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New vaccine mandates for 100 million Americans: What to know about Biden’s plan


As the pace of COVID-19 vaccination slows down and the delta variant surges in the US, President Joe Biden is rolling out a plan that will mandate vaccines for all federal employees and contractors who do business with the federal government, as well as health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid facilities. Additionally, businesses with over 100 employees must require their workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly for infection. The plan also includes booster shots for those already vaccinated.

This approach could reach about two-thirds of the US workforce, or up to 100 million people. In addition to the vaccination mandates, Biden announced that the government would double fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks. While stopping short of issuing requirements for all private businesses, the White House plan encourages entertainment venues like sports arenas and concert halls to require that patrons show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

The strategy also calls on state officials to make vaccinations mandatory for teachers and school staff. Currently, nine states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have vaccination requirements for K-12 educators. And the Department of Health and Human Services will require vaccinations in Head Start Programs, as well as schools run by the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Indian Education. 

Here’s what you need to know about who’s required to get COVID-19 vaccines under the new administration plan, as well as the latest on booster shots and vaccines for kids.

Who falls under the new federal vaccination mandate?

Announcing “a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated to combat those blocking public health,” Biden rolled out his administration’s Path out of the Pandemic program, which aims to increase the vaccination rate by requiring shots across public and private sectors. Roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine have not been vaccinated.

Here’s who would be required to be vaccinated under the plan:

  • Employers with 100 or more employees will be required to have their employees either be fully vaccinated or get tested weekly to come to work. Biden said OSHA, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would implement the requirements that would affect more than 80 million workers.
  • Federal workers and employees of contractors that do business with the federal government will be required to be vaccinated.
  • Workers in health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, including hospitals and home health agencies, will also have to be fully vaccinated.

The president also called on entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter their facilities.

In response, Republican governors are threatening to fight the administration’s new policies.

What companies and businesses are implementing employee vaccination mandates? 

Several companies have announced plans for mandatory vaccinations, including airlines, cruise lines, concert halls, health care facilities and restaurants. Some of the requirements may include mask and testing guidelines, and some may only apply to employees traveling internationally, working in the office or having face-to-face interactions with customers. If any of these applies to you, check with your employer for more details. 

Here are some of the companies that have announced vaccination requirements for employees:

  • Amtrak
  • Google
  • Lyft
  • McDonald’s
  • Microsoft
  • NBCUniversal
  • Netflix
  • Salesforce
  • Twitter
  • Tyson Foods
  • Uber
  • United Airlines
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

What about vaccine mandates for the US military and police? 

In August, the Pentagon said that all 1.3 million active-duty service members will need to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The directive covers all members of the Armed Forces on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard. The Department of Defense will make Pfizer shots accessible on bases around the world. Service members who have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines will still be considered fully vaccinated. There are some exemptions, including one for religious reasons, but it isn’t granted frequently. 

In response to several cities requiring law enforcement officers get vaccinated, police associations have come out openly against vaccine mandates. In Oregon, for example, police and firefighter associations are suing to block a state vaccine requirement. 

What about cities, states and universities with vaccination mandates? 

Several states, including California and New York, require state employees to be vaccinated. Additionally, several cities, like New York City and San Francisco. require proof of vaccination for inside dining, gyms and other indoor activities. Starting in October, Los Angeles County will require proof of vaccination to enter indoor bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries.

Nine states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have vaccination requirements for staff in K-12 schools

More than 400 colleges and universities are also requiring vaccines for students who plan to take in-person classes. 

Are any other vaccines mandated in the US?

Yes. A federal vaccine mandate is not new. In 1977, for example, the federal government began an initiative to vaccinate up to 90% of the nation’s children against seven diseases:

  • diphtheria
  • measles
  • mumps
  • pertussis
  • poliomyelitis
  • rubella
  • tetanus

All 50 states require specified vaccines for students, with exemptions varying from state to state. Most school requirements follow the CDC’s vaccine schedule for children.

Which states are banning vaccination requirements?

At least 20 states, including Arkansas, Florida and Texas, prohibit proof-of-vaccination requirements. That means businesses, schools and local government institutions can’t enforce a vaccine mandate. (The same goes for requiring face masks.) The prohibitions came into effect through either legislation or executive orders. 

Some governors are trying to prevent private employers, as well as the state, from requiring vaccines, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. Some are also trying to prevent the use of vaccine passports, which show proof you’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus.

For more information, here’s what to know about breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated. Also, here’s what we know about the delta plus variant.

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