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Coronavirus | Vaccines

What are the requirements in Biden's new covid-19 vaccine mandate?

The new mandate is much more far-reaching than anticipated and there are many groups that full under the purview of the executive orders.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on plans to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost Covid-19 vaccinations at the State Dinning Room of the White House, in Washington, DC on September 9, 2021.
Brendan SmailowskiAFP

On Thursday afternoon, President Biden announced a presidential decree to impose a vaccine mandate not just on federal workers, but also on all businesses with over 100 employees. The move covers 2.5 million federal employees and 100 million in total. Predictably, the Republican Party is not happy, but Biden told Republican governors to "get out of the way" and allow covid-19 measures.

So what are the requirements?

The US government directly employs around 4.25 million people, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. They have 75 days to be vaccinated, and regular testing will no longer be accepted. There will be exemptions, which are to be announced in the cfoming days. Hospitals and hospital staff, as well as contractors who do business with the federal government, will also need to be vaccinated within 75 days. This will bring other departments in line with the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, who had all previously announced the introduction of mandates.

For businesses, there is a $14,000 penalty per violation of the ruling, but workers can submit to weekly testing instead of a vaccine if they wish.

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Why is it being enforced?

It is hoped that the mandate will finally bring covid-19 under control. President Biden does not want to risk the virus tearing its way around the country for another winter, as more than 45% of people remain unvaccinated.

High levels of the virus coupled with many hospitalizations and deaths would inevitably lead to another economic slowdown. There is already some evidence for this in the latest jobs growth figures, which at 235,000 were the lowest number of jobs since January.

The vast majority of those who volunteered for the vaccine have already got it, and the hesitancy amongst those remaining is causing more deaths and restrictions. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference on Thursday that "the reason we’re [still in the pandemic] is because people have not gotten vaccinated, 80 million of them."

What is the opposition?

The Republican Party has been outraged by the announcement, decrying it as an overreach and an infringement on personal liberty. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said it was an "attack on privacy" and that there was "no authority" for workers to require mandates. Many workplaces, such as hospitals and the military, have long had vaccine mandates to prevent spreads of infections.

The RNC said they will sue President Biden in an attempt to reverse the mandate. "Many small businesses and workers do not have the money or legal resources to fight Biden's unconstitutional actions and authoritarian decrees," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement on Thursday. However, the vaccines are free. Some businesses like Walmart and Disney had already required their workers to be vaccinated or regularly tested