As cases of the Delta coronavirus variant have risen and vaccination rates slowed, several US businesses and institutions have announced they will now require vaccinations from employees.
Major companies like Walmart and Disney said this week all employees must be vaccinated, while Joe Biden said all federal employees must be vaccinated or face masking, testing and distancing requirements.
Schools, universities, hospitals, financial services, tech companies, retailers, entertainment industries and local governments have announced similar policies.
The efforts are supported by an opinion from the US Department of Justice, which says employers can require vaccines under emergency-use authorization.
“Overall, it’s legal to require vaccinations in the midst of an active, dangerous epidemic,” said Ross Silverman, professor of public health and law at the Indiana University.
In France last week, President Emmanuel Macron said entrance to many public places would require a “health pass” showing proof of vaccination, prior infection or a negative test.
The US government won’t mandate vaccines but states, cities and businesses can.
The US has a long history of requiring vaccines. In winter 1777, George Washington required smallpox inoculations for all soldiers fighting the British. In 1809, Massachusetts passed a law requiring proof of inoculation against smallpox.
Dr Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said: “If we look at the history of the ability of human beings to control infectious diseases, it’s hard to imagine how we would have been able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished in the absence of mandates of one sort or the other.”
With measles and diphtheria, for example, “it was not merely the advent of the vaccine but the requirement that the vaccine be received … that made the difference.”
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