinated before they return to the office in the fall, according to the New York Times.

Tyson

Tyson Foods is requiring its team members at U.S. office locations to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. All other team members are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, subject to ongoing discussions with locations represented by unions, the company said in a statement. The company noted that almost half of Tyson Foods’ U.S. workforce has been vaccinated and coronavirus infection rates among team members remain low.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” says Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.”

United Airlines

The airline carrier said it is requiring its 67,000 employees to get vaccinated.

Walgreens

The pharmacy company announced that its employees based in its U.S. support offices will be required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. Team members who work in these locations and who are unable to be vaccinated will need to enroll in a COVID-19 testing program.

Walmart

The retail giant announced it will require all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by Oct. 4, unless they have an approved exception. “As we all know, the pandemic is not over, and the Delta variant has led to an increase in infection rates across much of the U.S.,” Walmart CEO and President Doug McMillon said in a statement.

The Walt Disney Company

Disney is requiring all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in the US to be vaccinated. Workers who are working on-site but are not yet vaccinated must do so within the next 60 days, CNN reported. All new hires must be fully vaccinated before beginning their jobs.

The Washington Post

All Washington Post employees will be required to show proof of COVID vaccine “as a condition of employment,” according to a July 27 tweet from Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi. There are exceptions however for documented medical conditions and religious concerns.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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