On September 9, President Joe Biden announced that his administration would be requiring vaccination for all federal workers and contractors, and for health-care workers at hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid. The administration would also require any company with a hundred or more employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly. Nine months after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first vaccine against COVID-19 for emergency use, more than 175 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. But an estimated 80 million Americans who are eligible for the vaccines—now fully approved by the FDA—have yet to receive their first shot. After a summer of gently encouraging Americans to get a “safe, effective, and free” vaccine, Biden decided it was time to stop indulging persistent “vaccine resistance.” The new rule, which would affect almost two-thirds of the private-sector workforce, is designed to bring down the number of infections, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and help get the whole country back to work.
The news that the federal government would be creating vaccine requirements for the private sector drew immediate backlash from Republican governors: Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama called the mandate “outrageous” and “overreaching”; Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called it a “power grab” and “an assault on private businesses”; and Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi—a state that does not allow religious or conscientious objections to mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren—called it an “unconstitutional move” that the president had “no authority” to make. (All three states, like every other state in the country, already mandate other vaccines for children and, in some cases, for adults.) While prominent Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell have acknowledged the efficacy of the vaccine and urged their constituents to get the shots, some still object to what they see as an unconstitutional overreach.