Kirill KurevlevCorrespondentAll materialsWrite to the authorThis week, the Biden administration issued new federal rules that classify COVID-19 as an occupational hazard, requiring roughly 100 million American workers to have proof of vaccination by January 4, with certain workers being allowed to test regularly instead of getting a jab.US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy defended the White House’s actions after the administration issued a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for enterprises with 100 or more employees.In a Sunday interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Murthy said that President Joe Biden along with his administration “wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary,” and the White House is “certainly prepared to defend them.” The doctor noted that the nation has had a history of times when mandatory vaccinations were necessary to protect the population.”It’s important we take every measure possible to make our workplaces safer,” Murthy said. “It’s good for people’s health, it’s good for the economy, and that’s why these requirements make so much sense.”
At least 27 states, according to the outlet, including Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate, claiming it is unconstitutional. Several business organizations have also spoken out against the imposed measure.
Moreover, as the holiday shopping season approaches, the National Retail Federation has reportedly described the rule as “burdensome” for shops. Murthy was also asked about the potential impact of the mandate on businesses and the economy, given that the US is now experiencing a labor shortage and supply chain pressures.”I hear time and time again, from small businesses, large businesses and workers is that what’s really hurting the economy is actually COVID-19 itself,” Murthy said. “There are times where we recognize that our decisions have a broader effect on people around us. COVID-19 has reminded us of that, and that’s why having these types of requirements in workplaces will be not only helpful, it’s a necessary step to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic.”The requirement presently applies to enterprises with more than 100 employees, which accounts for around two-thirds of the country’s workforce. When questioned if the mandate could be extended to businesses with less than 100 employees, Murthy stated that nothing is off the table and that regulations like these work.
“What we’ve seen in a report issued recently was that, on average, businesses that put these requirements in place see a 20% increase in vaccination rates, often boosting them into the 90s,” he noted. “If we realize, as we have over the past year, that vaccination is one of our key pathways out of this pandemic, these requirements will do a lot to get us to over the finish line.”
Furthermore, Murthy expressed cautious optimism about the country’s future due to the vaccination campaign.”We’ve gotten over 190 million people fully vaccinated in our country, [and] we now have a vaccine for children 5 through 11,” he explained. “That’s 28 million more people who now had the opportunity to get vaccinated. I think we made a tremendous amount of progress.”With the announcement of a new anti-viral drug from Pfizer that, according to the company, reduces the chance of hospitalization and death by 89%, Murthy weighed in on what impact it might have on the pandemic’s trajectory if approved.
However, the surgeon general welcomed the news of the new pill, but emphasized that getting vaccinated remains the best method to avoid catching COVID-19.”There is a 100% effective strategy to avoid hospitalization and death,” Murthy said. “Getting vaccinated still must be at the heart of our strategy, as a therapeutic pill is not a substitute for getting vaccinated.”This comes amid news that a federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily suspended Biden’s mandate for large companies, finding that the new federal measures pose “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”
In an interview with NBC News, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain expressed his confidence that the measure will be upheld by courts in the end.
At the same time, he noted, “In my opinion, it’s been a rough and tough year. And we knew it would be. President Biden has said this all the time. We’re in a yearlong effort to dig out of the holes we were left.”According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated persons are 10 times more likely than vaccinated people to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus.