COVID vaccination rules will multiply after the vaccine is absolutely authorized by the FDA
The full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration has sparked a spate of vaccination regulations in the United States that will lead millions of Americans to either get vaccinated or face serious consequences.
Those covered by vaccine requirements following Monday’s action now include the U.S. military, teachers and public school workers in New York City, all teachers and government employees in New Jersey, students in multiple university systems, corporate employees, and Pharmacists from CVS Health; and 30,000 unionized workers at Disney World.
That adds to the millions of Americans for whom postponing the COVID-19 vaccination could mean anything, from having to get tested for the virus every week to losing their jobs or being banned from school.
“Full approval is going to be a much bigger thing than people think,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Although the vaccination rate in the US has increased in recent weeks, it remains at less than a quarter of its high from early April, when nearly 2 million people received the vaccination every day.
Surveys show that an estimated 30% of Americans are reluctant to get vaccinated. Approximately 61% of Americans had received at least one injection of a COVID-19 vaccine by Tuesday; 51% were fully vaccinated.
“The only thing that will really work is mandates, and since the federal government has limited influence, individual companies and hospitals will be making those decisions,” Murphy said.
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Not much has changed legally for companies, even though the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has already received an emergency approval.
“But it does add an extra level of convenience,” said Nicholas Diamond, who heads the Global Health Group at the Crowell & Moring law firm.
Legal protection existed for mandates before the full license was granted. In July the Justice Department said:The emergency permit did not prohibit employers from requesting COVID-19 vaccines.
That didn’t stop legal challenges and state legislative discussions, but the FDA’s official license makes those arguments moot.
“Now that the change has been made, I expect new requirements to come in over the next few weeks,” said Diamond.
The biggest to date came hours after the FDA announced it from the U.S. military, who said it would require vaccination against COVID-19 for all service members.
“We are currently preparing the instructions for the troops,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
The mandate applies to all 1.3 million US soldiers. The Department of Defense maintains 17 vaccines, depending on a soldier’s occupation, location, and mission requirements.
“We have to look at every single lever the federal government can pull,” said Jeff Zients, COVID-19 response coordinator for the White House, on Tuesday. “We expect more and more vaccination requirements.”
Schools, Universities and Employees
Universities are among the first to use admission as a trigger for mandates.
The University of Minnesota has movedForward Monday with its plans to add COVID-19 to the list of vaccines required for all 67,000 enrolled students and vaccinate all 23,000 faculty and staff across the system’s five locations.
Ohio State University, of 68,000 students and 45,000 faculty and staff, announced Tuesday that everyone must receive at least one dose of vaccine by October 15.
Louisiana State University President William F. Tate IV said the university would communicate with students about the mandate by Tuesday. The Baton Rouge campus has nearly 35,000 students.
The University of Louisiana has also announced that COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for the spring semester. The Louisiana state government announced Monday that all 70,000 state employees who are not vaccinated will undergo mandatory testing and “other requirements” once fully approved.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about 750 colleges have needed COVID-19 vaccines to date. Those who need vaccines for in-person teaching are mostly located in blue states, but most universities strongly encourage or otherwise ask students to get vaccinated.
The country’s largest medical organization, the American Medical Association, urged the public and private sectors to take on mandates, saying incentives didn’t get the nation where it needed to be.
“The AMA has a solid vaccine mandate policy – a tool that has been used for generations in the US and around the world to defeat polio, measles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases. And now we are calling for similar mandates to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, “AMA President Dr. Gerald Harmon said in a statement.
The effort must be made locally, as it cannot be done at the national level. There are no federal mandates, in part because the U.S. Constitution doesn’t have such provisions for them, Northwestern’s Murphy said.
“Our constitution says nothing about public health,” he said, “because there was no such thing (like public health) when it was written.”
Contact Elizabeth Weise at [email protected]