Doctor: Employers should mandate vaccines
By Dr Jewel Mullen
Covid-19 cases have increased again in recent weeks to reach numbers not seen since the start of this year. This is largely preventable thanks to vaccines discovered and developed in record time. We can all do our part by getting immunized, and employers across our country have a unique role to play in that effort.
Many of America’s biggest companies, including Tyson Foods, Google and Walmart, are taking critical action by requiring their employees to receive the vaccine. The White House imposes vaccines on all federal employees and millions of federal contractors, and the Biden administration recently announced that it will require all employers with 100 or more workers to also order weekly vaccinations or tests.
Data shows Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson injections are safe and extremely effective, even against the Delta variant, which is more than twice as transmissible as the original virus and accounts for 98% of all new confirmed cases. In fact, Delta is so virulent that virtually all Americans will likely be exposed in the next few months. The threat from Delta confirms why many of America’s largest employers now require their employees to get vaccinated.
Despite the news of groundbreaking cases, it remains clear that the vaccines available to us are among the safest and most effective ever created. People who get breakthrough infections usually have no symptoms or extremely mild symptoms. In fact, unvaccinated people who contract Covid-19 are about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are fully vaccinated. Recent studies have even shown that the average vaccinated American has only a 1 in 5,000 chance per day of contracting Covid-19.
No vaccine in history has ever been 100% effective, and the goal has never been to prevent all infections. The goal has always been to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death, and these vaccines do it in spades.
Unfortunately, just over half of the American population is fully vaccinated. And vaccination rates are not distributed evenly across the country – 24 states are still less than 50 percent vaccinated. This is why it is so laudable that employers, especially those in regions with low immunization rates, are taking the critically important step to protect their employees and communities by making the vaccine mandatory.
It is wise to encourage, and in some cases to demand, that people get vaccinated. In addition to offering vaccines on site, many companies, from Google to United Airlines, have announced the new policy. Just a week after Tyson Foods announced its vaccine tenure in early August, more than 5,000 additional employees received the vaccine, and by early September about 75% of its U.S. workforce had received at least one dose. .
In many ways, vaccines are just another protection in the workplace. Companies demand vaccinations for the same reason that they demand that heavy equipment operators receive the proper training – failure to do so would pose an undue risk to employees.
Achieving herd immunity through natural infections would mean tens of thousands of tragic – and preventable – deaths, as well as hundreds of billions of lost economic activity. Every hit in the arm is helping to end this pandemic, and America’s companies with massive workforce have a huge opportunity to help us find our way.
Mullen is Associate Dean for Health Equity at Dell Medical School and Associate Professor in the School’s Departments of Population Health and Internal Medicine.