President Biden announces new COVID-19 vaccine requirements
President Joe Biden announced in an address to the nation on Thursday that his administration will implement stricter COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
The new mandate will use the Department of Labor to require all employers with over 100 workers to have them vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19, which affects about 80 million Americans, Biden said. Those employers will also be required to provide paid time off to get vaccinated.
Biden added that he is signing executive orders to require all executive branch employees and federal government contractors to get vaccinated, and they do not have an option to take a COVID-19 test, instead.
"We're gonna protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers," he said.
"Many of us are frustrated with the 80 million Americans who are not vaccinated," even though the vaccine is safe, Biden said.
"This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated," he added, saying that the 25% of Americans who are not vaccinated are filling up hospitals.
Biden said that those who are unvaccinated are "blocking public health," and that "this is not about freedom or personal choice, it's about protecting yourself and those around you."
He also urged large entertainment venues such as sports arenas and movie theaters to require either vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.
To Americans who are unvaccinated, Biden asked what more they have to wait for, as the COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe, convenient and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA has only given full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available through FDA emergency use authorization.
Biden said that 200 million Americans have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, adding, "We've been patient, but patience is wearing thin" as those who are unvaccinated are costing everyone else adde.
He explained that COVID-19 vaccines provide "very strong protection" against the disease and that there is one case per 5,000 vaccinated Americans a day.
To those who are vaccinated, Biden said, "I understand your anger against those who are unvaccinated."
He also discussed booster shots, saying that as soon as they are authorized by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they will be made available right away to those who are eligible.
Biden mentioned how the safest option for children ages 12 and older is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For those younger than 12, he said that the best way to protect them is for everyone around them to get vaccinated.
He added that children living in states with low vaccination rates are four times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. His administration is working to make the vaccine available for children under 12 as safely and quickly as possible, he said.
The best way to protect kids in schools, Biden said, is to implement masking, testing, vaccination, social distancing, and adequate ventilation.
The 300,000 educators in the Department of Health and Human Services' Head Start programs must get vaccinated, he said.
Biden also called on state governors to get teachers and school staff vaccinated, adding that required vaccines for school are "nothing new."
He said he will take on states that are undermining the fight against COVID-19, suggesting that governors are bullying school districts that are "working to fight the pandemic" by punishing them through withholding funding. Biden vowed that he will use his power as president "to get governors out of the way" and to provide "protection for school districts" by giving them the funds to replace what governors withhold.
This involvement in local school districts comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned school mask mandates. The state's Department of Education said it would withhold funding of school districts that did not comply, which included those in Alachua and Broward counties, but a judge has blocked that policy.
Biden said he will also make COVID-19 testing more affordable and convenient by making at-home testing more available. He said that no later than next week, Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger will sell at-home test kits at cost, which is up to 35% reduction in price.
He added that the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will double the fines of travelers who refuse to wear a mask.
Biden also mentioned that he will make antibody treatments for COVID-19 more available by increasing their shipment by 50%.
He said that "communities of color are disproportionately affected" by COVID-19, and that he will ensure "equity" is central to the administration's COVID-19 response. He also announced that he will ensure there are enough vaccines and boosters for everyone.
The U.S. has donated over 140 million vaccines across the world, more than all other countries have combined, Biden said.
He concluded by saying that he will release a more detailed COVID-19 plan next month.