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October 12, 2021

Do vaccine mandates really work? Here's what a White House report found.

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    A White House report last week found that Covid-19 vaccine mandates increased vaccination rates by more than 20% in several businesses, health care systems, and schools—leading President Joe Biden to encourage more businesses to implement vaccine requirements to "beat this pandemic."

    Resource library: How health care organizations can navigate vaccination mandates and other issues in the post-pandemic world

    Biden reiterates call for vaccine mandates

    President Biden last week reiterated a call for private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying that businesses "have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic," ABC News reports.

    "Without [vaccine mandates], we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy, and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants and much less commerce," Biden said.

    He added, "I know that vaccination requirements are tough medicine, unpopular to some, politics for others, but they're life-saving, they're game-changing for our country."

    Since Biden announced his vaccine mandate in July, which has not yet been implemented through federal rulemaking, the number of eligible unvaccinated Americans has decreased by almost a third, from 95 million to 67 million, Axios reports. In addition, Cyrus Shahpar, the White House Covid-19 data director, said 78% of U.S. adults have now received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

    According to a White House report released last week, more than 185 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, and over 100,000 deaths and 450,000 hospitalizations were prevented thanks to the president's vaccination campaign.

    "These requirements work," Biden said. "More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved."

    Mandates significantly boost vaccination rates

    According to the White House, more than 3,500 organizations have already enacted some kind of vaccine mandate, including:

    • 25% of businesses
    • 40% of hospitals
    • 17% of colleges and universities covering 37% of all undergraduate and graduate students

    In addition, thousands more businesses are expected to institute vaccine requirements for their employees in the next few weeks as Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalizes its rule mandating vaccinations for employees of businesses with more than 100 workers.

    Mandates have been integral in raising vaccination rates for various organizations, the White House reports, with many seeing jumps of more than 20%. Many organizations are now reporting that over 90% of their workforces are fully vaccinated—significantly higher than the 63% average for working-age adults more generally.

    For example, United Airlines, which first announced a vaccine mandate for its 67,000 employees in August, said 99.5% of its workforce is now vaccinated.

    Another large employer, Tyson Foods, which has 120,000 employees, said it increased its employee vaccination rate from 45% to 91% since implementing its vaccine mandate on Aug. 3—and the figure is expected to continue rising as the Nov. 1 deadline approaches.

    Several health care organizations have also experienced significant gains in vaccination rates because of mandates, either at an institutional or statewide level. For example, in New York, 14 of the 20 nursing homes with the highest proportion of unvaccinated workers increased their vaccination rates by more than 20% in the five days before the state's vaccine mandate deadline. Twelve of these nursing homes were also able to raise their vaccination rates above 95%.

    And despite concerns about vaccine mandates potentially leading to staffing shortages, many health systems have reported high vaccine uptake and relatively few resignations.

    "I'm not seeing any widespread disruptive effect," Saad Omer, of the Yale institute for Global Health, said of vaccine mandates. (Gomez, ABC News, 10/7; Axios, 10/7; Samuels, The Hill, 10/7; Hsu, NPR, 10/7; White House report, 10/7)

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