He didn’t need be that way. This spring, as people lined up for the newly available and miraculously effective Covid-19 vaccines, it was easy to imagine a direct and swift path to a protected society. The administered dose curve only seemed limited by supply, and the curve looked good – perfectly calibrated to get things right. Ordinary (at least according to some definition of the word) by the end of the summer, just in time for the reopening of schools and workplaces. As long as the vaccination rate kept pace. Which, of course, was not. Far too soon, the curve hit its inflection point, moved away from the upside and flattened out. Add to that a euphoric and masked reopening in much of the country. Then add the more transferable Delta variant. The result: an unvaccinated pandemic which, due to its immense scale, now threatens even people with two strokes thanks to the possibility of breakthrough infections.
It all culminated in a tipping point: the week the carrot met the stick, when dozens of influential organizations decided it was time for vaccine mandates.
This afternoon, President Joe Biden vaccination rules announced for 4 million federal workers. “Right now too many people are dying or watching someone they love die,” he said. These workers will now be faced with a choice: certify their completed vaccination status, or take a test once or twice a week, wear masks and face travel restrictions. “We have the tools to prevent the next wave of Covid from shutting down our businesses, our schools, our society,” he said, adding that the government would reimburse small businesses that allow workers to take paid time off for themselves. immunize or immunize their families, and that its administration encourages state and local governments to offer residents $ 100 incentives. Biden also asked the Department of Defense to consider how and when it will require vaccination against Covid-19 for members of the armed forces.
Biden’s announcement follows similar statements from a flurry of big tech companies, including Google and Facebook, who have told their tens of thousands of employees across the country that vaccinations will be mandatory for workers returning to the office, and one sooner a series of university mandates, state Governments and medical centers. The measures were legally clearer last month, after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from a group of Houston Methodist Hospital employees who argued the rules were illegal because the vaccines are only cleared by the FDA for emergency use. And it’s not just the employers. In San Francisco, for example, most bars and clubs in town said they would require proof from customers starting this week.
Is it ideal to force people to do the right thing for public health? Not really, says Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist who studies health equity at the University of California, San Francisco. This is why you first try to send messages to overcome the skeptics and incentives for those who need a boost– as public health officials have been doing for months and will continue to do, she adds. But at this critical point in the pandemic, the tipping point of mandates is good news for her. “We have to use all the tools at our disposal,” she says. “It’s clearly the right thing to do at this point and something that will hopefully get more places to act.”
There is already a clear herd effect at play. A vanguard of leaders from hospitals, universities and state Governments made the initial argument — that the benefits of protecting their patients and residents from unvaccinated workers outweigh the concerns of individual employees — and clarified that the warrants are legal. Then the big tech companies stepped in, theorizing that a fully vaxxed workforce would be good for business; they have been a sort of cultural barometer for Covid, leading to the closure of offices in early March 2020, with many move sustainably towards teleworking.