More than a dozen large U.S. corporations, including Walmart, Google, Tyson Foods, and United Airlines, have recently announced vaccine mandates for some or all of their workers.
“With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce,” Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer, said in a statement Tuesday.
The U.S. reported a seven-day average of more than 108,600 new cases per day as of Sunday, up 36% from a week earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined the retailer’s plans to keep “gradually coming back into our office spaces with the idea of being closer to pre-pandemic levels after Labor Day.”
“Although I’m not a big fan of mandates, we need to use a variety of incentives to encourage as many people as possible to practice effective infection control,” said Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “If that’s the best or only way to motivate some people, then that’s one tool in our toolbox.”
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby and the airline’s president, Brett Hart, wrote to employees announcing the vaccine requirement. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
“To leave it up to the individual is to say that there are people who are going to make a choice that puts co-workers at risk,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “So I think it’s a responsible, important, necessary thing to do.”
“We see that employers are as concerned with what they perceive as a skill shortage, a labor shortage, as anything in deciding whether to mandate the vaccinations,” Lenz said. “And for that reason, employers don’t want to scare people away, as they feel they might be able to accommodate and keep the workforce in some other way.”