Oct. 7, 2021 -- The Biden administration says new COVID-19 vaccine mandates have cut the ranks of unvaccinated Americans by one third — from 97 million who were eligible but unvaccinated when the requirements were announced to 67 million today.
President Joe Biden travels to Chicago today where he is expected to defend his tough stance on vaccines.
The new mandates ― which target a large swath of workers at various types of workplaces ― were first announced Sept. 9.
In a detailed report, the administration says 3,500 organizations — 25% of all businesses ― have already instituted mandates ahead of new rules being drafted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will compel companies with over 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly testing for their workers.
Speaking at a construction site in suburban Chicago, Biden praised large employers like United Airlines, Disney, Microsoft, and Walgreens that have already mandated vaccines for their workforce.
“Today, I’m calling on more employers to act. My message is require your employees to get vaccinated,” Biden said “Vaccinations are going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos at our hospitals, damage to our economy, and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants, much less commerce.”
‘Mandates Are Working’
The new report is a rebuttal to Republican governors and others who have blasted the mandates as unprecedented and unconstitutional government overreach.
It also comes days after several large health systems announced that they were planning to fire or suspend hundreds of workers for failing to get their shots. Kaiser Permanente, for example, announced they were placing 2,200 workers — roughly 1% of their estimated 216,000 total employees ― on unpaid administrative leave nationwide for refusing vaccination.
These workers represent a small percentage of the 17 million health care workers who will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under the president's new mandates, but even small losses are painful in an industry that's already under pressure from staffing shortages.
"We can't afford to lose anybody at this point," John Brownstein, PhD, told ABC News. Brownstein is an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital.
"By and large, vaccine mandates are working. Those in health care are taking these vaccines incredibly seriously to protect themselves and their patients," he said.
The new White House report says 40% of hospitals have already put vaccination requirements in place. Colleges and universities serving about 37% of all students have also required vaccines for their employees.
“More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved. Let’s be clear: When you see headlines and reports of mass firings, look at the bigger story,” Biden said.
The report touts a range of economic benefits. It says the vaccine requirements could encourage 5 million workers who have left the labor force to return and that they could cut absenteeism because of COVID-19.
The report shows that the number of workers who reported that they had missed work because they had had COVID-19 or were caring for someone who had had it doubled from 2.8 million in late June to 5 million in September.
The report also rejects the idea that these mandates are without historical precedent. The authors point out that George Washington required smallpox inoculations for soldiers under his command in 1777. Smallpox largely disappeared after the requirement went into effect.
“The reason most people in America don’t worry about polio, measles, mumps, rubella, is because they’ve been vaccinated,” Biden said, adding that the majority of Americans support vaccines.
In addition, the report highlights case studies in which vaccine mandates slashed the rates of disease in schools and nursing homes.