US Private Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Will Begin January 4

The Biden administration is also setting mandates for health care workers in facilities receiving federal aid.

The Biden administration has set January 4, 2022 as the deadline for large, private companies to institute COVID-19 vaccine requirements, a mandate which would be enforced by emergency powers under the Labor Department and would implicate the vaccination status of approximately 84 million US employees.

Under the new mandate, businesses with ≥100 employees would be required to mandate COVID-19 vaccination in its employees, or conduct weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing for those who refuse. Such requirements are already set for government workers and companies with federal contracts.

Additionally, the administration will begin requiring vaccination among health care workers at facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding—including long-term care facilities and nursing homes—by January 4 of next year.

The decision to require private-sector and federally-funded health care vaccine mandates will likely be met with mixed reception from a nation that has been generally split on the utility of COVID-19 vaccines. The latter requirement is one most likely to be supported by health care organizations including the American Medical Association and those alike, who in July called for health care worker vaccine mandates.

The former requirement, however, has had less explicit endorsement. It does have precedent, however. Former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, Robert J. Margolis Professor of Business, Medicine, and Policy, and founding Director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University, said in a press briefing in late August that he expected vaccination rates to improve with new mandates.

“The Biden administration has been pretty clear all along they do not see a federal role in requiring or administering a vaccine passport system,” McClellan said at the time. “That said, we have seen a number of state and local governments impose something like vaccine requirements for indoor dining, indoor sports events, indoor entertainment events. I expect to see more of that happening. I also expect to see more of that happening in the private sector.”

As of Wednesday, the US has reported 46.2 million COVID-19 cases since last year, and approximately 750,000 deaths from the pandemic virus. The 7-day average for new daily cases has not exceeded 100,000 since last month, as the second-greatest wave of new cases in the US has been on the downturn since peaking in mid-September.

Approximately two-thirds (67.5%) of the US population has received ≥1 COVID-19 vaccine dose; more than 191 million (58.1%) Americans are fully vaccinated.