Biden pushes benefits of COVID-19 vaccine mandates: ‘These requirements work’
President Biden on Thursday aggressively lobbied for vaccine requirements as an effective tool to end the pandemic, arguing mandates had become necessary to turn the corner on the pandemic.
“These requirements work. And as the Business Roundtable and others told me when I announced the first requirement, that encouraged businesses to feel they could come in and demand the same thing of their employees. More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved.”
Biden traveled to Illinois, where the state’s governor and the mayor of Chicago have implemented vaccine requirements for some workers, to lay out the case for why his administration has gotten more forceful in pushing for mandates.
Government officials had exhausted various other options to nudge people to get vaccinated, Biden argued. He said steps officials had taken included purchasing enough vaccines to ensure every American could get the shot, expanding eligibility and access, and offering incentives for those who were still holding out during the summer.
“We have to beat this thing,” Biden said. “So while I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I had to move toward requirements that everyone get vaccinated where I had the authority to do that.”
Biden sought to dismiss common criticisms from Republicans and others about vaccine requirements. He noted students and health care workers have for decades been required to get certain shots, and he argued only a small percentage of workers have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine despite media coverage of those instances.
The president, in a bid to appeal to conservatives, also leaned in close to the microphone and highlighted that Fox News has vaccine and testing requirements in place for its employees.
Biden was in Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago, where he toured a construction site being run by Clayco. The company announced Thursday it would be implementing a vaccination or testing requirement for its employees moving forward.
The president also met with Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) who have imposed vaccine requirements for state health care workers and city police officers, respectively.
“We need to heed the advice of the experts and we need to follow the advice of our president,” Lightfoot said. “And there’s so much that we can do together, but we’ll never be able to move forward unless we get this pandemic and the virus behind us.”
Biden’s speech comes as part of a broader effort from the White House in recent weeks to more vocally encourage vaccine mandates at private companies as a measure to turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic.
A White House analysis released in advance of Biden’s trip found vaccination rates increased by more than 20 percent in companies, educational institutions, health systems and public sector agencies that have required their employees to get the shot. The White House further credited vaccination requirements with cutting the rate of unvaccinated Americans by one-third from the time Biden initially announced a vaccine attestation policy for federal workers.
Biden in July said federal workers would have to get the COVID-19 shot or get tested regularly for the virus. Last month, Biden got more aggressive, requiring federal workers to get vaccinated and announcing a forthcoming Department of Labor rule to mandate the shot at large companies.
The White House has been buoyed by public polling showing many Americans support vaccine requirements.
An Axios-Ipsos poll last month found 60 percent of Americans said they back the mandates Biden announced, and a Fox News poll found majorities supported vaccine mandates for teachers, federal government workers and business employees.
More than 700,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since early 2020, and the country may finally be turning the corner on the delta variant wave that led to record numbers of cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
“We’re headed in the right direction if we keep our eye on the ball here,” Biden said. “We still have a long way to go. The fact is, this has been a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”