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Vaccine Mandate Upends Industries In Need of Workers

President Joe Biden mandated employers with more than 100 workers to set vaccination requirements in September

Vaccine mandate deadlines will go into effect almost every week for the rest of the year, slashing the workforces of multiple industries across the United States. 

Pfizer’s COVID vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration in late August, sparking a wave of requirements from private companies for employees returning to in-person work.

In September, President Joe Biden mandated companies with more than 100 employees to require team members to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus. The move placed pressure on 80 million more Americans to get vaccinated.

While the mandates apply to employees, there is increasing evidence that their spouses, children, relatives, patients or customers will be impacted as well.


As of this week, six of the country’s eight airline providers — including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and United Airlines — have announced vaccine mandates for their employees.

Most airlines fly special flights, complete cargo-hauling trips, or provide other services to the government, thereby making them government contractors and subject to the President’s vaccine mandate. 

On Oct. 1, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told employees, “team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines.”

In a memo to its employees on the same day, Alaska Airlines said, “Employees may no longer opt-in for regular testing and masking in lieu of getting the vaccine.”

Both American and Southwest airlines “are under pressure from their pilot groups not to require vaccinations but to instead offer options, including testing,” per AP News.

About 4,200 — or 30% — of American Airlines pilots are not vaccinated, according to the pilot union.

With deadlines now looming for employees in the travel and transportation industry, passengers may also be hit with a vaccination requirement.

Both Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Representative Don Beyer (D-Virginia) proposed passengers on domestic flights be required to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test for COVID-19 before they fly. Though the move has the support of Dr. Anthony Fauci, it is strongly opposed by the airline industry. 


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, as of Oct. 1, about 16% of America’s hospitals had critical staffing shortages.

The shortages and the decisions they force hospitals to make prevent those in need from getting care.

“In Virginia, five state psychiatric hospitals had to stop accepting patients. A lack of nurses forced Rhode Island Hospital to close part of its emergency department. And a major Michigan hospital chain says 5% of its beds can’t be filled for lack of staff,” per Bloomberg.

Despite the need for qualified staff members, unvaccinated workers are being placed on unpaid leave.

Under Biden’s mandate, any health provider accepting federal funding must require vaccination or set up testing and safety procedures for unvaccinated workers.

But it is not only unvaccinated nurses, doctors and hospital workers who are suffering.

“Across the country, growing numbers of transplant programs have chosen to either bar patients who refuse to take the widely available covid vaccines from receiving transplants, or give them lower priority on crowded organ waitlists,” reports KHN.

Some of the 250 transplant centers in the country that require patients to get the COVID-19 vaccine have cited the American Society of Transplantation, which recommended in August that “all solid organ transplant recipients should be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.”

Leilani Lutali, a late-stage kidney disease patient, has become the public face of this policy. 

“I have too many questions that remain unanswered at this point,” the 56-year-old Colorado resident told KHN. “I feel like I’m being coerced into not being able to wait and see and that I have to take the shot if I want this lifesaving transplant.”

In Louisiana, health care workers whose spouses who do not get vaccinated will have to pay more for health insurance.

Ochsner LSU Health sent a letter to employees saying it would be “implementing a new spousal Covid vaccine fee as part of its 2022 medical plan premiums. This means, if a spouse is covered by one of our medical plans in 2022 and unvaccinated against Covid-19, a $100 dollar per-pay-period fee will apply.”

The company’s CEO Thomas Warner said, “This is not a mandate as non-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests.”


Schools, which have struggled to meet the health and safety requirements implemented during the pandemic, are also subject to Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Approximately 150,000 thousand unvaccinated New York City teachers and school staff members could face suspension without pay until September 2022 due to their lack of compliance.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied their emergency request to halt the impending vaccine mandate. Public school employees in the city had until 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 to be vaccinated. Mayor Bill De Blasio said in a statement that 95% of those affected had complied and that those who did not get the jab should not return to work and would stop being paid on Oct. 4.

These types of staffing losses add to the increasing shortages already plaguing schools across the nation.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 446,000 public education jobs were open in June. By July, that number had reached 460,000.

A Colorado school district has fewer than a quarter of its normal supply of cafeteria workers. Efforts to directly hire social workers in New York City schools are leading to shortages among mental health nonprofits that provide in-school services. Some schools in Virginia have shifted to virtual learning after administrators couldn’t find enough substitutes to cover for teachers who had been exposed to COVID-19,” says EducationWeek.

“Since February 2020, employment is down by 310,000 in local government education, by 194,000 in state government education, and by 172,000 in private education,” per an on Oct. 8 report released by BLS. 


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics agency, there are over 8 million fewer jobs in October compared to the start of the pandemic. 

Industries reporting reporting fewer jobs since February 2020 include: nonfarm payroll employment (-5 million), leisure and hospitality (-1.6 million), professional and business service (-385,000), retail trade (-202,000), transportation and warehousing (-72,000), information (-108,000), social assistance (-204,000), manufacturing (-353,000), construction (-201,000), wholesale trade (-159,000), and health care (-524,000).

The Pentagon announced in August that all 1.3 million members of the armed services must be vaccinated. Non-compliant service members risk being discharged and forfeiting their benefits.

On Sept. 14, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced anyone applying to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident must be fully vaccinated. Notably, illegal immigrants are not required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, whereas Border and Customs agents must receive the vaccine. 

More than 400 universities and colleges require students to be fully vaccinated to attend class in person.

Vaccination requirements touch almost every facet of American life. The consequence of non-compliance is heavy and costly, forcing some people to get a vaccine they do not want so their income is not impacted. While some companies allow employees to apply for religious or medical exemptions, there is no guarantee they will be accepted. In some cases, a religion exemption that was once approved was ultimately denied. 

Even when there is a critical need for workers, unvaccinated professionals are being asked to exit the workforce because of Biden’s vaccination mandate. 

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