US President Joe Biden on September 7 announced sweeping vaccine mandates – including a few punitive measures, and blamed the unvaccinated for “preventing the US from overcoming the coronavirus pandemic”.
He noted that a significant 25 percent of the eligible population of 80 million people are still unvaccinated and pose a threat to the gains made in the fight against COVID-19.
The US, the worst-hit nation by the pandemic, is reporting an average of 151,500 new cases per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, hovering around levels seen in late January. An average of 1,500 people are dying from COVID-19 every day in the US, Johns Hopkins data shows.
“We can and we will turn the tide of COVID-19. It’ll take a lot of hard work and it’s going to take some time. Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free,” Biden said in an address to the nation from the White House on Thursday.
Biden laid out a six-part plan intended to get more people vaccinated, allow schools to reopen safely, increase testing, improve care for patients and boost economic recovery.
Per this, all federal employees are to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with no option for regular testing. Further, contractors that work with the US government will also be bound to then requirement – affecting 2.1 million employees.
Also, all businesses with 100 or more employees have to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested once a week and companies could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee if they don't comply. This caveat affects 80 million workers.
Other rules include doubling of fines for passengers on planes who refuse to wear a mask, invoking the Defence Production Act to accelerate the creation of rapid at-home testing kits, deploying healthcare workers to areas experiencing surges in cases and increasing the weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to hospitals.
"My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We have made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us. So please, do the right thing," Biden said.
Biden also asked nearly 3,00,000 educators in the federal head start programmes to get vaccinated and called on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.