Vaccination mandates were another controversial step in the highly divisive COVID-19 pandemic, which has sparked lawsuits, protests and warnings of service cuts.
But data and experts suggest they work.
Some organizations have even seen their employees’ vaccination rates rise from less than half to more than 90%.
James Colgrove, a professor of public health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told ABC News he isn’t surprised with this outcome and predicted that similar orders in the workplace will follow the same story.
“In general, vaccine mandates work,” he said.
While opponents of vaccines may seem vocal, medical experts say most are not staunchly against the vaccine and need that nudge brought forward by a mandate.
While Colgrove and other medical experts say the country is in “untapped territory” when it comes to adult vaccine mandates, as such orders are rare outside of healthcare, the signs point to guidelines moving the needle greatly across the country. vaccination efforts.
Jumps in vaccinations after mandates issued
Colgrove said the country has seen the effectiveness of vaccine mandates in our schools, which have mandated vaccinations against measles, mumps and other ailments for decades. Hospital staff mandates have also been shown to prevent outbreaks and massive staff shortages due to illness, he noted.
The persistence of COVID-19 in the US and resulting staff shortages from the virus of sick and hospitalized workers have forced many organizations in the country to consider mandates, Colgrove said.
As the delta variant caused a jump in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and unvaccinated deaths over the summer, more mandates and mandate-like programs were announced.
Some private companies began issuing vaccine mandates for their personal employees over the summer, including Google, Tyson Foods, United Airlines and the Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ABC News. All companies allow exemptions for religious reasons and give fall deadlines.
The results of some of those mandates have been strong, according to data shared by some companies.
When Tyson announced his mandate on Aug. 3, it said less than half of its nearly 140,000 employees had been vaccinated. When the mandate deadline came in late October, the food processing company said more than 60,000 of its members received their injections and 96% of its staff had been vaccinated.
“Has this made a difference to the health and safety of our team members? Absolutely. We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of active cases across the company,” Tyson Food president and CEO Donnie King said in a statement.
United Airlines said 48 hours after it announced its mandate, the number of unvaccinated employees dropped from 593 to 320. By Oct. 27, 99.7% of the airline’s 67,000 employees had complied with the mandate, United said.
“Our vaccine policies continue to prove that the requirements are working,” the company said in a statement.
dr. Sarah Goff, an associate professor of health promotion and policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told ABC News that organizations are striving to get their workplaces personal again and are more willing to spend the mandates.
She also cited the 1905 Supreme Court Jacobson v. Massachusetts case, which held that states have the right to issue a public health mandate, and the Department of Justice’s ruling Office of Legal Counsel has strong factors behind the mandates.
“There is a priority for vaccines to be legally acceptable, but it’s up to the states and the companies,” Goff said.
In the public sector, a handful of states announced mandates for their state and local agencies in the summer and fall, including Washington state.
Washington state health officials told ABC News that the percentage of civil servants who had been vaccinated rose from 49% on Sept. 6, a month after Governor Jay Inslee announced the mandate, to 96% on Oct. 18, the mandate deadline. .
New York City shows progress despite protests
New York City came into the limelight for its vaccine mandate policies. At first it allowed unvaccinated officials who didn’t work in health care or the Department of Education, but on Oct. 20, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the rest of the city’s staff must be given one dose by Oct. 29 or be on unpaid leave. City Allowed Religious Waivers City employees who recently received an mRNA vaccine must be able to show proof of their second dose within 45 days of their first injection.
At the time of the announcement, 84% of the city’s workforce had a single shot, but several agencies, including the FDNY, NYPD and Sanitation Department, wrote that fewer than 75% of their staff had been vaccinated, according to data from the office of the city’s attorney general. mayor.
Unions representing the FDNY and NYPD tried to take the case to court but were not banned before the deadline. Still, the Uniformed Firefighters Association led demonstrations against the mayor and the mandate claiming that vaccinations should be the personal choice of their members.
By the time the mandate deadline came on October 29, vaccination rates among the lagging agencies had skyrocketed. On Nov. 7, 86% of NYPD members, 91% of city EMS personnel and 82% of firefighters fired one shot, according to data from the mayor’s office.
The FDNY said some fire stations were understaffed the Monday after the deadline, which, according to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, was from a higher number of firefighters calling in sick. Nigro reprimanded all firefighters who used their sick days to protest the mandate.
In the end, only 34 police officers were placed on unpaid leave on Nov. 2, and all FDNY fire stations were operational by Nov. 5, according to the mayor’s office.
Not willing to take the risk
Goff said at the end of the day that most people who are hesitant to get the vaccine, even those who make a lot of noise about it, wouldn’t put their careers or families at risk.
“You lose your job and it affects people’s livelihoods and while there may be some who say they want to risk that, they don’t,” she said.
Goff and other medical experts added that the mandates also reach a wider group of people who are not completely against the vaccination.
Colgrove said the increase in worker vaccinations following a mandate matches data on vaccine hesitancy in the country.
While he said there is certainly a group that is completely against the vaccine, there are more unvaccinated people who are just standing on the fence and have not had strong motivation or good enough message to go through with it.
A survey published Oct. 28 by the Kaiser Family Foundation said that 8% of all adult respondents revealed that they would request an exemption if given such a mandate, and that 1% of adult respondents lost a job because of a mandate.
A KFF survey published a month earlier found that two-thirds of unvaccinated workers wouldn’t get a chance if their jobs called for it.
“If you look at vaccine resistance, the people who are most against it often make a very large amount of noise that conflicts with the actual numbers who are against vaccination,” Colgrove said.
A strong push and a change in reporting
dr. Kevin Schulman, a professor of medicine and economics at Stanford University School of Medicine and Graduate School of Business, told ABC News that the mandates have a positive effect on changing vaccine reporting.
Schulman, who has written articles in medical publications about the need for better marketing of the COVID-19 vaccine, said companies have used their vaccine mandates to more directly emphasize their effectiveness to their employees.
For example, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told their employees that they have a responsibility to their employees to stay safe and avoid flight cancellations.
“It eventually becomes a story of how we protect ourselves and how we get up and fly again,” Schulman said. “It stays with the apathetic population.”
Schulman said company incentives, such as one-time salary bonuses, also helped influence holdouts.
“If you see other people around them getting the vaccine, and tolerating it and getting on with their lives, it will help those groups,” Schulman said.
More corporate mandates likely
Last week, President Joe Biden announced a vaccination requirement through a new regulation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Labor Department.
Companies with 100 or more employees must require unvaccinated members to test weekly or they will face federal fines beginning Jan. 4. More than 100 million workers are affected by this order.
Twenty-six states are suing the government over the injunction, and a judge in Louisiana issued an injunction on Saturday.
The health experts say the court battle over Biden’s plan won’t stop organizations from issuing their own mandates, including those that go beyond OSHA rules and put unvaccinated members on leave.
Colgrove said the need for a strong and healthy workplace and the increased examples of working with mandates will force organizations to improve their vaccine rates in some way.
“The more normalized it gets, the more people know someone who’s been vaccinated, the more people will stick to it,” Colgrove said. “With any vaccine, the longer it’s been around, the more people are dealing with it.”