Coronavirus | Vaccines

With the Pfizer vaccine approved by the FDA, should more vaccine mandates be expected?

The approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday opens up further possibilities of federal vaccine mandates, but unions are pushing back against such moves.

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With the Pfizer vaccine approved by the FDA, should more vaccine mandates be expected?
Denis Balibouse Reuters

The first vaccine to be fully approved was the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week. Authorities hope the move by the FDA will hopefully lead to an increase in stagnating vaccination rates and more vaccine mandates across the US, but this will face criticism from the vaccine hesitant members of the US population.

As voluntary vaccine take up has waned in the last two months, imposed vaccines may be the only route out of a pandemic that is not close to stopping as US hospitals gear up for a busy period.

What has the president said about vaccine mandates?

President Biden has tweeted his support for the move and encouraged Americans to get their shots.

“If you’re one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened,” the president said on Monday. “The moment you’ve been waiting for is here.”

“So please, get your shot today,” he said. “There is no time to waste.”

What does this mean for vaccine mandates?

The approval of the FDA opens up many more routes for the federal government to impose mandates on vaccinations, as the jab is longer just for emergency use but has passed all the necessary measures for it to be used indefinitely. Some organizations already have mandates, such as the US military and federal workers, covering hundreds of thousands of Americans. Full approval makes legal challenges on mandates more difficult as the FDA has deemed them safe for use.

Some employers were waiting for the vaccine to be approved to implement a vaccine mandate for their staff. In remarks made by the President on 23 August, he urged, "a business leader, a non-profit leader, a state or local leader," who have been waiting for the approval to implement a vaccine mandate, that it was now time.

Some private companies such as Google, CNN, Netflix, Morgan Stanley and The Washington Post have already imposed their own mandates on workers.

The Moderna vaccine has also applied to be fully approved, with a decision expected in the fall.

What resistance has there been?

Vaccine mandates have been a contentious method of dealing with vaccine hesitancy. For critics, they are seen as federal overreach and an unnecessary breach of people's personal lives and decisions.

Republican politicians have mostly pushed back against vaccine mandates, arguing they should be a personal decision. Florida governor Ron DeSantis described the vaccine mandate imposed on care home workers by the federal government as, "a massive hammer they are trying to bring down." Florida is the worst affected state in the latest wave of covid-19 and pushing against vaccine mandates are unlikely to help the situation.

Some of the most vociferous critics of mandates have been workers unions who fear for people losing their jobs as a result of not taking the vaccine. A protest in New York today voiced these concerns, but ignore the fact that people can choose instead to be regularly tested for covid-19 instead.

The hospitalizations from covid-19 in New York are 97% unvaccinated people.